Procrastination - An Entrepreneurs Nemesis

Procrastination - An Entrepreneur's Nemesis

Let’s be honest. Being an entrepreneur can be one of the most challenging things in the world. You’re a self-starter, with no one telling you what to do, when to do it and how to get it finished. You don’t have the security of being supervised by a manager or being accountable to a boss. Sometimes, it can feel a bit overwhelming.

Procrastination - The act of avoiding something, putting it off, delaying it.

We’ve all done it. Sometimes we procrastinate because we are intimidated by the scope or perhaps the implications of a task, as well as the completion of it. We may be afraid of being judged, of not living up to our potential, or of being seen in a less favorable light than someone else. We may put off larger, more intimidating tasks in favor of smaller ones that are easier to accomplish. We may wait until the last minute on deadlines. We may delay the most unpleasant tasks until we are forced to confront them during a crisis.

Procrastination may leave us feeling depressed, guilty, or questioning our abilities. Looming, unfinished tasks can weigh on us and leave us feeling paralyzed. Left unchecked, it’s a cycle that can really undermine our confidence and efficiency. But with a little bit of dedication, we can cut through the cloud of procrastination before it descends upon us with a weight that feels too heavy to throw off!

The more I looked into this topic, the more I realized just how many people procrastinate! At the end of this article, you'll find some of the best resources I dug up on the web. My personal fave is Tim Urban - I've already subscribed to his blog... But first, here are my own, personal recommendations for how to deal with this troubling tendency - it's definitely one of the biggest challenges I face in becoming better at time management. I'll be curious to hear if you have similar experiences! Tell me about your procrastination struggles, and advice, if you have any, in the comments section below! 

Tackle the Most Difficult Task First

In his popular book, Eat That Frog, author Brian Tracy offers great advice on how to prioritize important tasks and get them done in a timely fashion. In this excerpt, he recounts where the phrase “eat that frog” originated:

Mark Twain once said that if the first thing you do each morning is to eat a live frog, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.

Your “frog” is your biggest, most important task, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on if you don't do something about it. It is also the one task that can have the greatest positive impact on your life and results at the moment.

The first rule of frog eating is this:

If you have to eat two frogs, eat the ugliest one first.

Once you get your biggest, most challenging task out of the way, it’s all downhill from there. It’s a great way to jumpstart a feeling of accomplishment and set yourself up for a productive day.

Establish Your Priorities

As much as you’d like to do EVERYTHING, there are only so many hours in a day. It’s a good idea to decide what your most pressing priority is, and then, make that the first thing you do. It’s your frog. Eat it. Get it out of the way, and then you can handle the low hanging fruit. Don’t let the myriad little tasks get in your way from accomplishing the most important things.

Make a Schedule

In this age of constant interruptions, it’s really important to plan out your days in advance. Schedule your important tasks into your calendar, and assign them a specific time of day as well as duration. You may need to make adjustments as things come up, but it really helps to have a time frame you can stick to for the most part. Make sure to program in a small block of time for miscellaneous things like checking your Facebook page, returning calls, or other personal tasks. The more organized you can get, the better.

Take Down the Drama

It may be very tempting to indulge in fears about what people will think about your work, or how much you have to prove to your parents or how you will rank in the history books. Don’t waste your energy on that kind of drama. The truth is, the only person really thinking about you in that way right now is you. The important thing is to focus on the work and not what people think. Don’t derail yourself with those sorts of concerns.

Get Some Help

Even solopreneurs need help. Building a team is an essential part of being a successful business person. Whether you assemble a permanent staff, a group of frequent collaborators, or a circle of supportive peers, it’s important to be able to compare notes with colleagues to help keep you on track and refine your techniques when necessary. One of the most significant things you’ll discover when you do reach out is that you’re not alone. Everyone feels the urge to procrastinate at some point or another. The most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who don’t give in to the urge as often as they get past it.

Check out these other great resources on procrastination when you get some time... maybe tomorrow... 😉  And please, if you have some good anti-procrastination tips, share them right now with the rest of us in the comments - we can't wait! 

This pair of blog posts on procrastination by Tim Urban, from his fantastic blog, Wait But Why are pretty great:
Why Procrastinators Procrastinate and The Procrastination Matrix
Then there’s Tim’s super funny Ted Talk on the subject...

This article in the Washington Post .wonkblog by Ana Swanson covers Tim’s work as well as that of a few more scientific researchers:
The real reasons you procrastinate — and how to stop

If you’re interested in the psychology of procrastination, check out this podcast by Dr. Timothy Pychyl:
Why Procrastination Makes You Depressed (and Depression Makes You Procrastinate)

Here’s one of a number of titles by the prolific author, Steven Pressfield on the topic of procrastination:
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

And of course, a selection from the blog by renowned time management expert and author of the book, Eat That Frog, Brian Tracy:
The Truth About Frogs

  • Deborah this is a great article. Procrastination really is a nemesis to most entrepreneurs and a lot of them do have this problem. I believe your tips are great for anyone struggling with procrastination problems I know struggled with this before.

  • Adrian Miller

    Great article.I like to productively procrastinate! What do I mean – it’s really nothing more than kicking back from what is pressing and taking a break to: do some bicep curls with the weights by my desk, take a spin around the virtual water cooler known as Facebook or scroll through my Instagram for a pic that prompts a smile. THEN I stop procrastinating and get on with it. Oh yeah, I also give myself a nice little reward when I am done. Ice cream anyone?

  • Ice cream indeed!! THANK YOU Adrian

  • Thanks Roz

  • Thanks, Roz! Yes, it’s an ongoing struggle, and I completely count myself among the suffering! I will say, what really helps me are two things. The first is being able to laugh at the situation, because it’s so easy to add shame and punishment onto the fact that we aren’t getting our work accomplished the way we’d like – and I know that I’m harder on myself than anyone else. For this reason, I LOOOOVE Tim Urban’s blog, and his TED Talk… So damn funny…

    The second thing that really makes a difference to me is knowing that I’m not the only one. It may seem like a cliche, but having a support group or circle can be so helpful. I recently got asked to join this new group, foundernetwork.com. It’s a support network for women entrepreneurs, and it’s just starting up. The idea is to share information, tactics, resources, etc. to help one another succeed. For entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, like me, it can be maddening to work in isolation, particularly when the procrastination demons rear their ugly little heads. It really makes me appreciate it when I do get to work with a good team, like the one we have here at Smart Hustle.

  • Oh yes! You SOOO have the right idea, Adrian! As a writer, I totally understand the need to step away from a piece I’m working on to get a little perspective and come back to it with fresh eyes, especially when I’m in the middle of editing. I think sometimes procrastinating is our way of saying, hey, I need a break. So yes, I’ll get a bite to eat, fix a cup of tea, maybe do a little stretching (I can get down on the floor any time I want to – perks of a home office) or take a walk around the block. Sometimes I do take a social media break, but for me, that can be hazardous, especially in the middle of the day, as I’m prone to getting stuck deep in the rabbit hole. Often, it’s safer to save those expeditions for the end of the day, when my focus is already waning…

    But yes. Ice cream. Treats. Rewards. THE BEST!!!

  • Oh yes! You SOOO have the right idea, Adrian! As a writer, I totally understand the need to step away from a piece I’m working on to get a little perspective and come back to it with fresh eyes, especially when I’m in the middle of editing. I think sometimes procrastinating is our way of saying, hey, I need a break. So yes, I’ll get a bite to eat, fix a cup of tea, maybe do a little stretching (I can get down on the floor any time I want to – perks of a home office) or take a walk around the block. Sometimes I do take a social media break, but for me, that can be hazardous, especially in the middle of the day, as I’m prone to getting stuck deep in the rabbit hole. Often, it’s safer to save those expeditions for the end of the day, when my focus is already waning…

    But yes. Ice cream. Treats. Rewards. THE BEST!!!

  • Thanks, Roz! Yes, it’s an ongoing struggle, and I completely count myself among the suffering! I will say, what really helps me are two things. The first is being able to laugh at the situation, because it’s so easy to add shame and punishment onto the fact that we aren’t getting our work accomplished the way we’d like – and I know that I’m harder on myself than anyone else. For this reason, I LOOOOVE Tim Urban’s blog, and his TED Talk… So damn funny…

    The second thing that really makes a difference to me is knowing that I’m not the only one. It may seem like a cliche, but having a support group or circle can be so helpful. I recently got asked to join this new group, foundernetwork.com. It’s a support network for women entrepreneurs, and it’s just starting up. The idea is to share information, tactics, resources, etc. to help one another succeed. For entrepreneurs, and especially solopreneurs, like me, it can be maddening to work in isolation, particularly when the procrastination demons rear their ugly little heads. It really makes me appreciate it when I do get to work with a good team, like the one we have here at Smart Hustle.