Startup Tip 61: Avoid procrastination – just do the work

Creativity is really hard work. I’m actually writing this blog post, but I’m supposed to be writing another one – but to marshal my thoughts seemed like a lot of effort.

Building a business is full of creative tasks that require really hard thinking, unfamiliar tasks that require us to work and boring tasks that we would just rather not do.

What we tend to do when faced with these tasks is procrastinate. A little creative  procrastination can be okay – you know, when you need to do something in order to let your mind turn over thoughts. But procrastination that is unchecked and unaware and uncontrolled is a death knoll for a business. The problem with procrastination is that we can keep doing it until the day is gone, until opportunities pass us by, until we die.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone” 
― Pablo Picasso

So it’s really important for us to avoid procrastination.

Action: Avoid procrastination

Here are some steps you can take to avoid procrastination:

  • Become aware of your procrastination habits. (How many of those mentioned in the video do you do? I found this funny and sobering because I related to it.) Techniques you can use to increase your awareness include:
    • Keeping a record of what you are doing every 15 minutes during the day. You will be more aware when recording, but also you will uncover lots of your procrastination habits.
    • Write down everything you have achieved at the end of each day. If the list is looking a bit light on you can look back and decide why
  • Write yourself a schedule or routine and stick to it. This is especially important if you work from home or by yourself.
  • Just start the hard work, rather than checking emails & social media sites first.
  • Go somewhere else to work where there are less distractions. The local library, cafe or coworking space all work for me.
  • Know what your goals are, keep clear about them and revise them everyday. When your goals are front of mind its much harder to waste time
  • Have a compelling reason for what you are doing. If you don’t find your work compelling, then maybe you are doing the wrong thing.

Further reading:

This great article by Scott Berkun has a few ideas about how to be more creative.

Join the conversation:

Confession time: What are your procrastination pitfalls? And what do you do to keep yourself on track.

Comments

  1. I agree you just have to do it. Sometimes your best ideas come when you least expect it.

    People often avoid the things they don’t want to do. If I find a item on my to do list for several days, I schedule for the first task to be completed the following day.

    Just do it.

  2. David Sutherland says:

    Procrastination is reading this when I shouldn’t be…. I’m procrastinating under the guise of getting help for my procrastination problem. I oft wonder why one (presumably dominant) part of my brain stops another part or parts of my brain (let’s call these parts the weak side) with tasks which would lead to a general positive advantage for the whole of my entity (all of the brain parts included). Something, some signal, is not being suppressed, apparently, internally. It’s like there is a mode, useful in another context, being turned on in the entrepreneur context with damaging effect because the goal is maybe too far off, or too complex, for the immediate thinking brain to see as a worthwhile biological pursuit, and it consequently kills any effort or focus associated with the task related to entrepreneur context. Who knows (?) – anyway, time for a cup of tea. lol.

    • I agree David. Whenever we find ourselves doing something (which is not helpful overall) it’s because on some level, we think it will help us.

      A question I find really helpful is, “What am I getting out of doing this?”

      In the case of procrastination, the answers could be:
      * avoiding a task because of the fear of failure
      *avoiding starting a task because I am uncertain about how to do it and that makes me uncomfortable
      * procrastination can even be a way of my body telling me that it’s tired and I need to rest.

      My point is that if we are able to find the message behind the “unhelpful” behaviour, then we can deal with it proactively and often modify the behaviour in the process.

      Hope that makes sense! :-)

  3. It is easy to procrastinate when facing writers block. I am doing it now myself instead of writing a post on PayPal Alternatives. I sometimes find that I am more productive at being creative at certain times of day and I work better if I set myself time deadlines to produce something. I normally set a deadline no longer than 90minutes at a time. The last trick is to draft something and then bounce it off another person. Getting their input is really valuable as you can get too close to what you are doing and too eager to get it finished, so you can miss that wider perspective of someone coming at it fresh.

  4. Susan,

    Great tips for avoiding procrastination here.

    IN our technical age, I think there are a lot of technical means we can beat procrastination. Of course there is greater scheduling and planning tools. But also productivity apps and apps like lift.do that are great for accountability and giving that little extra nudge.

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