You would be surprised how many business owners suffer from this malady.  Procrastination can serve a useful function, though.  It allows us the time to consider all the options rather than leaping before we look.  It may also provide the time and space to think creatively (i.e. thinking time). But like with everything, you can get too much of a good thing!  For many, procrastination leads to paralysis and the inability to move tasks forward; to get the job done.  It can also lead to unpleasant feelings of guilt “I’m useless.  I just can’t pull my finger out” and being overwhelmed.

What causes procrastination?

It comes down to our wiring.  People don’t want to do things they either don’t like or fear.  It makes them feel uncomfortable or anxious.  The mind says, “I don’t like discomfort so I will avoid it at all cost”, thereby avoiding taking action and, instead, burying the proverbial head in the sand!

The challenges of procrastination
How do I know if I am struggling with the negative side of procrastination rather than just being creative and analytical?

What a great question. It really depends on how you feel, what the voice in your head (your thoughts) is saying, and importantly how it manifests in what you do.

If any of this sounds familiar, then you may be facing problematic procrastination:

  • You are failing to meet deadlines or leaving everything to the very last minute, and this is adversely impacting your relationship with others.
  • You have developed a reputation for being unreliable and not delivering on promises.
  • When you think about starting the task the voice in your head says “Oh I can’t face it now. I’ll leave it until tomorrow”.
  • You are getting nearer and nearer to the time set aside to start the activity and the level of discomfort or anxiety is steadily increasing”. This will probably be accompanied with thoughts such as “I can’t face this” or “I can’t do it” and you are desperately looking for any old excuse to put the activity off.
  • Poor prioritisation – putting less important tasks first claiming they have just become urgent! “I’ll just check my emails first” is one of my usual excuses!
  • Making excuses for your unproductive behaviour – “I work at my best by leaving things to the last minute. I thrive on the stress!”.
  • You make taking action contingent on something else happening.  You make the excuse of waiting for a better moment. “I will start getting to work on time after I move house”.
  • You convince yourself that a half-hearted shuffling of papers or another dabbling around the edges is progress.

How do you overcome procrastination?

Step 1

The starting point is always self-awareness.  A willingness to recognise that you are procrastinating and therefore you are not working at your best and that it is probably leaving you feeling unhappy and flat and at worst depressed and anxious.

Step 2

Accept that you are procrastinating (i.e. don’t beat yourself up) and that it isn’t helpful and develop a determination to overcome it.  But, I hear you say “I am going to have to confront my fears and discomfort and the voice in my head is telling me I should run and hide”.

Yup, that is what everyone’s voice in the head is saying.  That is why there is a step 3!

Step 3

Regardless of the voice in your head, embrace the discomfort and fear and don’t let it influence your actions and choices.  You have to work through it and feel it but stick with it, nonetheless.  No pain no gain! You are trying to change what may have been a habit of a lifetime and that is going to take effort and commitment.  The same effort that it takes to kick any bad habit!

But it gets easier over time.  As you develop new, positive, behaviours and attitudes, the discomfort passes.  So we could say short term pain for long term gain.

Self-awareness Exemplary Leadership
What if I need help?

For some, self-awareness itself and strong self-discipline may be enough to focus the mind and lead to proactive steps to mitigate or avoid procrastination. But for other business leaders and managers, may need help to break the cycle of procrastination. Help to firstly recognise the challenges it is creating (accepting the fact we have shortcomings isn’t easy) and then the support, guidance, and wisdom to overcome it. Let’s not forget, those who are suffering from procrastination may not be at their best or thinking clearly and struggle to overcome this barrier themselves.

That is where I come in, as a Business Coach that specialises in helping business leaders and manages to tackle problematic and unhelpful behaviours and attitudes.  Problematic in the sense that it limits their ability to achieve their full potential or find satisfaction and purpose in their work.  Remember, by investing in me you are investing in improved performance, productivity, and efficiency.  Therefore, don’t let your finance team tell you a Business Coach is a raw cost!

If you would like to discuss your learning and development goals, please contact Jonathan Timmis at [email protected] and kick start your journey of discovery today!