An important task is at the top of your to-do list, but instead of quickly crossing it off, you let it linger for days, which turn into weeks, perhaps even months.
It can be easy for busy small-business owners to procrastinate, especially when it comes to things that don’t fall into their daily routines. But sometimes those activities — such as making a sales call to a potential client or diving into social media — are crucial to growing the company.
So, what’s causing the lag? Underlying causes of procrastination can range from being impulsive to feeling unmotivated. In fact, the tendency to procrastinate can be linked to our personalities, notes Rachel Karu, founder of RAE Development, a consulting firm in Los Angeles. “Some people have a preference for keeping things more open-ended and letting things emerge. They tend to procrastinate more.”
Karu offers these tips on how to stop procrastinating — and get things done.
- Tune in to your strengths and weaknesses. Set aside some time to map out which aspects of running a business fall into your line of expertise and which ones don’t. What you consider to be your weaker areas may be reflected in daily operations: If you love making decisions but loathe accounting, chances are your financial chores are among the last to get done. Consider outsourcing tasks that fall outside of your competencies, Karu advises. Here’s why: If accounting really isn’t your strength, you may be able to teach yourself some basic skills, but it probably won’t turn into a strength. If you hand the job over to someone else, the task will get done well, and you can cross the item off your to-do list for good.
- Just say no. When you feel as if you should do something, but don’t really want to, it’s easy to drop the ball, Karu explains. Before you agree to do something, take time to consider whether the project is really something you’re interested in. If it isn’t, say “no” or ask if someone else can handle the job.
- Understand how long things really take. In reality, many tasks take longer than we expect. The item at the bottom of your list — even if it’s an important one — is likely to be put off for another day. To break this cycle, get a grip on just how long things take. Better yet, schedule extra time: If you think a sales meeting will last two hours, plan for three, Karu suggests. You’ll have a more realistic outlook on what you can accomplish during your day.
- Adhere to a schedule. Once you’ve estimated how long tasks take, look at a project you’ve been putting off — and work it into your schedule. If you want to add pages to your website, set up a specific time to work on them, such as Monday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., and stick to it. Next, give yourself a deadline for completing the project. The date looming on your calendar can help spur you to get it done.
- Fight distractions. When you’re working on something that’s necessary but painful (e.g., billing clients), it can be tempting to check email, help a co-worker, or give in to other distractions. A better plan: Do whatever you dislike the most first thing in the morning for a short period of time, Karu says. Chances are the office will be quieter, and you won’t have to spend the rest of the day wondering when you’ll get it done.