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When Procrastinating Can Pay Off

Does it always feel like you've got a million things to do at once? Take a step back--sometimes procrastinating pays off.

Time doesn't play favorites. No matter how productive we are or how much we accomplish, there remain only 24 hours in a day. As entrepreneurs, we see our to-do lists quickly expanding. Whether it's responding to e-mails or making a long-delayed call to a colleague, we must choose which tasks to complete every day.

To succeed, it may be to your advantage to choose to procrastinate. This simple act can help us set priorities and give each task the attention it deserves. Putting tasks off can raise our energy and free our minds to help us see opportunities where others perceive obstacles. Follow these steps to make procrastination productive.

1. Release unnecessary guilt associated with putting off tasks. There are multiple paths to the same destination. Even when we procrastinate, we continue to learn. Our subconscious mind keeps working on possiblesolutions and reviews them silently while we deal with other tasks. If a solution to a challenge doesn't immediately present itself, it may be more productive to put it aside rather than spend valuable time vacillating over what to do next. Let your mind ponder the possibilities while you complete other work.

2. Avoid heartache by taking a moment. My first mentor once remarked he was successful because he learned time was a great mood-changer. He suggested I refrain from responding to anyone when I was upset--no matter how urgent the task. Angry thoughts usually aren't rational. If your mood won't let you accomplish a task productively, put off sending that fiery e-mail until you're calmer. Your positive attitude also encourages people to work with you on future challenges.

3. Allow others to provide answers for you. Some of the actions we take just to move forward can actually slow our progress toward our goals. Purposely take yourself out of routine decision making. If you're habitually copied on e-mails to members of your team, consider putting off your replies. Other people may be able to resolve issues or answer questions without your input. The time that's freed up allows you to get a lot more done.

4. State why you're procrastinating. We often hesitate because we don't know our next best action. If you get sidetracked while completing a task, learn from the experience. Don't waste more time by making excuses. Acknowledge what happened, and write down the reasons behind your distraction. Then discover a method to overcome the challenge by spending time investigating solutions. The next time a similar distraction occurs, you'll better understand how to resolve it quickly.

5. Practice procrastination. Unleash new strategies andmarketing opportunities by setting specific times to do nothing but imagine. Taking this time allows you to consider unusual actions you can take and focus on the results you want to achieve. And it's a wonderful occasion to hone your intuition. This free time helps you identify your next best step and emboldens you to take it.

Don't think of procrastinating as something that's bad for your startup. Your goal is continually evolving, and your priorities are constantly changing. The world is your playground--explore, discover and succeed on your terms.


Speaker and consultant Romanus Wolter, aka "The Kick Start Guy," is author of Kick Start Your Dream Business.

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This article was originally published in the September 2006 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Just Play It Cool.

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