6 Steps to Go from Procrastinating to Productive
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As entrepreneurs and business owners, we have tasks on our list that we'd rather not do. So, we keep moving the goal post farther down the field and do almost anything we can to avoid those distasteful jobs.
Related: 11 Ways to Beat Procrastination
Personally, I don't like to get involved in extra paperwork or monthly expense reports. Other founders have their own least favorite activities.
But this isn't necessarily a bad thing because there's an obvious solution: delegation. As a matter of fact, I created a motto along these lines: I will not do the work of my smart, very talented and motivated team.
My job, after all, is to concentrate on the bigger parts of the business, like generating revenue. And while there are other such tasks that are necessary to operating a business, I might be avoiding them too because they slow me down. So, I again delegate them to the team.
I guess in a way, we're all capable of being procrastinators.
According to a 2013 survey by salary.com, 69 percent of survey respondents said they wasted time at work on a daily basis -- a 5 percent increase from the previous year. Thirty-four percent of respondents estimated they routinely wasted 30 minutes or less each day; 24 percent said they wasted between 30 and 60 minutes; and 11 percent said they wasted hours every day.
As a business owner, I could see how those numbers might send my fellow owners' blood pressure through the roof, but my own response would be more practical: I'd pursue tools, tricks and techniques to minimize procrastination and maximize productivity. Here are a few of those techniques:
Don't overwhelm yourself.
It's easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work on your plate, meetings and deadlines. Lately, I've been focusing on launching new avenues for C-Suite TV, and it can be overwhelming sometimes.
When tasks seem insurmountable, here's one way to lessen that burden: Get out your "to-do" list. Then, instead of writing down that big task as one huge thing, break it down. Breaking a big task into multiple line items makes it more manageable. You have your end goal, but by reducing it to its smaller components, you get a clearer picture of what you need to do.
Crossing off the smaller parts of the larger task gives you a sense of accomplishment you wouldn't have if you tackled the massive task all at once.
Flip the script.
I don't care who you are: Whether you're a worker, a manager or a CEO, you're just like everyone -- and we all hate doing certain tasks. So why not flip the script?
Bite the bullet, kiss the frog -- whatever you want to call it: Put that task at the top of your to-do list that day. You'll eliminate the task quickly and move on to the rest of your day. Not to mention, you'll have a bigger sense of accomplishment knowing that you've steam-rolled the largest obstacle you had awaiting you.
Everyone wants to make a good impression and put his or her best foot forward at work. Procrastination comes not from the inability to get the job done, but from fear and insecurity. Being unsure how to perform a specific task makes us fear failure and being seen in a negative light by the boss.
I always tell my team that, "No one's going to die." What's the worst thing that can happen if a specific task isn't perfect? I might get mad if the task is not completed within the given deadline, but not if it merely needs to be tweaked. Many times, the worst conversations happen inside our own heads and we let that imaginary conversation rule our other decisions. That's when we make mistakes.
If you're worried about your work quality, allocate a set amount of time each day to complete (or revise) parts of the project. It's possible to perfect a task without obsessing over it and losing focus. That's when you know it's time to let go of the project and focus on other things. Say it with me: No one will die.
Kill the squirrels (or distractions).
It's easy to procrastinate with the million distractions we have every day. According to a survey by Stop Procrastinating, 68 percent of Americans surveyed said they'd been distracted from their work duties by checking their emails, browsing the web or engaging in social media. And that was a 9 percent increase from a year before. Of that 68 percent, 39 percent said distractions cost them a whole hour a day.
Sure, it's tempting to constantly check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, but here's a radical concept: Log out of your social media accounts for a few hours every day.
Instead, focus on your tasks and nothing else. Do whatever it takes to get into the "zone," to accomplish your goal. Some people at my office use headphones to muffle outside noise. I block out time on my calendar, which my employees have access to, and dedicate that time to a specific task I need to accomplish. I may even specify "no phone calls" to ensure I stay in my zone.
Be a good time manager.
To transition from procrastinator to proactive leader requires organization on your part, from your mindset to your schedule. It's hard to be organized when you feel you're juggling multiple things, but to succeed, you must learn to juggle. Deciding how much time to dedicate to each task makes you more efficient.
For some of us busy executives, even our down time needs to be scheduled.
Recently, I attended the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit, where I mingled with top economists, business leaders and policymakers. I had a busy schedule, interviewing a top CEO. But I also managed to schedule down time. Being from South Dakota, I enjoy the outdoors so I scheduled some fly fishing time -- away from technology, emails and phone calls.
If you're a good time manager, you'll have time for everything, including play time. It takes some dedication and discipline, but it's not impossible.
Remember that the early bird gets the worm.
I operate on little sleep. As any workaholic will tell you, when you go to bed at night, you can't wait to start your day the next morning. Indeed, dawn is the most productive part of the day, according to this Wall Street Journal article. That hour of the morning brings minimal distractions, no email and hardly anyone on social media.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, starts his day at 3:45 a.m.. Richard Branson likes to "sleep in" until 5 a.m., and even my friend and fellow entrepreneur Peter Shankman gets up before it's light out. As a business owner, entrepreneur and keynote speaker, I've done my fair share of early mornings; You'd be surprised how much you can get done by the time everyone else walks in the office.
The one takeaway here is that in order to make a successful transition from procrastinating to productive, you have to be disciplined, motivated and focused: disciplined enough to curb distractions, motivated enough to want to reach your end goal and focused enough to execute a plan that works for you.
We're all different, so there's no magic bullet solution for procrastination. But if you can build a plan that works for you, work the plan.