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Use Your Time More Wisely

Is procrastination stealing your precious time? Our Get A Life! Expert shows you how to get it back.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Q: How do I get over my bad procrastinating habit now that I'm the boss? Before I started my business, I had to answer to someone else, but now I answer to me, which sometimes makes it difficult to get things done.

A: You've asked a very valid question, particularly for those of us who are born procrastinators. (Myself included, unfortunately.) It can be quite a change for us to be motivated by an internal boss, as opposed to an external one-freedom does have its own set of challenges, after all.

One approach is to evaluate the reasons why you're procrastinating. Is it because you don't like what you have to do? For example, if you hate making business phone calls, then it can be very easy to find yourself "too busy" to make those calls until it's nearly too late. I'm sure you can find examples of this in your personal life as well, such as putting off doing the laundry or buying groceries until you're at the minimum.

So if you realize you're procrastinating a task because you just don't like doing it, then it might work to set up a system of rewards for when you complete it (or a section of it if it's a big project). The rewards don't have to be huge or cost money-they could be something as simple as a short power nap or two songs of your favorite CD. This system does require some strength in sticking to limits-it's easy to justify a much bigger reward than you had originally planned for yourself, especially if the reward itself is free.

Perhaps you're procrastinating because you're angry with someone or something associated with that task or project. (Therapists use this theory a lot to help their procrastinating clients.) If you don't particularly like a client, then it's not a huge leap in realizing that might be why his or her job is always last in the pile. I recognize that it's probably too pie-in-the-sky to hope for all your clients to be people with whom you like to work, but perhaps some of the more demanding (read: difficult) clients could be weaned away over time? Or replaced with less demanding ones?

Another good way to overcome procrastination is to break tasks into smaller, more manageable chunks. It can seem much less overwhelming to view a large project as a series of small steps instead of a finishing deadline.

And if nothing I've suggested so far seems to help, start keeping a running total of how much procrastination costs your business. Just keep a diary of how you spend your days for about a week or so, tracking when you procrastinate and on which clients or jobs. Then at the end of the week, add up the sum total of wasted time and multiply it by your hourly charges. Sometimes seeing an actual monetary value wasted helps kickstart a stuck entrepreneur.

Procrastination can end up to be a very expensive pasttime for those of us with it. Time is short enough-why not make the most of it?

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Elizabeth Inskip-Paulk has worked in the field of stress management and other health-related fields for more than seven years in both the public and the private sectors. She has a master's degree in English and has been freelance writing in her spare time for a number of years, which involves a significant amount of personal balancing. She tries to live what she teaches in terms of life/work balance (although it's not always an easy journey!). Elizabeth grew up in England, lives in Texas and now says "y'all" when necessary.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author, not of Entrepreneur.com. All answers are intended to be general in nature, without regard to specific geographical areas or circumstances, and should only be relied upon after consulting an appropriate expert, such as an attorney or accountant.