How That Procrastination Habit You Developed In College Is Killing Your Success Now

Diligence, self-motivation, momentum and critical reflection are vital skills for every entrepreneur but are treated as optional in the classroom.

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By Daniel Marlin

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You've heard it time and time again... "I love the whooshing sound deadlines make as they pass me by." Funny? Sure -- but it also encapsulates the essence of college life for many students.

As a student, you admired the fact that you could pull all-nighters, scrape together an assignment and hand it in minutes before the professor's looming deadline. Procrastination was part of college culture, and if we're honest -- it didn't really hurt your grades or future employment prospects. But while putting off college work seemed inconsequential -- it was a bad habit that could've derailed the entrepreneurial vision you're striving for today.

Here's why:

1. You'll lack necessary discipline.

The immediate consequences of procrastination are almost imperceptible if you work an office job. Sure, you'll have a few late nights and early mornings playing catch up. But as long as the work is on your boss's desk come Monday -- nobody really cares how you manage your time.

Related: Fight Procrastination by Reading This Article Right Now

However, the pitfalls become apparent when you pursue life as an entrepreneur. Not only are you in charge of setting your own deadlines; you have the power and flexibility to adjust and postpone them as you see fit.

That means the only way you're ever going to make progress towards your goals is if you're disciplined about setting targets and working diligently to reach them every day.

If you've developed a habit of delaying action, or if you've always relied on somebody else's deadlines as a catalyst for hard work -- achieving your goals will be an uphill battle with no end.

So what's the fix?

You've got to set self-imposed deadlines and stick to them religiously. Deadlines are worse than useless if you don't take them seriously and to take them seriously you need to be held accountable for meeting them.

Get an accountability partner. People are inherently reluctant to look bad in front of other people. Sharing your deadline with someone that is likely to criticise you for failing to keep it might be the incentive you need to scare yourself into action.

2. You'll never build momentum

There's a secret to achieving big wins in life -- Momentum. Breaking large goals into smaller tasks and working relentlessly until you've completed all of them.

Each subsequent victory gives you the confidence and energy needed to engage with the next challenge. In time, this series of consecutive small wins will culminate in the fulfilment of your overarching entrepreneurial vision.

During college the students that progressed quickly through their curriculum tended to be more likely to complete their degrees. They weren't necessarily smarter than their contemporaries, nor were they more captivated by the course content. They key to their success was consistency.

Tasks they completed at the beginning of the semester served as the catalyst for consistent action that carried them through assignments, exams and essays -- right on through to graduation.

The students that procrastinated tended to default on deadlines, flunk tests, and became so overwhelmed with the stress their poor time-management skills induce that they had little choice but to repeat a module, a year, or sometimes dropout entirely.

These scenarios are mirrored in the business world. Work consistently and you're more likely to achieve your goals. Manage your time poorly and you'll become overwhelmed and stagnant.

Related eBook: The Power of Habit: 7 Steps to Successful Habits by Brian Tracy

Here's how you can create momentum as an entrepreneur even when you don't feel like working:

  • Start with a simple task and do it two days in a row.
  • Mark those days off on your calendar with a big red pen.
  • Repeat (work for another two days and mark off your calendar).

Keep doing this for three weeks and scientists suggest that you've successfully formed a new habit (one of working consistently towards your goals). Before you know it you'll have marked off an entire month (or even a year) on your calendar -- each day representing a small portion of your overarching goal.

Remember: skipping one day makes it easier to skip the next. The key behind this technique is consistency and the power of habit-forming action.

3. You'll make worse decisions.

We make better quality decisions when we have ample time to do so. Yes, time based pressure can motivate you to take action. But this pressure also causes anxiety that distorts individual judgement and makes decision-making less logical.

That's not severe in college where critical decisions are largely out of your control. You choose your preferred university, and you decide which majors offer the greatest amount of value. Much of the rest is a sequential process determined by your lecturers and a handful of administrators.

But entrepreneurs have to make important decisions every day, any of which could influence the trajectory of their business. While making quick decisions is easy, consistently making optimal decisions is what drives your business forward, and this requires time and consideration.

If you leave important decisions until the last minute, you won't have time to fully comprehend, reflect on, and evaluate the alternative courses of action available to you. To make optimal decisions you need to structure your day in a manner that affords you time to understand a problem and its potential solutions beyond a superficial level.

Procrastinating is easy -- especially in college. But it's important to gain perspective about how the actions you take today will determine the successes and failures you experience in the future.

Procrastination prevents you from developing positive habits, building the momentum needed to tackle larger challenges and compromises the quality of your decision-making.

Related: 11 Ways to Beat Procrastination

Diligence, self-motivation, momentum and critical reflection are vital skills for any entrepreneur. The faster you put them into practice, the sooner you will beat procrastination and realise the fruits of your ambition.

Daniel Marlin

Entrepreneur, marketer, business consultant.

Daniel Marlin is a business and digital marketing consultant. His insights have been mentioned on Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur and other large publications. Follow him on Twitter to get all his latest writing.

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