Procrastination is one of the most common causes of business failure and
some of the most brilliant and innovative ideas ever conceived never come to
fruition because procrastination gets in the way. So why is this so important to
The definition of procrastination is: ‘The action of delaying or postponing
something’. Does that ring a bell? It should do!
Procrastination is something we are all guilty of and it is an ingrained habit that
is very hard to break. But if we are serious about wanting to create a successful
business then we need to understand what causes procrastination and what
we can do to stop it. We need to learn to stop procrastination in its tracks and
change our mindset from thinking to doing! So here are five very important
steps to stop procrastination for good!
Step 1 – Start Rewarding Yourself Now
Many people, even those who run successful businesses, often tend to position
themselves in the future which psychologically makes them start to think ‘It’s
maybe not the best time to start a business right now…’. This is a very common
human failing that we all succumb to from time to time and it is because we
see the ultimate ‘reward’ for our efforts will come at some time in the future
rather than now. And nobody likes to postpone rewards! So let’s make
something very clear at the outset – it is actually perfectly ‘okay’ to start
rewarding yourself now – however small the reward might be. For sure, the
‘big reward’ can still come at the end, but it is okay to enjoy a few small
rewards while you are still on your journey to the final destination. The way to
achieve this outcome is by setting both ‘short term’ goals as well as ‘long term’
goals. By changing your mental construct this enables you to enjoy both short
term satisfaction and long term satisfaction. It’s a win-win situation.
By planning ahead and creating small interim celebrations you are creating a
space for a series of small rewards whilst on the journey to the finish line.
Think of it as bringing your future self back to the present momentarily! It’s a
strategy that has been proven to work. The goal is to stop punishing, penalising
and criticising yourself because these types of feelings will undoubtedly hold
you back from getting started and making progress. The key is to stop punishing yourself for lack of progress and instead to reward yourself for the
progress you have made so far. To achieve this you must learn to ignore all the
small and irritating voices’ in your ear that are telling you you’re not good
enough. These are self-sabotaging small voices that need to be silenced.
Rewards are motivational. Allow them to manifest on your journey to success.
Step 2 – Make Your Tasks Achievable
When we speak about procrastination the ‘trying’ word is always there lurking
in our subconscious! As long as your task is achievable it is perfectly okay to
start ‘trying’ in a positive frame of mind. It means you are figuratively ‘eating
the elephant one piece at a time’. If you spend all your time looking at the big
picture – the dream, goal or objective – it can be too overwhelming and is
likely to cause stress. That’s why everything should be be tackled in small
chunks. Setting small tasks and little goals one at a time is a much more
productive way of working. It’s always more satisfying and motivating to divide
up your project or task into distinct steps that are realistic and achievable. For
example, if your goal is to run a full marathon then it is best to start by starting
with much smaller scale runs! We can learn from those who have addictions
like gamblers, smokers or alcoholics that setting unrealistic goals to beat these
addictions rarely works and usually ends up with a lot of relapses. It is not easy
to stop ingrained habits immediately – it takes time and patience.
What tends to really work is beating addictions by slow incremental steps. For
example, if you are a smoker that wants to stop, then cutting down on the
number of cigarettes you smoke each day works much more effectively than
trying to stop completely in one day. We have to allow ourselves to go though
a ‘process of change’ through incremental steps not a full blown change in one
go. But it is not just about beating addictions. The key point is that we have to
prepare our subconscious mind to welcome our future self in. And in order to
get your ‘current self’ ready to meet your ‘future self’ you need to cultivate the
art of ‘consistency’.
Step 3 – Consistency
It is rarely possible to break old habits by trying to change everything
overnight. As stated above, it requires a slow but consistent set of small step
changes. The secret is to commit yourself to little tasks consistently. This
makes your goal achievable rather than impossible.
Growing a new business, for example, often means gradually raising your
visibility but this is very hard for lots of people. They endeavour to make themselves ‘visible’ for a week or two but then disappear. And it is usually
because of all the other distractions and demands on our time that get in the
way of our long term goals. Also, many people fail to meet their goals because
they want everything to be absolutely perfect, but this is not always possible.
What we can do though is to be the best that we can be. In other words it is
our internal drive and our desire to achieve that is paramount. It is not about
being ‘perfect’. Yes, it is always good to aim for ‘high quality’ but the main
thing is to push ahead and do your best rather than fail because you are
seeking perfection. The key word here is ‘commitment’, the desire to keep
going even when times are tough.
Step 4 – Have a Deadline
Nobody really likes deadlines. But without them things quickly fall by the
wayside. We all have to accept that more often than not there needs to be a
deadline to keep us motivated and focused. And having a deadline means you
need to unequivocally commit to a specific date when your goal needs to be
accomplished. Take a goal like losing weight for example; without a target
weight and target date the goal becomes meaningless. It becomes nothing
more than a random ‘wish’ without substance. It is the same for those whose
goal is to write a book. Unless you are committed to the deadlines for
planning, writing, editing, publishing and launching your book it will remain
nothing more than an idle dream. Having a deadline for something also
enables you to signal to other people that ‘something is happening’. By sharing
your plans and your goals, your commitment becomes more concrete and
realistic. And this leads us nicely into step five because we all need something
to trigger us into taking decisive action. Something that will enable us to leave
our comfort zone and to stop procrastinating. We need to make it public.
Step 5 – Make it Public
Let’s say that you have made the necessary commitment to achieving your
goal. You have stopped procrastinating, you have taken action, and you have
set firm deadlines. Is that everything? The answer is no – not yet. There is one
more extremely important step to take. You need to make it public. In other
words, you need to make a very public commitment however hard that might
be. By making our goals public we know for sure that we will be publicly
embarrassed if we don’t follow through. A public announcement serves to
reinforce our commitment and also pushes us into action. The courage to
stand up and say, “This is what I am planning to do” is not always easy, but it is an essential part of the success process. You need to tell the world what your
plans are (your book, running the marathon, a new online business etc). You
literally have to ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. Yes, it might be tough and it
might be difficult – particularly if you haven’t done it before – but going public
is a key ingredient for ultimate success. By having the courage to tell others
your aims and ambitions you will undoubtedly get lots of free feedback as well
as ideas, suggestions and advice. This should be welcomed. Honest feedback
will combat any procrastination and serve to sharpen your focus. It might be
tough but the rewards are most definitely worth it.
So we need to be tenacious and commit to things we can and will achieve.
Then we need to see them through, however difficult that might be.
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About Mirela Sula
Mirela Sula has worked in media and education for the last 20 years and
has speaking experience all around the world. Her background takes in
psychology and counselling, journalism, teaching, coaching, women’s
rights and media training. Mirela is CEO and the founder of Global
Woman Magazine and Global Woman Club.