We have all been culprits of procrastination at one time or another; when you have a task to do but inexplicably find something else to occupy your time; And, that other thing you find so compelling? It is usually a pointless task – a quick visit to Pinterest to look for a vegan brownie recipe, (you are not vegan) or a trip to the kitchen to have a look in the biscuit barrel to see if it has magically refilled in the last 15 minutes.
Why do we procrastinate? To answer this question, we need to look at behavioural psychology research, which talks of a phenomenon known as ‘time inconsistency’. This means that, despite good intentions that we may have (i.e. I need to lose weight for my holiday in 6 months’ time) our brain values immediate reward more highly than future reward. (But I really want some of the cake in the staff room, so I will start my diet tomorrow).
Procrastination can be a problem for entrepreneurs, who often work alone. There is no-one there to focus their mind on the looming deadlines, or there is no definite deadline. This is the danger zone for procrastination, alone, slightly overwhelmed by the task ahead, maybe it is a facet of business that is not a strong point of the entrepreneur. This is when the brain kicks in offering all sorts of instant gratification to quell the feelings of anxiety at the task ahead. ‘Why don’t we just have a little look on YouTube’ a voice in our head whispers. 2 hours later we re-appear from the black hole of watching cats playing the piano and not a stitch of work has been done.
Therefore, as an entrepreneur it is imperative to find a coping strategy that helps you recognise procrastination and stop it before it wastes too much time. I am not saying you can never watch another piano playing cat again – but try and build a timetable into your day where you have a planned period for ‘mental relaxation’. Set mini goals that you need to complete in order to earn the relaxation time.
Mark Twain once said ‘If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first’.
What he is saying is just get on with the task at hand, however unpleasant – otherwise you will procrastinate about it all day.
Follow this link to a brilliant TED Talk by Blog writer Tim Urban, giving an amusing insight into the mind of a procrastinator.