Snooze Button

Procrastination. It’s defined as intentionally putting of something that needs to be done. It’s one of the biggest problems facing a small business owner. Without a boss looking over your shoulder, the temptation to procrastinate can be overwhelming. It’s a common human condition: we all like to avoid things that are difficult and uncomfortable, so we put them off for another day. But, if we don’t make sure that day eventually comes, we can often cost ourselves a lot of growth in our business.

chasing the clock while doing our home inspection work

We all have a snooze button on our alarm clock. And while science has proven that there is absolutely no benefit to those extra 10 minutes of sleep in the morning, it certainly feels good to lay back down in that cozy, warm bed…

As humans, we are programmed to enjoy things that feel good and make us happy. And while that warm bed does feel good on a chilly morning, we are really doing nothing but postponing the inevitable: having to get out of bed and start our day. This procrastination adds nothing to our day, it simply wastes our time.

Procrastination is the scourge of the small business owner. We are already overwhelmed by the fact that we are attempting to run a business, following a model that was originally devised to be implemented by multiple employees working together to run a company. Marketing, advertising, customer care, follow-up phone calls, travel, tech work, accounting, not to mention actually performing your job (in my case, doing a home inspection): the multitude of tasks is overwhelming.

We are often tempted to delay doing our work, reasoning with ourselves that we will be in a better frame of mind if we just relax for a while, or we will have more quiet time tomorrow to do that bookkeeping.

In reality, we are simply procrastinating. We are often so overwhelmed with the magnitude of our responsibilities, that we simply shut down, which results in getting nothing done. And while the mountain of responsibilities can certainly be daunting, we should always remember the quote, attributed to Creighton Abrams, US Army general, that says “When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.”

eating an elephant while doing a home inspection

Often, we can find ourselves trapped by a different kind of procrastination. We put off the things that are difficult or uncomfortable, focusing instead on the day to day “busy work” that is part of every small business. We justify avoiding the hard stuff, telling ourselves that this other work needs to get done, so we might as well tackle it now. All the while avoiding the hard work that can really lead to growth in our business.

There are many different methods to avoid procrastination. The key to success is to find the methods which work best for you. Some ideas include:

  • Working on your most important task for a short amount of time

Spending a few minutes each day on a difficult task can help to make it feel less intimidating

  • Start the day with your most difficult task

Getting it done first will make you feel better once it’s over, and will keep you from stressing out all day about getting it done later

  • Work on getting it done, not getting it perfect

You can always make corrections and edits once you’ve gotten some work done, but you can’t correct what you don’t ever start

  • Focus on the task at hand

There are so many distractions in our modern world; set yourself up for success by removing everything that’s not necessary for this task

Procrastination causes undue stress in our lives; the list of things that have to get done increases as our available time to do them decreases. Our time is valuable, and only becomes more so as we get older. As with any commodity, as the supply decreases, the price increases. We are all working on a dead line; we will all eventually run out of tomorrows.

Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.

attributed to Abraham Lincoln

We all have busy and stressful lives. Don’t add to that stress by putting off your responsibilities. Make a conscious decision to lessen your stress; to decrease your future responsibilities: decide to get something done today. Or, you can take the advice of Joan Konner, professor at Columbia, who says “Procrastination always gives you something to look forward to.”

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Thanks, Joe

pic of me, Joseph Cook Jr, home inspector