“I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.” Douglas Adams
Let’s talk about the P word. Procrastination. If this is you, this pervasive, habit effects every aspect of your life. As a procrastinator you typically under perform, limiting success and the life you want to live. It dampens your ability to take action, creates missed opportunities, and is the single pattern of behavior I see in most entrepreneurs that if corrected would free up log jams of energy and potential. If you’re a procrastinator you know in your bones that this is true, yet, it seems like an impossible habit to break.
It’s easy to see in others how much unnecessary pain and stress procrastination causes: my daughter for example, endlessly putting off school work and pushing herself at the last minute to meet a deadline, my client, putting off completing his taxes and suffering the consequence of costly penalties. I’m sure you could add your own examples of miserable outcomes you’ve experienced as a result of putting things off. So why do you continue to do it?
I’ve learned that procrastination is not the originating problem. It’s a symptom of something deeper in your personal operating system, or put another way, a coping mechanism you developed to compensate for an area of lack. The bottom line is you procrastinate to protect yourself from feeling something you don’t want to feel.
Although there are many valuable strategies out there for overcoming procrastination, if you don’t get at the root of what causes you to procrastinate, I believe you won’t ever change the pattern. There are many theories about what causes procrastination: anxiety, fear of failure (or success) rebelliousness, or chafing at authority perfectionism, poor work habits, self-sabotage to name the biggies. But interestingly enough, according to research what seems to be at the bottom of the procrastination pit is low self confidence and a low need for achievement.
Curiously, those two personality traits seem to run counter to the common characteristics most entrepreneurs exhibit. So then, why do entrepreneurs procrastinate? There in lies the conundrum and the hope.
As an entrepreneur, you’re human – with all the associated strengths and weaknesses. Although you have boldly accepted the role and risks of building a business and you’re passionate about bringing your dream to market, it’s very easy to overlook your limitations. Here’s my invitation to you: Ask the fearless, passion-filled part of yourself who’s learned to push the limits of your comfort zone every day to explore the parts of yourself that need personal development. Get to the bottom of what limits your confidence, in other words, dare to ask, “Who would I be without my tired, small story about myself?
I was recently working with a bright and talented artist who is holding herself back from blasting her business to the next level. She’s worried that her product won’t be received well and procrastinates taking critical sales action. When I asked her if she had evidence of product rejection she said she didn’t, and in fact her dramatically increasing sales prove the opposite. When I pointed out the obvious discrepancy in her reasoning, her jaw dropped. She got it – and now understands that her work lies in addressing her nagging confidence issues. She’s learning to draw upon her current successes to disqualify the voices of the past. This frees her up to stop procrastinating, take powerful action, and soar!
Ending your procrastination pattern is possible if you’re willing to apply energy to what you want to ignore. By exploring what you fear, or what you resist you will overcome it with self-awareness and then can replace your old thinking with current reality. You might need to ask for help. Reinforce your new awareness by taking small steps and acknowledging yourself every time you have a success. Also, regularly remind yourself of why you want to accomplish your task. Set small achievable goals using inspiration to pull you along into action – finally, beyond procrastination.
I’m reminded of the Marianne Williamson quote where she so aptly states, as if she was thinking about the problem of procrastination when she wrote it, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us…”
Start right now. Be powerful beyond measure. And please, resist the temptation to “do it later”. Go grab a flashlight and begin to shed light on what’s at the bottom of your procrastination pattern. How might it feel to see yourself as an accomplisher rather than a procrastinator? Build that business, do the dishes, live your dream.
It’s YOUR life…imagine the possibilities!