You’ve got some clarity on what to do next to grow your business. But, you’re avoiding the work of actually starting. There’s a part of you that’s scared. That’s normal. Let’s explore a few not so scary tips to stop procrastinating, so you can move forward.
We’ve all said it:
- “Oh, some day, sure. I’m just not ready yet.”
- “I’m going to do this! (days later: never mind).”
- “I’m just going to organize my desk first.”
Starting is hard. It can feel uncomfortable. It’s much easier to avoid, to delay, to kick the can down the road one more time, to play it “safe.”
But, as I’ve shared with you before, and as 2020 showed all of us, life is short – so, I feel, we have a responsibility to use our time wisely. And, just speaking for myself, I’d like to stop procrastinating and start creating the life I want.
Before you read on, I want you to start with a reflection:
- What’s the thing you’ve been putting off?
- What does procrastination look like for you right now?
Don’t judge your answers. Just notice them, objectively.
Now, with that personal context in mind, here are 3 not so scary tips to stop procrastinating.
TIP 01: NOTICE THE ITCH TO PROCRASTINATE
I believe that if you’re going to do anything, you need to know why you’re going to do it – why it’s important to you and how it advances the vision you have for your life.
That’s not always easy to call to mind and there are loads of examples in my own life where I fail to uphold this standard – particularly when I reach for the bowl of M&Ms every night after dinner or I skip my evening rituals in favor of just one more episode of New Girl on Netflix.
But, like you, I’m trying to cultivate more mindfulness in my decision-making.
That needs to be true of procrastination too – according to a great article in the New York Times’ Smarter Living section, called Why You Procrastinate (It Has Nothing to Do With Self-Control) by Charlotte Lieberman.
To stop procrastinating, an important first step is to notice the itch to procrastinate and grow your awareness of that sensation:
“Cultivate curiosity: If you’re feeling tempted to procrastinate, bring your attention to the sensations arising in your mind and body. What feelings are eliciting your temptation?”
A few suggestions: no judging yourself, no self-talk, and no making yourself feel guilty about the feeling. Just observe and report.
What’s driving the itch to procrastinate for you?
There’s a power in naming things – when you name it, you can confront it.
If, for example, you notice that you feel afraid to start. Ask yourself: do I want fear to drive my decisions?
Push yourself to be curious about your own mind.
TIP 02: IMAGINE ONE STEP FORWARD
If you want to start running, you might need to get your shoes. If you want to learn to bake, you might need to pick a recipe to be your first experiment.
It’s the same with a side hustle or a growing business.
In order to start, you need to take one small step forward.
But, that could still feel scary – especially if you’re telling yourself that first step needs to be perfect (hint: it doesn’t).
So, instead of taking one small step forward, what if you just imagined what it might look like?
Here’s another quote from that same NYT article:
“At the start of a given task, you can consider the next action as a mere possibility, as if you were method acting: “What’s the next action I’d take on this if I were going to do it, even though I’m not?” Maybe you would open your email. Or perhaps you would put the date at the top of your document.”
That was my trick in college – I used to open Microsoft Word and add my name, date, and course information. It was a small step that helped me sit down and begin.
Today, for my side-hustle, I like to draw what I’m trying to achieve. Using pictures helps me say more than I ever could if I was just making a list of steps.
What might your first steps look like?
Take a moment to imagine it. Then, imagine the step after that.
TIP 03: RUN IN SCREAMING
Fear is normal when stretching beyond your comfort zone.
And, of course it is – It’s not easy to push the outermost edges of where you are today to explore something new.
So, you might feel some justification then in procrastinating.
The good news is that to move forward, fear doesn’t need to be vanquished, it just needs to be acknowledged (See: How to Design Your Life).
Courage, after all, means you’re doing it scared.
This is how Margaret Atwood, the acclaimed author of The Handmaid’s Tale, described procrastination on the podcast WorkLife with Adam Grant (from TED):
“It’s like going into a very cold lake… You put your foot in, you take it out… It’s still too cold. You think, ‘Am I gonna do this or not? No? Yes. No. Yes.’ That goes on for a while. And then, if you’re going to do it, you run in screaming.”
Starting 321 Liftoff was a slow-boil, but at some point, I just had to go for it.
You might not be at that point yet. That’s okay.
But, what’s it going to take?
You might want to imagine that too.
Small steps are your best path to sustained action.
As Ben Franklin once said: “You may delay, but time will not.”
Add up all the time you’ve already procrastinated so far – what could you have already accomplished in that time?
As a coach, I help people achieve strategic clarity, so they can design their futures for themselves and their businesses. Sometimes, that includes breaking procrastination habits and helping you aim your first few steps. Looking to start or grow your business? Let’s talk.
ONE MORE THING
Starting and growing a business is not a straight line.
It can feel messy – it zigs and zags, it starts and stops. It can feel frustrating even for the most seasoned business owners. And, that’s ok.
It’s also an exciting challenge. It’s going to stretch you. You’re going to learn a lot – not just about business, but about yourself.
And, that’s why it’s worth it.