A Small Business Owners’ Guide to Beating Procrastination

the small business owners guide to procrastination and getting things done now rather than later
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By Jess Dixon

Have you ever started the day full of good intentions, only to realise that it’s suddenly 3pm and you haven’t achieved anything? Yes – me too. Procrastination gets the best of all of us sometimes, and it can be a real problem for small business owners. 

As someone who struggles with procrastination a lot (my blog’s name is literally a portmanteau of “procrastinating” and “caffeine,” two major staples of my life) I thought I’d put together some of my top tips for beating procrastination. 

First, understand why you do it 

What causes you to procrastinate? 

At this stage in the process, I’m not even asking you to do anything about it. Just notice it and identify where it comes from. Do you procrastinate because you’re constantly getting notifications on social media that you can’t resist checking? Do you keep getting interrupted by family members or housemates, which pulls you out of your focus zone? Or do you get stressed out when your environment isn’t just right (such as when the house is messy) and feel compelled to fix it before you can work? 

There might be a deeper underlying cause, too. One of my main reasons for procrastinating on my university assignments is fear of not being clever enough and of being exposed as a fraud. Are you anxious about your ability to succeed or afraid of failing? If so, you might want to try journaling about your feelings, practicing mindfulness, or speaking to a therapist. 

Minimise your known distractions

Once you know what your distractions are, you can eliminate them or at least minimise them. I know social media and WhatsApp notifications are among my big points of distraction. I mitigate this issue by not logging in to any of the social channels on my laptop, and keeping my phone face down and out of arm’s reach during my focus periods.

If aimless scrolling is your problem, try a similar technique. If interruptions are the issue, set boundaries with the people you live with and agree to a certain number of “leave me alone unless something is literally on fire” hours per day. If you feel compelled to do laundry or wash the dishes before you can work, go into a different room and shut the door so you can’t see the mess. 

In other words, work out what is sucking away all your time, and get rid of that problem to the extent that you can. 

Work somewhere else 

Something that many people have learned for the first time in 2020 is that home is full of distractions. Sure, I could dive into this client work, but cleaning the bathroom suddenly sounds much more appealing. I could write this article, but my dog definitely needs a third walk today. And so on. 

The trick? Work somewhere else. 

This is admittedly more challenging right now due to COVID-19, but lockdown isn’t going to last forever. When it’s safe to do so, go to a coffee shop or coworking space when you need to get away from the distractions of home and focus on work. 

In the meantime, can you just go to a different room and try to shut out the distractions in the rest of your home? It’s not perfect, but it’s something. 

Get someone to hold you accountable

Most of us are far better at meeting other people’s expectations than our own. So if having someone to hold you accountable helps you, then go for it. There are several ways you can do this. 

The easiest and cheapest is to team up with a fellow business owner friend and agree to check in with each other a couple of times a week to see how you’re progressing. Another option is to join a challenge with others – many small business Facebook and LinkedIn groups run these periodically. 

If you want to take things a step further, why not hire a business coach? They’ll help you work out where your productivity problems are coming from and get unstuck. They’ll also hold you accountable and set you tasks and goals. 

Just knowing that someone else is relying on you can be incredibly powerful. Give it a go! 

Use time-management techniques 

There are endless time-management techniques out there, and you should try a few to figure out what works for you. Calendar-blocking, SMART goals, bullet journaling, and Kanban boards are just some of the most popular. 

By far my favourite is the pomodoro technique, which goes like this: set a timer and work intensively for 25 minutes. When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break. Repeat. Every couple of hours, take a 15-minute break. (Fun fact: pomodoro is Italian for tomato, and this technique got its name because its creator, Francesco Cirillo, used a kitchen timer shaped like a tomato.) 

Whatever time-management technique works for you, make a commitment to use it every working day. Your productivity will soar. (I’m pomodoro-ing writing this article right now!) 

Break tasks down into manageable chunks

Do you ever stare at a project and wonder how to get started because it’s so big? Here’s the trick: break it down into smaller pieces. Define the individual tasks you need to do, and allocate a to-do list item to each one. 

You’ll beat the overwhelm that can so often cause procrastination, and you’ll get the little buzz of crossing something off your list. 

Beating procrastination 

Procrastination is a challenge to defeat because it mostly exists in your mind. It’s often caused by a mix of fear, distractions, and overwhelm. 

When you identify your personal triggers and distractions, you’ll be well on your way to beating procrastination. If you have any top tips that have helped you, please let us know so we can share them with our community. 

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