How I overcame the deadly grip of procrastination
Being your own boss can be incredibly rewarding and empowering.
The desire to work when you want and how you want can be a very powerful driver in setting up your own lifestyle business.
But once the initial excitement dies down, many of us feel the same creeping sense of dread. Our productivity is dropping and our energy levels are lower. Basic decisions suddenly take longer and the work starts to pile up.
Before you know it you can be completely overcome by the deadly disease of procrastination. It can kill your confidence and it can kill your business, so let’s look at how we can deal with it right now, before it’s too late.
Let’s not procrastinate about procrastination
I don’t want to dwell on this too much. You will know exactly what I’m talking about and how it applies to you.
Procrastination can be caused by many things, and often several things combined:
- A lack of confidence
- A lack of knowledge
- A lack of preparation
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Lack of enthusiasm
- Medical problems like depression
- A Disturbed daily routine
- Feeling overwhelmed
Whichever one of these reasons, or combination of them is affecting you, the net result can often be fatal to your online business.
Before it affects you, it’s time to assess where you are with your mood and your working day, honestly. And most importantly of all, it’s time to make positive changes right now, for the long- term benefit of your business and your personal happiness.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, then take a look at my list of 11 time saving tools that can help you to be more productive.
What type of person are you?
Most of us tend to naturally drift towards certain patterns of productive time, downtime and sleep.
We often describe this in terms of somebody being a “morning person” for example. At the other end of the spectrum some of us are “night owls”.
I’m sure you will already know when you are naturally at your most productive. So if you are a morning person, it could be between 6 AM and midday. After that you start to feel yourself drifting away.
If you’re an evening person, you could struggle to get out of bed before 10 AM. But on the other side of that coin, by 6 PM your brain is raving with creativity and energy.
Or you might be someone who doesn’t have an early or late productive zone and you instead fall into the 9–5 category.
The key to making changes in your levels of potential productivity is to first analyse who you are and where you are right now.
If you are a morning person, then there is absolutely no point in having your evening meal and then trying to catch up with tasks before bed. You will not do them as well and if you don’t complete them you will feel guilty, which could ruin your sleep quality.
If you are an evening person, feeling that you should be up and working at 9 AM can also be your downfall. You could find you drift through the day and are then too burnt out to make best use of your highest productivity levels in the evening.
Change your day to change your life
First of all, set yourself hard work time limits.
These will obviously fluctuate as you learn more about your productive sweet spot, but it’s important to start somewhere. If you are a morning person, make sure you are up and working at a set time and make sure that essential tasks are completed by lunchtime.
The key to sticking to these hard work limits and being productive within them is planning and deadlines. If your goals are elastic then your working day will be.
One simple strategy that will help is to not just plan your working day. Plan what you will do at the end of your working day as well. Even set it on your calendar with an alarm. Be productive when you need to work, but give yourself something to look forward to to unwind with, otherwise you will often find your work drifting into your leisure time.
Give yourself permission to stop working. If you don’t plan leisure time then work will inevitably drift on and on.
Simplify your daily routine
When you first start managing your own time it can be tempting to start filling it with unrelated activities.
Before lunch you could plan to read your emails, do some writing, then research. But amongst that you could also be hoping to fit in some exercise and go to the shops. Chopping up your productive time in this way can destroy your energy and lead to a higher chance of drifting.
So when you are working, stick to work tasks. Plan your other activities for when you finish work. Once you stop work, do the other things you need to do. This will have the added benefit of stopping you from drifting back into unproductive work later.
The other thing you can do to simplify your routine and increase your productivity is to eat at regular times. Too many of us who are our own bosses simply do not do this. Not eating properly can cause our energy levels to be sporadic and distract us at crucial times.
It may seem innocuous to just go and grab a sandwich, but when you put together the time you have been thinking about being hungry and getting that sandwich, getting it and eating it, and then getting back in the zone, you could have lost an hour of your productive time.
Prepare yourself for the post lunch slump
Depending on what type of person you are, your lunchtime might be 10 AM, 1 PM, or even 4 PM.
But what’s important is to recognize when you will need to eat in the middle of your work day and to plan for the slump that will follow.
It’s almost inevitable. Your body’s digesting food and your mind has been distracted. You probably consumed non-work information at the same time you were eating, making your mind drift away from it’s previous productivity.
At its worst, this disruption can destroy the entire second half of your working day, basically halving your productivity levels.
Set yourself targets. Finish a specific task before lunch, then stop and enjoy it. But before you stop and enjoy it, prepare your work space and mind with a clear and specific job you have to do after lunch, with a time limit. By having a deadline to push up against you will often find you can overcome the afternoon slump.
Look at how and when you sleep
Probably the main killer of productivity and feeder of procrastination is poor, or irregular sleep.
Unless you are structured enough to work well and then plan the next day, you will often feel a sense of guilt at the end of the day. You will feel you could have done little bit more and you may end up drifting back towards doing tasks late in the evening.
By structuring your day around your productive times and setting yourself clear targets you can finish the day guilt free and enhance your chance of sleeping well.
You should also accept the fact that working for yourself will intervene in sleep sometimes. Many of us find our best ideas suddenly leap into our minds while we are drifting off to sleep, or in the middle of the night when we wake up for some reason.
Although having the idea is great, this behavior can destroy our energy levels and productivity the next day.
Many of you will recognize the scenario of getting a great idea and then getting up to record it. By the time you have done this you are fully awake and in extreme circumstances can sometimes find yourself sitting on your computer working until the rest of the household wakes up, often drawing odd looks or negative comments, which in themselves can deflate your energy levels.
Plan for these times by keeping a notepad by your bed. Not an electronic device that will allow you to do more, just a notepad.
When you get your ideas, or remember things you need to do, simply write them in the notepad, turn the light back off and go back to sleep. You will find in time that you will sleep better because of this. You are safe in the knowledge that your information is recorded for the next morning and can enjoy your sleep.
Simplify your business structure
One way to avoid burnout and end every day in exhausted procrastination is to ensure that your business is working smart and hard for you.
Automate as much of it as possible
Challenge yourself on your daily routine. How much of this could be outsourced?
Follow the golden rules that will unlock your time and energy.
Challenge yourself on this right now. If your day is filled with low-level tasks and a feeling that you are not in control of your destiny, then it is time to stop and revisit everything.
How I rescued myself and jet-packed my online business future
Don’t just think I am preaching to you here. To help you to analyse your own working day, I’m going to answer some key questions on how I turned my own working habits around to achieve success.
What was the point you realized you had to manage your time better to succeed with your business?
I was working 16 hours day with my music business. I wanted freedom and lifestyle so it just didn’t make sense. I was spending time on what I thought was important but they weren’t always the IGA (income generating activities).
What did you change and how long did it take to refine?
I created a table. On the left hand side I listed IGAs and right side non-IGAs. I consciously decided to do what was urgent with the right side and do all of the left side. Spending more time on the left side made me a lot of money, which allowed me to begin to hire and outsource to upscale and get people focusing purely on IGA’s for me.
How can someone overcome guilt at having unfinished tasks?
If you prioritize correctly then you can set just 3 major tasks per day and do those. Don’t pressurize yourself with a full list, anything more than 3 tasks and you are setting yourself up for such failure.
What is you #1 top tip for someone who is currently struggling with time management?
Do what I did and focus almost exclusively on your IGA’s and make sure you do them quickly and ruthlessly. Do only the really urgent non-IGAs and outsource fast, so that you can upscale.
Have a go at this right now. I’d really like you to and I know it will open your eyes and allow you to rapidly change the focus of your entire working day to positive effect.
How does your workday look right now?
I’d love to know in the comments what your workday looks like right now, compared to where you would like it to be.
Are there any “choke points” in your day that constantly cause you to lose focus and enter procrastination mode?
When we talk about running our own lifestyle business, most of us often get obsessed with technology, marketing and personal goals. What we rarely talk about is just how dramatically we can minimize our chances of success through unchallenged procrastination and low productivity.
So take a look at your daily routine from this point on. Be aware of when you are staring out of the window, when you’re chopping and changing between personal and professional tasks, when a job seems to take forever.
Then ask yourself why that happens and how you can change it.
I bet with minor changes that you can double your productivity levels. But don’t take my word for it, give it a try from today.
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