Why You Shouldn’t Put Off What Serves Your Business Long-Term

Murphy’s Law: Our procrastination shoots us in the foot at the most ill-timed moment. And what’s worse, we know we had it coming.

When we don’t want to tackle a task, we come up with elaborate excuses that justify our inaction. We take a mental note for “sometime next week” or scribble the job on our to-do list, only to conveniently misplace it two days later.

Days (or weeks) pass before X finally screams for completion. Of course, we should’ve dealt with it when it was less urgent. We could’ve delivered quality results and not this unimpressive quick fix we’re now hustling to put together.

Sounds familiar?

I know people who think that procrastination is a great way to test your ability to cope and perform under pressure. I’m not one of them.

I think that deliberately putting things off when we know we shouldn’t is detrimental to our personal growth for two reasons:

1. We Deceive Ourselves

Our excuses are feeble, and deep down we know it. But instead of facing our lazy, disorganized, inconsistent selves, we pledge a meaningless, “I’ll do it later.”

That’s a monumental disservice to our personal development.

2. We Ruin The Momentum

Work is part of life, and so are tasks that we rather put off when they jump at us. We blame

  • the timing: Inconvenient!
  • our energy: So drained!
  • the Universe: Just leave me alone already!

But if we don’t use the momentum that comes with a task, we will soon have a much bigger timing, energy, and motivation problem at our hands.

Ever noticed how hard it is to mobilize resources when you no longer remember why X required completion in the first place?

This is what got me writing this article

Buying an umbrella has been on my to-do list forever, and I’ve put it off and off and off for three reasons (in that order):

1. Unnecessary expense. (Me: “I live in Australia!”)

2. I’ll get by without. (Me: “It hardly ever rains!”)

3. When I find a cute one, I’ll buy it. (Me: “If I have to buy one, it must at least be special!”)

The repercussions of my inaction hit me in the face yesterday: I had a meeting in the city, and it poured nonstop. Fat chance of staying dry once the soaked-in-thirty-seconds deluge started!

So there I was, hopping off the bus a stop early to tip-toe under the roof of a shopping center for maximum shelter. At that moment, I would’ve given anything for an umbrella, cute or not. But I didn’t have one and so arrived in squeaky shoes, silently cursing myself.

Now, my umbrella drama might not resonate with you. For all I know, you could have five of them flying around your apartment right now.

Why This Is Relevant to Your Business

Thinking about my excuses — unnecessary expense, I’ll get by without, “later” — I realized that they had influenced certain business decisions I’ve made in the past, too. Whether on your own or with a co-founder, expenses, for example, will pop up at some point in your venture, and you have to decide: Now or later?

I’m the first one to vote for frugal financial decisions when money trickles in only sporadically, and your business isn’t funded by anyone. And yet, I started to wonder: How are the big bucks going to roll in long-term if we don’t invest part of our small dollars now?

This might have started with something as mundane as an umbrella, but the picture is, in fact, a lot bigger.

Think: Software Upgrade

Don’t wait for the next big contract to hit your books before you upgrade. It may give you more financial leeway, but you won’t have the time to learn the new features and shortcuts or rule out compatibility issues when you have to deliver.

See the software upgrade as a long-term investment in your professional development and market value. Buy it, learn the ropes and reap the rewards. Because when the big contract does roll in, your skills will be proficient by then and you can wow your client with a quick turnaround time without compromising on quality.

Think: Industry Event

Hovering over the “Buy Now” button for tickets to your industry’s event of the year or a conference that’s interstate? It’s easy to brush those events off as “mindless networking” (if that’s how you see it) and save the dollars on ticket and travel expenses.

But consider the opportunity cost here: How long do you think you’ll be in business if you don’t stay on top of what drives your industry? How will you access hot-off-the-press news if you don’t meet the key thought leaders in your niche?

On your own, all this takes a lot more time and effort which leaves less time and effort to generate new leads or deliver a project on time. My advice: Do your research and pick key events that further your personal and professional development. Then book your early-bird ticket, make your travel arrangements and rock up (prepared).

Think: Your Outfit

This is the one I struggle with a lot because shopping is stressful for me. My feet are too slim, so no beautiful shoe ever fits. My legs are too long and my frame too slender for the everyday business dress to embrace my figure gracefully. To be honest, shopping frustrates me frequently to the point that I throw my hands in the air and buy a book instead.

But I have to push past my annoyance and invest time and money for this simple reason: There’s nothing more detrimental to my confidence than ill-fitting clothes or colors that I don’t like when I meet clients or mingle at events. People sense that, and it makes conversations less enjoyable and fruitful.

So, I know that jeans, t-shirt, and a hoody are the go-to outfit for some industries and you might discard the invest-in-your-outfit notion as absurd or overrated. But this one has multiple layers and doesn’t always come with a price tag. Have you ever seen Zuck in a wrinkled Tee or with a coffee stain on his chest?

This Is My Conclusion

Running my own business is more complex and less convenient than a corporate job. But it’s also more fulfilling and diverse than any role I’ve ever held.

I decided that I’m in this for the long haul. So if I’m going to make this work, I have to put on the Business Hat when a situation demands it.

Two questions guide me:

1. What are the consequences if I don’t follow through on X right now?

2. How does the money I’m about to put on the table improve my skills or create new opportunities for me?

I encourage you to use those questions and the swing of the moment to your advantage. And when you look back in three and six and twelve months’ time, your progress will be glaringly obvious to you.

This story is published in The Startup, Medium’s largest entrepreneurship publication followed by 270,416+ people.

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