Among the hardest challenges we face as entrepreneurs is our reluctance to take the first step in a project, then dragging things out too long. Simple lack of motivation can leave us stuck, seemingly unable to get started on the projects we set out to do, let alone have them finished and shipped.
Procrastination is familiar to all of us. During my 10 years as an entrepreneur, the past three working from a laptop while traveling the world with my family, I have come up with five simple strategies to stay on task and do the work needed to grow my business.
1. Do the one thing.
One of the great causes of procrastination is that large tasks appear overwhelming. All large tasks can be broken down to smaller, more manageable pieces and then focused on one at a time.
As Gary Keller said in his book The One Thing, "It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world."
We need to break down all of our goals and projects into smaller chunks. This is how we avoid being overwhelmed. No matter how large a project is, it can always be broken into smaller pieces that allow us to get started and work in a logical sequence until completion.
2. Set deadlines.
Deadlines, whether self-imposed or set by your customers or partners, force us to get things done. An end in sight always makes work easier to accomplish. Tasks tend not to be concrete in our minds without a clearly defined deadline. That lack of clarity causes procrastination.
As creatives and entrepreneurs, deadlines often have a negative connotation as regimented and are to be avoided at all costs, but the opposite is true. "The ultimate inspiration is the deadline," says Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari Corporation and Chuck E. Cheese Pizza.
3. Done is better than perfect.
Striving for perfection has been the death of many brilliant ideas, products, books and businesses. It is essential that we always strive to do our absolute best, but as entrepreneurs we need to ship and then iterate. Ship your ideas and products at 80 percent, then work to make them better through a process of iteration and improvement.
The longer we stare at a blank page or whiteboard, the more difficult the task becomes in our minds. The longer it takes us to get started, the more our internal dialogue works against us. The more this happens, the less likely we are to complete the task or project.
4. Take a walk without thinking.
This may seem counter-intuitive, but it has been proven that stepping away from a task can be beneficial to completing a task. Numerous studies have shown that people tend to perform better mentally after light to medium exercise. These benefits tend to diminish significantly after strenuous activity.
Sometimes the most productive thing you can do is leave your desk, go outside and simply walk. Walk and let your mind rest without thinking about your task. Constantly thinking about one task can cause anxiety and overwhelm. Taking a rest will get you to break through your procrastination and work toward your goals. The simple act of walking without thinking will allow your subconscious mind to process your work clearly.
5. Get to work.
Stephen King is one of the most successful authors of our time and also one of the hardest working. He says, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
No matter how many tips, tricks or hacks we find about overcoming procrastination, they all end when we sit down and do the work until it's complete. It's the work that matters, nothing else. Without the work, all of these ideas will not help you or your business.