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The entrepreneur’s guide to dealing with procrastination

8 min read
Brenda Barron

As an entrepreneur, there's always a never-ending to-do list to tackle. But what happens when you forget about dealing with procrastination? Suddenly, you might find yourself scrolling through social media or taking an extra-long coffee break instead of checking off the most important tasks on your to-do list.

Procrastination is a common challenge for human beings in general. In fact, according to a study by Joseph R. Ferrari, approximately 20% of adults in the United States are chronic procrastinators: They consistently delay tasks across various aspects of their lives, including their work and personal lives. And entrepreneurs are not immune to that and are often even more susceptible to the perils of procrastination.

Thankfully with the right strategies, you can get better at dealing with procrastination and make your business thrive – and probably be a lot happier in other aspects of your life as well.

In this article, we'll discuss why procrastination is common among entrepreneurs and provide practical tips to help you beat it. So let’s get started.

Why is procrastination common with entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurs often face a degree of anxiety and uncertainty about the future, which can make it hard to stay focused on important tasks. But there are actually several reasons why procrastination is such a common issue for business owners.

Business owners are their own bosses

When you're your own boss, it's easy to let things slide. There's nobody around to peek over your shoulder at what you’re doing or to hold you accountable for the work you complete. This freedom can be a double-edged sword, allowing you to create your own schedule but also providing ample opportunity for procrastination to creep in. A lack of accountability can be a significant factor in procrastination.

Business and personal to-do lists get blended

As an entrepreneur, the line between your personal and professional life can easily blur. This can make it difficult to prioritize tasks and focus on your business, as household chores or other personal tasks might keep distracting you. The result is often a lack of clear boundaries and prioritization, leading to procrastination.

Perfectionism can hold up progress

Many entrepreneurs are perfectionists, and while this can be a valuable trait, it can also lead to procrastination. When you're constantly striving for perfection, it's easy to get stuck in a loop of overthinking and overanalyzing instead of taking action. Perfectionism is strongly linked to procrastination in business owners and others who would generally be considered “go-getters”.

Simply put: It's hard work

Starting and running a business is no walk in the park. It's hard work, and sometimes, it's just easier to avoid tasks than to face them head-on. Procrastination can be an escape mechanism for entrepreneurs who feel overwhelmed or who are unsure about how to tackle a particular challenge.

Even so, there are ways to get around this productivity obstacle.

Dealing with procrastination & improving your small business

Now that you understand why procrastination may be a problem for entrepreneurs, let's look at some tips for dealing with procrastination.

Identify your most important tasks

It's crucial to prioritize your tasks and focus on what's most important for your business. One effective method of doing this is called the Eisenhower Matrix, which is a way to put all of your tasks in different categories based on two key factors:

  • How urgent the tasks are
  • How important they are to complete

This can help you see which tasks are crucial to complete and which can be delegated or postponed.

Turn off notifications and social media

Social media and constant notifications can be major distractions. To avoid procrastination, consider turning off notifications on your phone and computer while you work. You can also use tools like Freedom or Cold Turkey to block distracting websites for a set period.

Try changing your environment

Sometimes, a change of scenery can help you refocus and get back on track. If you find yourself procrastinating, consider working from a different location like a coffee shop, coworking space, or even a different room in your house. A fresh environment can help clear your mind and reignite your motivation.

Practice the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a time management method that can help you break tasks into manageable intervals. Set a timer for 25 minutes, and work on a task without interruption during that time. When the timer goes off, take a short 5-minute break. After four Pomodoro intervals, take a longer break of 15 to 30 minutes.

This technique can help you stay focused, build momentum, and reduce the temptation to procrastinate. For example, a freelance graphic designer might use the Pomodoro Technique to work on a logo design for a client, taking short breaks to recharge and maintain focus.

Break tasks into smaller steps

Large tasks can be overwhelming, making it all too easy to avoid them in favor of easier tasks. To overcome this, break tasks into smaller, more manageable steps. By doing so, you'll make progress on the task without feeling overwhelmed.

For instance, if you need to write a business plan, break it down into sections like executive summary, market analysis, and financial projections, tackling each section individually – perhaps each on separate days – to finish the larger project.

Build accountability structures

To combat the lack of accountability that comes with being your own boss, create structures that hold you accountable. You could set deadlines for yourself, share your goals with a trusted friend, or even work with an accountability partner or business coach. These strategies can help you with dealing with procrastination and let you maintain motivation.

Prioritize self-care and balance

Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is crucial for entrepreneurs. Prioritizing self-care, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising regularly, can improve your mental and physical well-being. In turn, this can lead to increased focus, productivity, and a reduced likelihood of procrastination.

Implementing aspects of self-care into your life can be a challenge, however. Here's a quick game plan:

  • Make an achievable self-care plan that fits into your lifestyle and daily routine.
  • Set yourself goals around the plan and track your progress.
  • Be conscious of how your work may be affecting your well-being, and make adjustments when necessary.
  • Take regular breaks to recharge and avoid burnout.

Set boundaries between work and personal life

As mentioned earlier, the blending of personal and professional tasks can contribute to procrastination. Establish clear boundaries between your work and personal life by setting specific work hours, creating a dedicated workspace, and communicating your boundaries to friends and family. By doing so, you can better focus on work-related tasks during designated times and minimize distractions.

Overcoming procrastination with long-term strategies

Procrastination can be a major obstacle for entrepreneurs, but it doesn't have to be. With the right strategies and tools, you can get back on track and stay productive, without sacrificing your mental well-being.

Develop a strong sense of purpose

Having a clear sense of purpose can help you stay motivated and reduce procrastination. Define your "why" – the reason you started your business – and use it as a guiding force to drive your actions. By regularly reminding yourself of your purpose, you'll be more likely to stay focused and committed to your goals.

Build a positive company culture

If you have employees, creating a positive company culture can help reduce procrastination throughout the entire organization. Encourage open communication, collaboration, and provide resources for personal and professional growth. A supportive work environment can improve productivity and keep everyone motivated.

Embrace failure as a learning opportunity

Fear of failure is a common cause of procrastination. By embracing failure as a learning opportunity, you can shift your mindset and become more resilient in the face of challenges. Remember that failure is a natural part of entrepreneurship and can provide valuable insights to help you grow and improve.

Track your progress and celebrate successes

Monitoring your progress can help you stay motivated and reduce procrastination. Regularly review your goals and accomplishments, and celebrate your successes – both big and small. This practice can help you maintain a positive outlook, stay focused on your objectives, and motivate you to continue pushing forward.

Ready to beat procrastination & breathe easier?

Procrastination is a common challenge for entrepreneurs, but with the right strategies and mindset, it can be overcome. By understanding the factors that contribute to procrastination and implementing practical tips and long-term strategies, you can improve your productivity, achieve your goals, and grow your business.

Remember that dealing with  procrastination takes time and effort, so be patient with yourself and celebrate your progress along the way. The effort you put in now will benefit you greatly later.