How to put an end to procrastination

Man holding up an alarm clock

In a five-part article series, we look at the 10 most common ways small business owners waste valuable time and offer some solutions for combating this damaging behaviour. Part three looks at beating procrastination and ineffective delegation.

Procrastination and delegation: Two huge topics for part three of our five part series. I hope you have your thinking caps on, because while this might not be as easy as cleaning out our desk, but they are vitally important for us to understand in order to conquer these two chronic time wasters.

Problem 5: Procrastination

Procrastination is one of life’s greatest challenges. In fact I would say that it probably deserves the number one spot for time wasting. Unfortunately, it’s just one of those things that we’re ingrained to do. Daydream. Chew our nails. Cyber stalk someone on Facebook. But how do we put a stop to this senseless waste of time that is procrastination?

Solution?

Sadly, this is a hard one – and one that I don’t have an easy answer for. You simply have to flex that willpower muscle, and stay focused on what you are trying to achieve.

At the risk of sounding like a bad motivational speaker, it really does require you to dig deep. Simply put, you can’t be organised and productive if you procrastinate too much. It’s like being overweight and trying to wish yourself skinny. Trust me – I have tried this, it doesn’t work! The only thing that does work is persistence, hard work and determination to keep on pushing through.

My biggest tip for tackling procrastination is to knock over that one thing that seems really hard first. It’s like trying to convince a child to eat their vegies – you talk them in to having the really yucky things first so the rest seems super yummy. In our case, it’s often something really simple but menial like filing. It’s something that you just really don’t want to do. But once you get it to it – it’s easy. And everything else after that will feel like a piece of cake.

Problem 6: Ineffective delegation

Delegation is a vital tool that in this day and age, we all need to use to be able to get through everything we need to achieve in a day. Especially small business owners who are fond of outsourcing. What I noticed in my past time as an executive assistant is two things:

  1. People rarely delegate effectively; and
  2. Delegation just doesn’t function properly if there is no trust in a relationship.

Solution?

To fix this we need to work on those two key problems.

1. Delegate effectively:

Take the time to understand what you are asking someone to do and think about everything that might be involved – including, is that person the right person for the task? Then take the time to explain the task clearly and fully. Be aware of what it is you’re asking them to do, and realise that there might be some elements that need to be more deeply explained. These elements might be obvious to you – but they might not be to the person who you are delegating to. Also be careful when you are doing this not to sound like you are ‘dumbing things down’ a bit – the other person might take this as condescending.

Next (and I know that this might seem obvious) ask the person who you are delegating to if they have any questions. Engage them in the delegation process. Most importantly, make them feel like it is ok to ask questions. Often it’s the case if you are asking someone new or junior to do something, they might feel a little intimidated. Be as relaxed as you can and invite questions. The more questions asked means less mistakes made, they will understand more about you and how you operate, and finally all of this will most likely mean fewer questions next time around. Eventually, you will be able to throw this person an oily rag and they will be able to run with it. Invest the time early on to get a bigger reward down the track.

2. Trust:

Finally, you have to have a trusting relationship with this person who you are delegating to. I don’t mean you have to have lunch every other day and know each other inside and out, I just mean that you need to trust that they can do what you want them to do. There is nothing worse – and I speak from the heart about this because I have been there myself – than having someone micromanage you. It’s awful and it makes the person feel like they aren’t trusted, and it also makes them feel like you think that they are a bit stupid. If you don’t feel like they could do it, then save yourself the trouble and don’t go there. And on the other side of this, it is also a huge waste of energy and time for you to be coming back and constantly checking up on them.

Two tough challenges to work on for the next couple of weeks. As a small business owner, I know that these things are difficult, but when you get on top of them the feeling is truly euphoric. It’s like finishing a race that you just didn’t know that you had in you. But I know you have it in you, and I can’t wait to hear the success stories.

Until next time!

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