Procrastination is the most expensive invisible cost in business today.
Procrastination affects all of us and it is a real cost to any company.
It is the amount of lost time and the opportunity cost of what you’re either paying yourself or paying someone inside of your company when they are not being productive.
Of all of the expenses inside of a business, we’ve never seen a company that has a line item where they record, monitor, and manage the procrastination expense.
It’s not like we record procrastination inside of our checkbook register in our personal lives, yet it is a very real cost.
For many entrepreneurs, it is the thing that keeps them from ever even starting their own dream.
So, how do we overcome procrastination?
How do we get past that initial resistance that holds us back from becoming the thing we feel called to become?
I want to share with you a couple of ideas concerning the psychology of procrastination.
We studied ultra-performers, those who are in the top one percent, for some books we have written, we noticed that two forms of energy are expended when making decisions.
These two energies are psychological and physiological.
The physical energy necessary to put a decision into action can often be quite taxing.
Oftentimes, more energy is expended in the process of making the decision itself than in actually executing it.
For example, getting ourselves onto the treadmill at the gym can be hard; however, deciding whether or not to even go – that’s the real challenge. That requires emotional energy.
It’s not as bad as you Think!
The first tip to overcoming procrastination is to recognize that the task we are putting off is often much worse in our imagination than it actually is.
We may think that working out for just twenty minutes will be a grueling marathon, or making a sales call will be like going into battle.
Offering someone feedback or coaching can cause us to hesitate, as we imagine it being a difficult emotional battle.
When it comes to paying taxes, too, we may be overwhelmed with the thought of it.
However, what we must realize is that these tasks are often less daunting in reality than in our minds.
This is because our brains are wired to keep us safe and conserve energy rather than make us successful.
The human brain has developed the ability to use fear as a mechanism for survival and keeping us safe.
Fear is essentially our creativity working in the wrong direction, extrapolating and exaggerating things to make them seem worse than they really are.
This prevents us from getting out of our comfort zone and taking action; however, this can be beneficial in some cases but detrimental to our success in others.
Leverage Long-Term Vision
The second tip to help you overcome your procrastination and take action is to leverage long-term vision.
When we procrastinate, we often focus on the short-term; the work, the pain and sacrifice, and the struggle that comes with pursuing a goal or starting an activity.
But the real trick lies in extending your perspective and thinking longer-term about the ultimate vision of what you want to accomplish.
People often tell me, “Rory, I have struggled with discipline in my life,” or “I have a kid or employee who really struggles with discipline.”
Most of us don’t struggle from a lack of discipline, but rather from a lack of vision.
We are all disciplined people, but our discipline is dormant when we don’t have a dream to strive for.
Without the long-term goal or purpose behind what we do, it can be difficult to motivate ourselves or others to face hardship and discomfort.
The human brain, on its own, will not naturally push us to take the inconvenient path.
We must create a context for ourselves in order to take action and stay motivated.
Break it in to Smaller Steps
The last tip is probably the most practical one: reduce the big picture down to something that is realistically achievable.
Oftentimes, when we feel overwhelmed by the complexity of what we are trying to accomplish, it can be difficult to even get started.
To overcome this, focus on one small step at a time.
Break down your long-term vision into smaller milestones and make progress towards them in order to reach your goal.
The first step is the easiest one.
If you feel overwhelmed by the task of doing your taxes, it can be helpful to break that down into smaller steps.
Start by writing on your to-do list something like “Gather last year’s tax return, W2, pay stubs and receipts”.
This has been around the personal development arena for years: you can “eat an elephant one bite at a time”.
If you find you are scared or avoiding doing something on your to-do list, it means it is too big – break it down into smaller and smaller steps until it is no longer intimidating.
Procrastination does not have to be a lifelong sentence – it is not something you are helpless to because of your DNA.
Procrastination is a major factor in creating a mediocre life, robbing us of our dreams, and even our retirement.
It is an illusion of sorts, created by your own creativity working in the wrong direction.
To overcome it, we need to understand the psychology behind it and learn how to use our creativity in a positive, productive manner, one that helps to realize our dreams and purpose.