We all procrastinate. And in many cases, it’s not a big thing – finally, we get around to doing what we were putting off.
You know, things like tidying up your office, replying to your emails, or giving your dog a bath!
But do you also find yourself procrastinating about big things like starting a major project, writing an article for publication, or reaching out to a prospective client?
Of course you do. All the time.
And what’s really irritating is that much of our procrastination is habitual and pervasive. It’s been going on for years.
Many of the clients who ask me to help them with their marketing soon discover that procrastination is their major issue.
They know what to do but they really struggle to put those important marketing projects into action.
If you’re ever going to overcome procrastination, first you need to understand why you’re procrastinating in the first place.
And the list is long. Very long! In fact, a recent online article I found, outlined 28 reasons. And then I expanded that list to 37!
But, for the sake of brevity, let me list just 12 of them here:
• The marketing activity is seen as unpleasant or difficult
• There’s a fear of failing at the activity
• You think you may be rejected if you reach out to a prospect
• You don’t know exactly what to do or how to do it
• The activity feels like a low priority
• Your goals are too abstract or vague
• The reward for taking action is too far in the future
• You’re Indecisive about the plan or strategy
• You feel overwhelmed, anxious, or uncertain about this activity
• You fall into perfectionism – the fear of doing it wrong
• You don’t feel you’re any good at performing the activity
• You’re sabotaging yourself as you don’t feel you deserve success
The first thing to realize is that if you don’t recognize the reason you’re procrastinating, you can’t do anything about it.
And there is always a reason!
And every reason has one thing in common: The cost of taking action seems worse than the payoff of not taking action.
Taking action = the cost is possible pain, discomfort, or failure
Procrastination = the payoff is temporary relief and comfort
And it’s only by reversing that equation will your reason for procrastination disappear.
Taking action = the payoff is possible accomplishment, success, and peace of mind
Procrastination = the cost is failure, defeat, and disappointment
So, how exactly do you do that?
Well, often it’s simply stopping to think things through. Here’s a scenario:
“I’m avoiding following up on prospective clients these days.
“I don’t follow up because I’m not sure how they’ll react. They may not be interested and then I may feel rejected.
“By procrastinating, I feel the relief of not experiencing rejection. So by procrastinating, I feel I’ve dodged a bullet.
So, what’s a new possibility?
“Well, my actual experience is that I typically don’t get rejected. I usually have good conversations. Sometimes that leads somewhere. I’ve actually gotten great new clients by following up. Not always, but it’s really not such a terrible experience. And it strengthens the relationship.
“And if I don’t follow up, I start to feel guilty that I’m not taking action and also feel insecure because I’m not generating more business and income.”
So by looking rationally at the scenario, you turn the tables on the costs and payoffs of avoiding action or taking action.
This takes some work to be honest with yourself and explore new possibilities, but the alternative is to remain stuck in inaction and not producing the results you want.
Follow these very simple steps. And it works better if you write it down.
1. What do I want to accomplish?
2. How am I procrastinating and why?
3. What is the cost of taking action?
4. What is the payoff of procrastinating?
Then turn it around to its opposite.
5. What is the payoff of taking action?
6. What is the cost of procrastinating?
7. Then notice if your relationship to this activity has changed.
Find something you want to accomplish right now but are avoiding, and explore this procrastination dynamic!