Why you keep procrastinating on your business
The reason procrastination tendencies show up so much when first building a business and your remedy to counteract them.
Today marks the 1st birthday of The Ask newsletter since I started posting regularly 🎉
I’m grateful that writing this newsletter has helped me to:
Better understand my own thought processes — as writing forces reflection and stronger grasp of ideas
Gain new clients, either those who have found me via the newsletter or been persuaded to try coaching after reading it
Put me into newsletter writing communities including Ness Labs’ Newsletter Mastermind group
Diversify where and how I speak to people outside of social media
Learn more about what topics resonate with my audience and what they are struggling with when it comes to work
The newsletter has evolved somewhat since I started writing it, which in itself, is a process I’ve enjoyed. I’d recommend creating a newsletter to anyone who is building an audience, who likes writing and sharing their ideas. Please feel free to get in touch if you’re considering starting one and want to run through questions or ideas getting started
Today’s post is a slightly shorter one because, very ironically, I procrastinated over it until the last minute. I’m in the park without phone or internet connection in the hope of finding focus with just 40 minutes until my next meeting.
Nothing like a deadline to put an end to procrastination!
So in case you are behind on your most important tasks today too and you need a TL;DR version of the answer to ‘Why you procrastinate’, here is my response:
Until you’re clear on what you need to do and believe in your ability to do it, you will struggle to focus and therefore procrastinate.
But let’s dig into the way I see this.
The subtle art of the delay tactic
Mastering the art of putting something off is a concept we’re all familiar with, probably from a young age. From tidying our rooms, colour coding revision plans at school rather than actually revising… We know how to avoid things we aren’t ready to tackle.
We often blame procrastination on perceived vices such as ‘laziness’, or ‘disorganisation’, being ‘unproductive’ or not caring enough. I often hear people berate themselves for their laziness or inability to organise their day around their important tasks when describing a lack of progress towards their goals.
But rarely do we avoid tasks because they are not important to us.
The longer I’ve been coaching the more I see the same challenge rears its ugly head time and time again with clients. This is the challenge of avoiding tasks even if they are important, because when it comes down to it, they simply may not know which exact actions to take.
These clients, and my own experience being this person, do not have a ‘productivity’ problem.
Instead, they actually do not know exactly what it is they should be doing.
When I start working with clients they will fill out ‘Pre-Coaching Questions’ and I frequently see the comment that they are goal driven people confident in their ability to execute on a goal, but are simply unclear of which goal to focus on in the first place.
This lack of knowing is like going on a journey, and wanting to be at the end destination, but literally not knowing how to put one foot in front of the other. You might in theory know what you should do, or imagine yourself doing it, but when it comes down to it you don’t know how to move your feet, so remain stuck.
The pretence is that being your own boss is all fun and games because no one is telling you what to do.
But therein is where the challenge lies specifically.
When you are your own boss, no one is telling you what to do, and so you often stay in a perpetual state of confusion about what to work on. It’s the double edged sword of entrepreneurship that attracts so many and then keeps so many stuck.
The reason that I believe in coaching new founders so wholeheartedly is that there is an almost universal gap in knowledge and confidence in the early days. In the days when everything is so unclear people tend to go around in circles overthinking and not taking real action towards their dreams.
In the early days its so ambiguous there is rarely a right answer to the myriad of questions…How to approach it, where to start, who to ask, what tools, products or services to use?
With so many choices available — as we know from the paradox of choice — this often leads to inaction.
We often avoid precisely the most important tasks because they are the hardest. We assign them so much weight, the stakes are higher and we doubt these decisions more. Procrastinating on Etsy, Twitter, or tidying the kitchen cupboard can feel a lot more palatable in these instances.
Clarity creates action
A key guiding principle in the work I do with The Ask is to help people find clarity and confidence in their business decisions, so that they can take action and find momentum.
Over a three month period I work with clients to clarify their unique vision, mission and purpose for their business. Once we’ve aligned on who they are and the right business they should build, this enables them to channel idea overwhelm into a structured plan that really gets results.
Whether they are still in their 9-5 with a side business or a seasoned entrepreneur starting their next new thing, almost everyone experiences the same confusion and doubt about specifically what to do when starting out. There is just so many options that choosing the right steps can be so overwhelming.
I see this situation play out in such a pronounced way with the clients who have experience both working for themselves and working for someone else perhaps part time. On days they work for a ‘boss’ and their tasks are prescribed to them they will get their head down and move through the to-do list with pace. They have clarity on what they need to do. But on their businesses will often second-guess what they set out to do, research/compare to others, delay starting or do the administrative tasks instead until they run out of time in the day.
So how do you get clarity?
Set clear goals. Try this post How to set goals you’ll actually achieve for setting goals aligned to your business.
Eat the elephant. Do not try and do everything at once, but work on the smallest first (next) step and take it piece by piece. The big vision of what you are trying to achieve can be what keeps you stuck.
Find someone who can be your sounding board, even if they just listen, as sometimes simply hearing yourself out loud creates clarity of thought
Journal or write out the confusion in your head and problem solve through structuring your thinking this way
Get coaching. The coaching process is designed to get you unstuck, make decisions more clearly and take action towards your goals. I have spaces to work with a couple new clients between now and July so get in touch for your free no obligation consultation if this sounds like you.
Before you go, its worth also mentioning there are some other common contexts in which you might procrastinate, so that you can diagnose the right one for you:
You feel out of your depth in your ability to do the task or there is fear surrounding it
You are unsure whether you should be doing the task in the first place or if its a good use of your time
You don’t feel you will enjoy doing the tasks
When it comes to building a business (the mammoth of all tasks) you will feel nearly all of those things one day to the next. Out of depth because its unfamiliar territory, unclear what to do because there is no roadmap to success, and questioning the focus or the overall task because you’ll rarely know if you are working on the most impactful task you could be.
So basically, if you’re procrastinating, this is all part of the process 😊
I hope you found value in today’s post.
If so how about sharing it with a friend in the early stages of building their business who could benefit from advice on creating an entrepreneurial path on their own terms.
Ready to work with me one-one in coaching?
Until next time ✌️
Ellen Donnelly, Founder + Chief Coach, The Ask.