From The Bright Ideas Bulletin, June, 2000
"If it weren't for the last minute, nothing would get done."--Anony.
Are you a procrastinator? Do you put things off until the last minute until you have to rush to get them done? Does it cause you untold anxiety? Does it drive your family nuts?
Are you paralyzing your business because of it?
If so, this article's for you.
As a procrastinator of long standing and the owner of a new dot com company, I recently made a starting discovery: Procrastination and the Internet do not mix. This medium is for the "movers and the shakers," not the "wait and seers."
The revelation caused some deep introspection and has had a profound impact on my business. I'll tell you how in just a moment.
First, let me say that if you're putting off starting or growing a business, the fastest way to do so is by understanding WHY you're putting off the necessary action.
"I don't have time," or "I just haven't gotten around to it," are lame excuses that won't get you anything. To get your "rear in gear," you need to understand the root of the problem...the REAL reason why you're putting off doing what needs to be done.
Here are some that dot my past:
1. Little or No Belief in the Idea
Several years ago, my husband talked me into starting a business opportunity with him. It was a sound company with a long history, but I just couldn't muster the same enthusiasm as my spouse.
While he worked hard to cultivate leads and make sales, I kept the books. While he went out and talked to strangers, I counted and cleaned the inventory. And while he made phone call after phone call, I made sure all the sales materials were in good shape and tallied up the gas mileage.
In short, I kept really busy doing everything I could to keep from being on the front line with him.
Why? Because I had no belief in the product. Unfortunately, my charade didn't fool him, and it became a source of friction between us for several months. When he finally grew tired of "going it alone" and decided to quit, I breathed a sigh of relief.
The Lesson: If you don't believe in something, don't pretend you do - not even to please someone else. There are too many ways to make money doing something you like - go find one of them and stop stalling for time.
2. Being a Perfectionist
Perfectionism and procrastination often go hand-in-hand. Now I know this seems crazy to a logical person of action, but it's true.
Rather than start early to make sure everything is "perfect" upon the deadline, the procrastinating perfectionist will spend her lead time thinking of the grand and glorious presentation, and how she's going to completely upstage everyone else. Then she'll get started at the last minute, fully expecting to complete her masterpiece AND meet her deadline.
In the end, she'll either lose sleep to bring her vision to life, or apologize profusely for having fallen short of her lofty goal.
The Lesson: While I know it goes against everything you know, LAY THE FOUNDATION EARLY, then go back and add the details later. You'll be far more please with the results, and be awake enough to enjoy the oohs and aahs.
3. Cadillac Idea, Chevy Budget
This is an extension of perfectionism.
It goes like this: you have an idea for a business. You know EXACTLY how you want it to be, down to the last detail. It's marvelous, it's one of a kind.
And because you have such high standards, you won't settle for anything less.
You start doing some research...and find you're WAY out of your price range. Since you won't settle for anything less than your ideal - no compromising - you put your idea on the shelf and do nothing.
Here's a true story:
Barbara danced and taught dance for many years until she quit to raise her family. Once the kids were in school, she took a clerical job to help make ends meet; but she never enjoyed it as much as she had liked teaching dance. So after her long hiatus, she decided to return to the dance world.
Her ultimate goal was to have a home business by transforming her garage into a dance studio. In the beginning, however, she had no cash for such a renovation, and she refused to go into debt to make it happen. Instead, she got on the phone and called around, and managed to rent space during the off hours in a couple of competing dance studios.
She kept her clerical job and taught at night and on weekends, steadily building her enrollment. By the third year, she was able to quit the day job and move the studio to her house. It was her primary income for nearly twenty years until her recent retirement.
Meanwhile, her youngest daughter blossomed into a talented ballerina who danced with several international companies.
A perfectionist in all things, Alicia found that the garage studio paled in comparison to the commercial studios she'd danced in during her travels.
At one point, she, like her mother, left dancing to become a wife and mother. When she longed to return to the dance world to teach, she decided that nothing short of a big commercial studio would do. After doing a little research, the sticker shock forced her to put the dream on the shelf.
She would settle for nothing less than her ultimate goal.
Today she works as an insurance salesperson, her ballerina days a distant memory.
The Lesson: While having big dreams is great, setting goals too far out of your reach creates anger, frustration, and inaction. Break your goals into smaller, manageable chunks. Instead of having your ultimate goal as Phase I, make it Phase V or VI, with distinct steps in between. Don't think of it as settling for less; think of it as a building a foundation of greatness.
4. Not Fully Understanding Part of the Process
A lot of people will do almost everything they need to do to get the job done, then stop just short of the finish line because they're not entirely sure of the next step. The end's in sight, they can see it, but they don't know precisely how to get there from here. So, they either tread water or quit.
This was part of my problem in launching my website.
I spent months and months reading, researching, lurking, and trying to figure out how to set up and market my website. I bought the guru books and completely redesigned my site -- three times. While I tweaked and poked and prodded, I saw other sites grow and flourish, and I began to wonder what my problem was.
One day, I happened across a website that I had visited and bought from a year earlier. Since the product was good and would be of value to my visitors, I emailed the owner and asked if he had an affiliate program.
His answer? "What's an affiliate program?"
My first thought was "where has HE been?"
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
While I'd been learning everything I possibly could about marketing a business on the web, he was making money.
While I subscribed and faithfully read scores of marketing ezines, he was marketing...and making money.
And while I was trying to figure out which of the thousands of marketing ideas to try, he was busy maintaining top search engine rankings and, you guessed it -- making money.
You don't have to do everything you read about. Just DO SOMETHING - DO being the operative word here.
A few days later, I bought and devoured "Make Your Knowledge Sell!" (http://myks.sitesell.com/nifty.html) by Ken Evoy and Monique Harris. In it, Monique talks about marketing your creations, and gives a laundry list of what to do: Monday do this, Tuesday do this, Wednesday do this, etc.
This "follow the dots" approach really worked for me, because I finally knew where to begin. Being "Marketing Challenged," I had so immersed myself in "how to market on the web" that I'd gone into information overload and couldn't figure out where to start. A little direction was all it took.
The Lesson: Sometimes it's hard to admit that you don't know everything. But if you want to succeed, you have to follow the steps for success and not avoid the parts you don't like or know nothing about. Either hire someone to do them for you, or learn what needs to be done AND MAKE AND FOLLOW a plan of execution.
5. Not Being Organized
Another procrastinator characteristic. Often, it's because we've taken on more than we can handle and can't devote the appropriate time to any one task.
Here are some tips for getting organized:
A. Handle everything ONCE. Emails, paper, requests, etc. Act up, file, or dump. Don't leave things hanging around, cluttering your desk, office, house, or mind.
B. Plan your day. Set aside time every day to plan what you need to do the next. Make it "do-able" -- don't overload your schedule.
If you constantly find that you can't get everything done, either get some help or take a good look at your schedule to eliminate time wasters like unproductive meetings, chit chat, or routine tasks that are better delegated or outsourced.
C. Break large projects into smaller pieces. Trying to do it all at once creates confusion and stress. Plan it out, then assign due dates for each piece.
D. Allow time for interruptions.They happen. Figure out when yours occur most often (Monday morning, Friday at 4pm), and plan to be available during those times. You, your staff, and your customers will be very grateful for your consideration.
E. Assign deadlines. If you don't, it won't get done.
So, now that you understand some of the reasons why you might be putting off starting or growing a business, address the situation and move forward. Get yourself out of the way, and get on with the business of business.
Diana Pemberton-Sikes is the author of "10 Simple Ways To Boost Your Income", which features dozens of simple ways to start or expand a business using your EXISTING knowledge, skills, and interests. To learn more, visit her website, www.niftybusinessideas.com.
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Copyright © 2000 by Diana Pemberton-Sikes
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