Procrastination is one of the best ways to prevent yourself from creating an emotionally (and financially) successful and sustainable business.
Many of you have been there. It’s Thursday and that “task” has been on your list all week. It’s not overly involved. It’s one you’ve even done before. And yet, you can’t seem to complete it and check it off the list. At the start of the week, it surfaced several times as you worked on other things, created new projects, and attended to the less relevant, benign activities that helped you feel like you were actually getting things done and making progress. Each time you mentally pushed it away, it seemed to insidiously pop back up.
Now when it does, you find yourself audibly huffing and you feel an oh-so-slight tightening in your throat. Still, you shake it off and get back to doing those “other things.”
And with each day that passes … with each successive time the task pops into your head … the feelings get heavier until you eventually realize you may not have enough time to meet the deadline. How is that even possible? You’ve had all week. The task isn’t even that hard. Why do you do this to yourself?
Procrastination. It snuck up on you. Again.
And yet, you don’t have to allow this pattern to repeat. You have choices.
For some time now, I’ve been curious about the impact of childhood challenges on the health and wealth of entrepreneurs. In my research, procrastination comes up over and over.
Why is procrastination such a big deal? And why are time management, organization, and productivity systems not enough to solve the problem?
I needed to understand this further so I started looking deeper. What is the real reason people procrastinate? Psychology Today says that people procrastinate because they fear failure, or that they fear success. I do agree with this premise and I’ll even take it a step further.
Here are 5 surprising reasons entrepreneurs procrastinate:
- Fear of making a mistake. This one might not be so surprising because making mistakes when you own a business can be bad for your bottom line. However, the fear of taking action is much more detrimental to the health and wealth of your business because there is no learning or skill building around resiliency happening. At least when a mistake is made, there is action and information to learn from, and you learn some resilience from tolerating the mistake. The saying “fail fast” comes to mind. It’s a way for entrepreneurs to shift thinking so that we can take action, learn from it — mistake or success — and move on.
- Fear of judgement. Many of my clients have had a fear of making the wrong choice. More than fear of a mistake or the choice itself, this fear is about what they believe others will think about their choice being wrong. They fear judgement from others and are paralyzed when it comes to being decisive. Many times these people have had an overbearing and critical parent growing up. The thought of making a choice and getting it wrong triggers old feelings of not being “enough,” or “capable,” or, worse yet, being in an unsafe situation.
- Maintaining the status quo. Not making a decision at all serves to maintain the status quo and to avoid unwanted attention. This one goes deep. This is a way to keep other people on the hook. Perhaps you’re in a business relationship that brings some kind of secondary benefit and it will end if you finish the project or make a particular decision. Fear of abandonment runs underneath this behavior. So, in addition to altering the status quo, if you defer and don’t make a decision, you can assign blame to someone else (if the other person steps in, takes control, and is decisive). Being decisive draws attention, making it impossible to “hide” anymore so we often choose to avoid decisions. If there have been any experiences of being harmed as a child, being in the spotlight feels unsafe.
- Letting people down feels normal. When there is a history of being in relationships where it was reinforced that you were not “good enough” and were “always letting people down,” you get used to this and it becomes your norm. As weird as it may sound, the emotional state of “letting people down” is normal for many. It feels safe and very familiar so you re-create opportunities to feel as if you have let people down in business relationships.
- Proof of unworthiness. By not getting a project finished, meeting a deadline, or making a decision, people “prove” (often just to themselves) their feelings of unworthiness.
It becomes more clear what a planner, time management classes, and other tools are up against and why they can prove ineffective when it comes to the power of procrastination. These tools and resources don’t address the root problem. They only address the symptoms.
When my clients get clear about the challenging relationships and or experiences they’ve had in their lives, they are able to see how they have recreated them in their business. They can spot the blocks and blind spots to success and shift their focus so they can make new choices that support their goals. And they can make them with less procrastination because they are learning to address the root causes of it.
One of the most important skills to build when navigating the choppy waters of procrastination is to stay curious without judgment. Many of the ways that you approach challenges are deeply rooted in the mindset you were raised with or acquired through no fault of your own. That mindset was years in the making and it’s often been reinforced with your tendency to repeat old patterns before you learn a better way of living as an entrepreneur.
When you can give yourself space to take a long look at the deeper reasons why you struggle with procrastination, you give yourself the best opportunity to make a shift — in your thoughts, and mindset, and actions. And when you can do this with as little judgment as possible and the support of someone who understands the nature of these experiences, you set yourself up for success. You are then able to systematically blast through limiting beliefs and release their impact on your business, your life, and your day-to-day happiness.
Isn’t it time to get at the root of the issues and kick procrastination to the curb?
Are you curious about how trauma could be impacting your own business? Download my Trauma & Entrepreneurship Assessment here.