Be a Better Procrastinator - Erin Armstrong

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

In the small Texas community where I grew up, I heard this piece of wisdom from my grandmother, my school teachers, my music teachers, my pastor, and a whole host of other adults who were intent on keeping my friends and me on-task.

Learning not to procrastinate is an important and necessary lesson when you’re growing up, as it prevents us from failing assignments, teaches us to be tidier, urges us to plan ahead, etc. But, once you’re running a business, this lesson becomes a lot more nuanced.

Because your time, energy, and money are limited resources—and you need to use them wisely.

The reality is that there are projects and tasks on your list that should be put off until tomorrow.

For me, it really becomes a question of prioritizing. Some projects or tasks are just more urgent or time-sensitive, while others are less so. And some projects build on each other, or they’re dependent on other projects being completed first.

If you think about it systematically, you’ll nearly always be able to find a logical order to the projects or tasks on your list. But it’s easy to lose sight of that logical order when you just jump into random tasks to keep checking things off the list.  And it’s especially dangerous when you know that some tasks on your list will be really satisfying to complete (you’ve probably heard more than once about the pitfalls of Shiny Object Syndrome).

Think about this for a minute… Are there any fun projects calling your name right now? How about starting a podcast? Or creating an online course? Maybe you’d like to move to a new, nicer office space? All these things can be great if you do them at the right time. But they also have the potential to tie up significant resources (time, energy, and money) without providing a measurable benefit right now.

Be-a-Better-Procrastinator-business

So, what’s the best way to prioritize the tasks and projects on your list?

When I work with clients, I help them develop a very specific set of long-term goals. We start by developing a clear picture of where they want to be in five years. (This includes how they want to be spending their work time, how they want to be spending their leisure time, and how much revenue and profit they’ll need to sustain their lifestyle). After we’re clear on the five-year goals, we develop a plan for the first year that moves toward accomplishing all the longer-term goals. And it’s this one-year plan that informs day-to-day business decisions, including how to prioritize different tasks and projects. (This is an oversimplified description of the system I use with clients. I’ll give a more detailed description in a future post.)

When you think through your big-picture goals, it really informs where you need to allocate your additional resources (time, money, energy) now, and how you can prioritize achieving all the in-between steps in a way that makes sense. Essentially, it lets you map out where money needs to go (or be saved), and it helps you identify tasks that must be completed so others can continue building on them.

As a logistical aid for myself, I bought a large dry erase board, and periodically I draw a large diagram of all the projects I need to do—including the individual steps for each one. This oversized, visual representation helps me understand the links between different tasks and projects, how they build on each other, and the most logical way to put them in order. You can do the same thing or use whatever organizing system works best for you—so long as it lets you see the big picture.

Once you’ve done that, you need to roll up your sleeves and start putting off some of those projects for later!

So you can focus on the one you really need to do right now.

Here’s to being a better procrastinator!

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