Everyone has done it. Put things off. It is also known as procrastination, delaying things until tomorrow, when you could do them today. But tomorrow never comes.

In a recent article for Entrepreneur, writer Aytekin Tank makes a compelling argument on how to stop putting things off. While much research has been compiled over the past several decades, procrastination comes down to each individual and how they deal with it, since everyone is confronted with it at one time or another, in the life of their business. Tank goes on to cite personal experiences he had and his realization that each person needs to uncover the "source" of the problem causing them to delay certain tasks, instead of following the traditional path of just pushing through or getting beyond the obstacle that is in your path.

He boils it down to four points that could be the cause of your delaying tactics. As he says “The ‘just do it’ approach works sometimes, but it’s not sustainable. If you’re repeatedly avoiding specific tasks, there’s an underlying reason— and odds are it’s highly personal.”

You are not making enough progress: It is only natural to want to achieve success as soon as possible, but sometimes, that just doesn’t happen. When starting a business, for example, it could take a long time before success is reached. In situations like that, where the goals are way out on the time line, it is suggested that smaller goals or milestones be set along the way to the ultimate goal or measure. "Imagine you want to create an online course. You could commit to writing a paragraph after every glass of water, continuing this triggered behavior throughout the day. Once the task is done, it’s time for the small celebration. You could listen to a favorite song, take a brief walk, or read a great book."

You don’t know where to begin: This feeling of helplessness can happen when there are so many things to do and you have the sense of not having enough time to do them. Tank suggests taking a step back and seeking the counsel of “friends, mentors, and advisors” who can make more objective suggestions and “help you establish clear priorities."

Fear of Failure: Many people, according to Tank, are so obsessed with the thought of failure in achieving a goal, they become paralyzed in the process, resulting in missed goals. Joseph Ferrari, a professor of psychology at DePaul University considers this form of delaying tactics to be fear-based procrastination ‘avoiders’. Actually, according to Ellen Hendriksen, a psychology professor at Boston University, “perfectionism and procrastination are linked.” That link can cause you to believe “your performance is tied to your self-worth”, when it is not. The key observation here is to come to the realization there is a distinct difference between the two in order to alleviate your fear of failure.

Not liking what has to be done: Most people are confronted with having to perform many tasks. The fortunate ones enjoy accomplishing more than 50% of the tasks in front of them. The less fortunate ones enjoy less than 50% of those tasks. Whichever side you are on, it is important to realize everyone has to do things they don’t like or want to do. Psychologist Heidi Grant suggests the following, “apply a technique called “if-then planning. First, identify the steps required to complete a task. Next— and most important— determine where and when you’ll act. Tell yourself, for example, ‘If it’s 10 am, then I’ll close my email and research design agencies.” 

Interestingly enough, there is a scientific explanation behind procrastination. As Tank says, “Dopamine is often described as the brain’s ‘reward chemical’, activated by the ping of a smart phone or a heaping plate of pasta. But new research shows dopamine is more closely related to reward-seeking behavior than operating as a reward itself. When your brain encounters novelty, it releases dopamine. The natural chemical motivates you to search for a reward (there’s that exploring and pushing forward again). But when the project’s novelty wears off, your mind rebels. Your motivation drops as your brain thinks, ‘My hard work isn’t being rewarded. This isn’t fun anymore.’"

In order to avoid procrastination, trying to set yourself up with more short term or even instant gratification scenarios with your work, could do wonders for you and help your business grow to even higher heights.

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