Author David Hugo Hargreaves Growth Guru at Charterhouse: A family man and walker of the family dogs
Let’s be honest, as entrepreneurs we have tasks on our list that we’d rather not do. So, its natural that we keep moving the goal post further down the field and do almost anything we can to avoid those distasteful jobs.
Personally, I don’t like to get involved in accounting, HR and monthly expense reports. Other entrepreneurs that we meet have their own least favourite activities to avoid.
The good news is this is a good thing because there’s an obvious solution: delegation. As a matter of fact, I created a motto along these lines: my team is smart, very talented and motivated and I don’t need to do their work for them.
My job as the CEO is to focus on the bigger parts of the business, such as strategy and creating strategic partners. There are many other such tasks that are necessary to operating a business, I might be avoiding them too because they are not a good fit for me. So, I again delegate them to the appropriate team member who will of course be far better at the task than me.
I guess in a way, we’re all capable of being procrastinators.
According to a 2013 survey by salary.com, 69% of respondents said they wasted time at work on a daily basis — a 5% increase from the previous year. 34% of respondents estimated they routinely wasted 30 minutes or less each day; 24% said they wasted between 30 and 60 minutes; and 11% said they wasted hours every day.
As an entrepreneur and shareholder, I could see how those numbers might send my fellow entrepreneurs’ blood pressure through the roof, but my own response would be more practical: I’d pursue tools, tricks and techniques to minimise procrastination and maximise productivity. Here are a few of those techniques we use at Charterhouse for ourselves as well as clients:
Don’t overwhelm yourself.
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work you give yourself, meetings and deadlines, all of which you have created. Lately, I’ve been focusing on launching our new membership scheme for high growth companies and it can be overwhelming sometimes.
When tasks seem insurmountable, here’s a method to lessen that burden: Get out your “to-do” list. Then, instead of writing down that big task as one huge thing, break them all down. Breaking a big task into multiple line items makes them more manageable. You have your end goal, however by reducing it to its smaller components, you get a clearer picture of what you need to do.
In fact we use our CRM system ZOHO to help with this.
Crossing off the smaller parts of the larger task gives you a sense of accomplishment you need to boost those endorphins!
Bite the Bullet
I don’t care who you are and what you do in your organisation we all hate doing certain tasks. So you need to bite the bullet?
Bite the bullet by putting the tasks you don’t want to do however they are a priority at the top of your to-do list that day. You’ll eliminate the task quickly and move on to the rest of your day. Not to mention, you’ll have a bigger sense of accomplishment knowing that you’ve steam-rolled the tasks you didn’t actually want to do.
Feel the fear and then do it anyway
Everyone wants to make a good impression and put his or her best foot forward. Procrastination comes not from the inability to get the job done, but from fear and insecurity. Being unsure how to perform a specific task makes us fear failure and being seen in a negative light by our peers.
I always tell my team that, “No one’s going to die if its not 100%.” I might be a little annoyed if the task is not completed within the given deadline, but not if it merely needs to be tweaked. Many times, the worst conversations happen inside our own heads and we let that imaginary conversation rule our other decisions. That’s when we make mistakes.
If you’re worried about your work quality, allocate a set amount of time each day to complete (or revise) parts of the project. It’s possible to perfect a task without obsessing over it and losing focus. That’s when you know it’s time to let go of the project and focus on other things.
Rid Yourself of Distractions
It’s easy to procrastinate with the thousands of distractions we have every day. According to a survey by Stop Procrastinating 68% of those surveyed said they’d been distracted from their work duties by checking their emails, browsing the web or engaging in social media re Facebook. And that was a 9% increase from a year before. Of that 68%, 39% said distractions cost them a whole hour a day.
Sure, it’s tempting to constantly check your Facebook or Twitter feeds, but here’s a radical concept: Log out of your social media accounts for a few hours every day. Even if you have a massive social media campaign going you don’t need to be plugged in every minute of the day. You’re not a teenager!
Also switch off all the notifications on your Iphone and laptop. Those pings demand your attention and take you away from your focus.
Instead, focus on your tasks and nothing else. Do whatever it takes to get into the “zone,” to accomplish your goal. Some people at my office use headphones to muffle outside noise. I tend to leave the office and go somewhere very quite and this has often been a church.
I also block out time on my calendar, which my employees have access to, and dedicate that time to a specific task I need to accomplish. I may even specify “no phone calls” to ensure I stay in my zone.
Be a Fantastic Manager of Your Time.
To transition from procrastinator to proactive leader requires organisation on your part, from your mindset to your schedule. It’s hard to be organised when you feel you’re juggling multiple issues and tasks, however to succeed, you must learn to juggle effectively. Deciding how much time to dedicate to each task makes you more efficient.
Even our down time needs to be scheduled to some degree or our down time gets forgotten.
If you’re a good time manager, you’ll have time for everything, including play time. It takes some dedication and discipline, however with practice its really achievable.
Get out of bed at 5 or maybe as late as 6
As any focused entrepreneur will tell you, when you go to bed at night, you can’t wait to start your day the next morning. Indeed, I find that dawn is the most productive part of the day, according to this Wall Street Journal article. That hour of the morning brings minimal distractions, no email and hardly anyone on social media.(there is a hint hidden in there). For guys its also when our testosterone is peaking and that gives you that extra zing!
Apple CEO Tim Cook, starts his day at 3:45 a.m.. Richard Branson likes to “sleep in” until 5 a.m.. As an entrepreneur I relish my early mornings; you’d be surprised how much you can get done by the time everyone else walks in the office. On some days I have started so early that I simply took the afternoon off to walk on the beach! (where my mind wanders onto the bigger picture)
In order for you to make a successful transition from procrastinating to productive, you have to be disciplined, motivated and focused: disciplined enough to curb distractions, motivated enough to want to reach your end goal and focused enough to execute a plan that works for you.
We’re all different, so there’s no magic bullet solution for procrastination. However if you can build a plan that works for you, work the plan.
Author David Hugo Hargreaves the Growth Guru at Charterhouse.
We help entrepreneurs to build sustainable businesses and make a difference in this world.