I’m not a gambler, yet I would be entirely confident in betting that you’re a procrastinator just like I am. How can I be so sure?
Everyone procrastinates; they just don’t talk about it. It’s gained a bad reputation as everyone searches for a solution to avoid procrastination. But I’m out to prove that it can actually be a strategy for moving forward quickly and achieving bigger and better results in any area of life.
As a coach to successful business owners, I’m especially aware that procrastination is an intensely-charged problem for any entrepreneur. It’s also their carefully guarded secret.
The intelligence behind procrastination.
Most people are embarrassed by the fact that they procrastinate. They see it as a character flaw and have the mistaken impression that they procrastinate but other people don’t. It can be isolating.
Talking about it and realizing that everyone procrastinates is the first step to jumping in and getting things done.
The universal experience of procrastination involves putting off something we know we should do but, for some reason, can’t motivate ourselves to do. It’s a mistake, though, to think there’s no good reason for procrastinating. In fact, it’s likely there’s a very good reason—even an intelligent one.
My observation is that we tend to procrastinate when we know we have to move forward, but there’s something missing in the situation that keeps us from taking action.
Our hesitation is our indicator that something isn’t quite right. We know that there’s something missing, there’s a deficiency, or something has to be added before we feel we have the capability and confidence to move forward in a uniquely creative way. This is a perfectly intelligent reason to pause and think it through.
The unintelligent—and harmful—side of procrastination is that, although there’s an intelligent reason behind it, we don’t go deeper to find out what that reason is. We don’t ask ourselves why.
“There’s always a perfectly intelligent reason why you’re procrastinating.” —Dan Sullivan
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The growth fear factor.
My greatest tendency to procrastinate is always when I’m challenged to grow. I have to develop new skills, gain new knowledge, and strengthen my teamwork. I’m good at this, yet every time I’m challenged with a new demand to grow, it scares me. People think I must be good at meeting this challenge, but as you grow, the stakes become higher and the results are far bigger—thus, the 2 a.m. worries that most entrepreneurs have experienced.
But this is what the growth process looks like, and because I always want to be growing, I have to make friends with fear and the need for courage. I have to normalize this experience.
A shift in mindset.
When I started delving more deeply into the subject of procrastination, I realized what a useful discussion this could be for entrepreneurs.
Along the way, I started to see that with a shift in thinking, rather than trying to avoid procrastination, anyone could use it as a strategic tool or resource for what to do next. Rather than being considered a negative experience or character flaw, procrastination then becomes a highly useful capability.
When I asked myself why I was procrastinating on a particular project and wrote down my insights, by far the most exciting insight was that I could actually use procrastination as a strategic tool to figure out the three most important things I should be doing the very next day.
I realized that because we keep our procrastination a secret, and it’s never a topic of discussion, we can’t get any value out of it. We have this sense that it’s a waste of energy, but I’ve learned that it’s not really wasted—it’s just trapped.
In fact, if you use procrastination as your key indicator for your most important things to work on tomorrow, it’s directing your key activities for the day. You’re clear about what the outcome will be, and you get results quickly. The burst of energy you experience when you break through is actually the energy that was trapped in your procrastination.
Always be growing.
I’d venture to say that procrastination is probably here to stay, so why not get it working in your favor? In fact, I would go a step further and say that the only way to truly avoid procrastination altogether is to stop having any personal ambitions about a bigger and better future. And I never intend to do that.
A shift in how you think about procrastination can be the start of one of the most transformative experiences of your life: By changing your mindset, you can transform every procrastination you’ve experienced in your life into a positive and creative capability. It’s a source that’s rich in possibilities once you get rid of the negativity.
Learn how to turn procrastination into your greatest new ability.