There’s a National Association for just about anything you can think of including The Procrastination Association. As they say on their website, ‘Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after. If it weren’t for the last-minute, nothing would ever get done. Hard work has a future payoff. Laziness pays off NOW.’ We all seem to have an opinion about procrastination and usually that it’s harmful. The truth is that there are times when procrastinating wreaks havoc in our lives and then there are other times when delaying some actions and decisions may be appropriate and even beneficial.
Dan Ariely, behavioral economist, professor and best-selling author of The Upside of Irrationality, talks about the problem of procrastinating. Ariely maintains it would be good to procrastinate less when it comes to saving more and consuming less, having regular health check-ups, resisting the temptation to indulge in unhealthy foods, and putting off regular exercise. He offers a strategy to stop your procrastination suggesting you pair something you love with something that’s good for you but that you dislike. This results in developing a positive association with doing something that you prefer putting off but that’s good for you. Having a new positive association with the distasteful activity could cause you to stop procrastinating.
Although many times procrastinating can hurt your reputation and your business, there are times when holding off could prevent you from making a huge mistake? For instance, growing your business too quickly before there’s enough demand for your product or service, choosing a business partner based on outside pressure or without knowing that person well, engaging in a questionable business deal that could make you a lot of money fast, and reacting harshly criticizing someone due to losing your temper could result in damaging your reputation, your business and lead to misery. It’s important to be able to discern when procrastinating could hurt you and when it actually could benefit you.
When Can Procrastinating Be a Good Thing?
- Scaling your Business
Scale your business slowly and steadily to allow demand to grow. Hire new employees and add more technology only once there’s sufficient demand. Invest time in training and enrichment programs for employees to help engage and motivate them. Consider offering flextime and other perks like free meals in a top restaurant and winning a vacation for a certain level of performance. In the short-term this could boost morale and in the long run it could cultivate loyal relationships between management and employees. Better to have more demand and lower supply than the other way around.
- Choosing a Partner
Choosing the right partner could make or break your business. Try working with this person on a project prior to forging a partnership. See if you balance each other off in terms of skill sets, vision, values and your personalities. Better to go with it alone if you’re not sure you both compliment each other. A partnership is like marriage, once you’re in it the stakes are high for making it work and breaking up is costly.
- Questionable Deals
If something sounds too good to be true it probably is! Trust your gut and avoid the temptation for quick, easy money. Resist the temptation to associate with people who promise more than your good sense says is realistic. Do your research on the management of a firm you’re investing in to be sure he has a good reputation and that he has a track record for good performance.
- Acting Impulsively
Don’t confuse taking a calculated risk and behaving impulsively. The first requires courage and some good insights about a niche that has yet to be exploited. The second is more often equated with poor judgment and a lack of good intuition about the market. Making rash decisions in general isn’t a good thing but when it comes to starting a new business, impulsivity could lead to making costly mistakes. (Growing your business too fast, buying too much inventory, hiring too many employees before there’s sufficient demand, criticizing a supplier or employee when you’re in an enraged state) are examples of over zealousness about business prospects that come from impulsivity and often lead to failure).
- Criticizing Others
Think carefully before you criticize to be sure your agenda is purely for the sake of improving the situation and the relationship. Soften your approach by starting with noting something positive about that person so you don’t force him to become defensive. People tend to be more receptive to hearing criticism from someone they like and respect versus someone they consider to be dictatorial. Also, resist the temptation to criticize your competition. If you’re not tactful it could lower your reputation rather than improve it.
- Loosing your Temper
Once you lose control and speak from a place of anger it’s very hard to retract your words. Better to pre-empt those people and situations that provoke your anger and avoid confrontation. If you don’t think your interaction will be constructive, keep your thoughts to yourself.
- Checking your E-mails
Constant and obsessive e-mail checking can lower your actual productivity. Set aside a few times per day to check your inbox. That’s usually sufficient to stay abreast of notifications and other communications. Limiting yourself from constant checking could save you several hours per month, time that could be better spent doing something productive.
Entrepreneurship can become an all-consuming endeavor. While your success as an entrepreneur will require you to invest long hard hours at work, it’s essential to keep some balance in your life. You’ll need to be discriminating in how you spend your personal time: Prioritize certain friends and family whom you couldn’t live without and take care of your physical health. Both will be important for staying focused and for your endurance in business.
Carve Out Time for Friends and Family
Those who procrastinate in caring for their loved ones often lose them. Don’t underestimate the value of having close intimate relationships in your life. Make time for the people who matter to you most outside of your work and who make up your support system. These are the people you’ll need when things are tough as well as to celebrate when things go well. Making time for those you love is a key investment for success as an entrepreneur and will help you stay balanced over time.
Eat Right and Exercise
Make a commitment to eating healthfully and maintaining a regular exercise regimen. It’s well known that staying physically fit and eating right improves one’s mood and increases energy level. This will obviously bode well for an entrepreneur who needs to work long hours and deals with multiple setbacks and loads of stress. Following Ariely’s suggestion for creating a positive association with exercise, you could pick a movie or playlist of music you love to watch or listen to while you exercise thereby changing the association you have with exercise to something positive. You could do the same thing with refraining from eating your favorite chocolate cake. Next time you’re tempted to splurge, promise to do something you enjoy in its place.
Every entrepreneur could benefit from reflecting on how he makes decisions particularly when it comes to procrastinating and using self-control. Being able to distinguish healthy procrastination from when it’s inhibiting you from getting what you want in life could lead to greater success. You can improve your decision-making when you are more aware of how and why you make certain choices; While sometimes it pays to be flexible and open to experiences, other times it’s best to make decisions based on logic.
Knowing yourself and understanding the motivation behind people’s behaviors can put you in the driver’s seat when running your business. There’s a fine line between knowing when to use intuition and when to use logic in decision-making. Knowing the difference and sensing when to use one over the other could make the difference between running a good business and a great one. One thing for sure, don’t put off tuning into the dynamics learned from behavioral economics.