pouting child

Do you ever feel this way? You know what you ought to be doing but you just don’t want to. It’s pretty commonplace and a prime trigger for procrastination. Psychologists call it “task aversion.” Basically we take a task like reminding a customer that the latest invoice hasn’t been paid or completing an administrative task and we just avoid doing it. If we stopped to look at it rationally, we’d know that we’re acting  like a pouting child. But…we don’t look at it rationally. We perceive that it will be just too painful to deal with.

Perception is an amazing thing! Sometimes it is spot on and we get a good read on the dynamics of a situation. However, other times, it just messes with our heads.

It’s about perceived pain. It doesn’t matter if you are a new small business owner or a well-established one, there’s something you’re avoiding. The actual task is probably unpleasant in some way. It could have some sort of conflict like speaking to the customer who hasn’t paid. Maybe it’s just boring such as filing. Or you feel inadequate in your copywriting skills so you put off updating your website. There are things in our small businesses that aren’t pleasant and we do have to do them.

Do you take the bull by the horns and just do the task you’re avoiding? Self discipline is a necessity for the successful small business owner. It would be nice to just say to yourself, “All right, enough dilly dallying, get to work!” and be done with the task. Many of my clients have noted that whatever they had been putting off turned out to be no big deal (I’m guilty of this too.) But what if you just can’t muster up the gumption to do the strategic planning or the bill paying or whatever it is that is so “horrible”?

Here are five ideas:

  • Set a date and time to work on the task. Put it in your calendar and treat it like you would any other appointment. Maybe you’ll drag yourself kicking and screaming to the task but now you’re committed to action.
  • Use an alarm. It’s easier to accomplish something if you reduce it to stages. Set 20-30 minutes to work on the task. When the alarm goes off, your time is up and you are free to go do something more pleasant.
  • Write down why this task is so terrible and painful. Understanding what you’re thinking and feeling is remarkable. Maybe the task reminds you of something negative from your childhood or another personal relationship. Maybe you’re overcommitted and this task is the proverbial straw that will break the camel’s back. Maybe it’s just some kind of story that you’ve made up about how you’re completely inadequate and will surely fail. The important piece here is to get the story so you know why you’re avoiding the task.
  • Get an accountability partner. Find someone who is willing to check in with you to see if you completed the task. This person can be a colleague, mentor, or a coach. You can even do this with a mastermind group. Sometimes you have to arrange an external reason to complete a task. Generally people don’t want to lose face with anyone they respect. Use this to your advantage.
  • Choose to not do the task. Seriously! This may seem counterintuitive in some way. Stop nagging yourself (it’s not working anyway) and let go of the pressure. If you can live with the consequences, then consciously choose to let the task go undone.

Procrastination makes us feel negatively about ourselves. Trying to make yourself do something you don’t wanna do is a no win situation. There’s not much point in acting like a child having a big sulk. We’ve got enough responsibilities as we run our small businesses.

Try a different way.

What task are you avoiding?

What is your perception about this task?

How do you get yourself into action when you’d rather do anything else?