As shop owners, we face distractions all day, every day. There is always something or someone demanding our attention or distracting us from the tasks we know we must complete. How many times have you left work thinking, “what did I even get done today?” There is always a deadline looming or a promise made that weighs upon you. It sometimes amazes me how much we do get accomplished. Yet, so often as a shop owner and a coach, I see the tasks with the highest value avoided. The important long-term value for the business, growth or stability tasks are ignored. Why? I do understand becoming distracted and overwhelmed but sometimes, it is clearly something more.
It can be the choices we make, but other times I see and feel a conscious effort to avoid things. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines Procrastination as: the act of delaying or postponing a task or set of tasks. It doesn't matter what you call it, procrastination or something else. It is the force that prevents you from following through on what you know you must do. It isn’t simply a distraction or a seeming emergency, that in a rush, must take precedence. It is more a deep seeded avoidance of those things you know you should do and must do, but just don’t do.
Any of these “excuses” feel familiar?
1. “I just don’t feel like doing it.”
A lack of motivation is a common reason for not performing an unpleasant task. Most people feel that something is wrong with them if they do not feel motivated to get started. Typically, this is not true. How many folks do you imagine enjoy the idea of raking leaves? How about cleaning out gutters? Doing taxes or performing repair order audits? These tasks are often seen as unpleasant and less than exciting. To believe that you must feel excited and motivated to begin a task has the order of events in reverse. The "doing" comes first. Then the motivation builds as momentum and a sense of accomplishment develops. Often, taking the first step, regardless of how small, can serve as a spark and motivation for further action. Sometimes you just need to give yourself an attitude check. Ask yourself, "Does my attitude prevent me from becoming motivated?" If your answer is "yes", then it's time to figure a way to make a change. This may mean giving up on the idea that "everything in life must be interesting" or that "I have to like all aspects of being a shop owner for it to be worthwhile."
2. “I don’t know how.”
A lack of knowledge is one of the most basic justifications for procrastination. If you lack the knowledge to complete or even start a project, it is only natural to avoid doing it. Delaying and avoiding may seem a better option compared to the need to improve your knowledge. The last thing you want is to face an uninformed failure. The key to solving knowledge problems is to identify what you don’t know or what you may need. Stay focused on what to learn to improve your understanding of a situation. In this world of the Internet, Google and YouTube, there is very little that you cannot find help or reference on. You should be able to find a YouTube video to learn how to solve an Excel issue or learn QuickBooks formatting. You can even learn how to perform a complicated timing belt procedure! Not knowing how is likely the least acceptable excuse in this age of information access.
3. "But, what if I can’t cut it?"
Fear of failure is a very real reason many people procrastinate. The rationale is something like this: “If I really try hard and fail, that is worse than if I don't try at all.” How about this one; “Because I really didn’t try, I truly didn’t fail.” We live in a world where we are expected to be perfect the first time we do anything. Perfectionism often underlies the fear of failure. In a very real way, it stalls us. Customer expectations, employee desires or even our own standards can be unrealistic. The bar is set so high that we create our own failure. So, we procrastinate and avoid it. Consider, the problem may actually be the unrealistic standards that have been set. It's not your fear or failure to meet them. The more responsible thing to do is set more realistic expectations, whether with yourself or those around you.
4. "How can I top this?”
"Fear of success" can be the other side of "fear of failure." Here, you procrastinate because you are fearful of the consequences of your achievements. Maybe you fear that if you do well, then even more will be expected of you. The act of succeeding may place you in an unwanted spotlight. Procrastination of this kind may show an internal identity conflict. If your self- worth is tied to your level of achievement, then you may question if you are "good enough." Inaction or procrastination maybe how you cope with the pressures you feel to be the best. As with the fear of failure above, the more responsible thing to do is set more realistic expectations.
5. "This stuff is just plain boring."
A lack of interest seems to play a huge role in procrastination. I have certainly felt this one myself. From time to time, every shop owner lacks interest in their business or their role in the business. For any of the reasons above, you can’t seem to get moving on what you know you should and must be doing. There is always something you are sure you would rather be doing, whether in the business or away from it. If you are “bored with it all,” if your natural interests are not stimulated by the task, you may need to force the issue and "just do it.” The quicker you get it done, the faster you can move on to something you really care about or enjoy. This will give you more "guilt-free" time to do those things that are more interesting to you. Of course, it won't necessarily make the task any more interesting, but it will take away the “guilty” feelings. Those feelings you get when you avoid doing what you really know you should be taking care of.