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How to stop procrastinating today (or maybe tomorrow)

29th Feb 2024
Brought to you by
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Are you running an accountancy practice? Or is it running you?

AVN helps you to take back control of your practice.

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Are you reading this article instead of phoning that awkward client? Have you justified it to yourself by claiming it will increase your productivity? These are the tell-tale signs of a habitual procrastinator.

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We’re all guilty. Almost everyone finds themselves procrastinating at some point. 

But, while it may be very common, long-term procrastination has a negative impact on your accountancy practice. We tend to procrastinate on the things that are actually the most important, the projects that will have the most benefit for the business but require a lot of effort. Not surprisingly, the small tasks that are easy to do, get done!

How can you stop procrastinating and start moving forwards?

4 reasons why you procrastinate

The key to getting over this is to understand why it’s happening in the first place. These are four of the most common reasons:

Fear of failure

The possibility of failing at a task can be paralysing. What if it goes horribly wrong? What if it doesn’t get the right results? What if it upsets other people? 

Oddly enough, the fear of success can have the same effect. After all, success likely means doing things differently and change is often a scary prospect.

To overcome these fears, log every possible negative outcome and focus on what you can do to prevent it happening. Then plan for what you’ll do if it actually does come to pass. 
Use your fears to prepare for situations so you can face them head on.

Actions v Projects

How often have you sat down to tackle that all important job, full of good intentions, only to glaze over a few minutes later, unsure where to start? Typically, that happens because it’s a project, not an action. 

The problem starts when you write down the project as a one-liner. Then when you come to it, you don’t know what to do first and that’s when you glaze over.

So the first thing is to recognise that it’s a project and not a task.

Then, spend some time breaking it down into one-step actions and see if any of them can be delegated or outsourced. Once you know what tasks are involved and they’re ordered into a logical process, you can commit to checking off 3 or 4 in any sitting. 

Perfectionism

This is a great strength to have, but use it wisely. Otherwise, you’ll never feel your project is good enough and it will never get off the ground. 

In the 1990s, Microsoft released every version of Windows knowing it still had bugs in it. But they knew if they didn’t get that latest version out, their customers would move elsewhere. It’s better to get it out there and then modify it, than never to release it and let the competition take over.

So make your mantra ‘good enough.’ A great way to put this into practice is to commit to getting ‘version 1’ out there by a set deadline (whatever version 1 means in context). And don’t keep that deadline to yourself. Make it immovable, announce it to your customers/team/suppliers/mates at the pub/your dog/ your cat. The more accountable you are, the more you’ll ensure that version 1 is ready on time. 

Overwhelm/firefighting

If you spend all your time firefighting and feeling overwhelmed, then you can’t put the mechanisms in place to prevent those problems happening in the first place. Using your time wisely is critical to combating this. 

Remember the 80/20 principle? 80% of your results are likely to come from 20% of your time.

Are the tasks you’re not getting to the tasks where you need to work ‘on’ your business, rather than ‘in’ it?

If you can invest 20% of your time (even 10%) to work ‘on’ your business then you’ll begin to see phenomenal results.  

Block out some time every day, with no interruptions, to work through some of those ‘should do list’ projects. Let the fires burn a little, otherwise you’ll burn out and everybody loses.

For more ideas on progressing your accountancy practice, join the upcoming webclass – How to progress the accounting business growth journey