How to avoid procrastination and improve your decision making process?

image of slow decision making

Learning how to avoid procrastination is an important task for any aspiring business owner.

Business ownership and procrastination are particularly poor companions. If allowed to continue unabated, procrastination can ultimately lead to business failure.

Similarly, the ability to make good decisions is an essential skill for a business owner to have. It is a skill you should continue to improve, especially when you are new to business. After all, building a successful business is usually the result of having made a lot of correct decisions along the way.

Listen in to Episode 7 (The Fundamental 4), where we explain why owning a business and procrastination don’t sit well together.

Dealing with procrastination and making lots of decision is part of the Mindset of an entrepreneur or small business owner.

We all procrastinate sometimes

Dr. Joe Ferrari of DePaul University has some excellent research that might help you if you tend to procrastinate. As he says in his paper, “we all procrastinate but not everyone is a procrastinator”.

Surprisingly, he points out that about 20% of us are chronic procrastinators. Does that sounds like you?

If so, it would be worthwhile attempting to address your behavior before you start a business!

Joseph Ferrari, DePaul University – Procrastination

Why is avoiding procrastination so important?

Building a great business relies upon the owner making good decisions. Make the right choices and, over time, your business will thrive.

Some decisions are easy to make because the answer is obvious and the consequences of getting it wrong minor.

Other decisions, however, are much tougher. They may be more complex and the consequences of getting them wrong much more serious.

Regardless of whether decisions are easy, hard, or somewhere in between, they still have to be made in a timely manner. As a new business owner you will have to make decisions in all areas of the business including some critical business functions that you might not be an expert in.

Procrastinating or avoiding making the necessary decisions, can damage your business. You may also start to feel overwhelmed if you are not making decisions.

Smaller is better

Large companies can struggle with their decision making. They are often slow to react because of the bureaucracy that is often a feature of their structure..

A significant advantage that smaller businesses have is their ability to make decisions quickly. This ability allows them to can respond promptly to changing market conditions. Of course, the lack of bureaucracy won’t do you any good if you procrastinate.

Speed of decision-making is a significant advantage you have over larger competitors. It’s an advantage you should exploit to gain a competitive edge.

In smaller businesses, the owners are close to the business activity and therefore understand the impact of decisions. A business owner needs to be decisive to get benefits gained by seizing an opportunity.

Don’t let procrastination get in the way!

When faced with more complex problems or those that have a higher risk attached to them, you might need some help. A good idea here is to consult with a mentor if you have one.

After all, two heads are better than one!

In Episode 11 (Your Support Team), we cover how to work out who you need on your support team.

Illustration of rock-paper-scissors for avoid procrastination

Tips to improve your decision making process

Be clear about your goals

Being clear about your purpose, goals and direction will help you focus on what’s important. Decisions will then be easier to make.

Having a clear business vision with written goals and objectives is a great place to start. When you have a good grasp of the value you offer your customers decision making can flow better. This is one reason why having a business plan is important. It acts as a guide to keep you focused.

From there, write bullet points that clearly define the issue you have to address. Consult with other relevant parties around you. Their input may give you some additional perspective.

Doing these simple steps will help you gain clarity about the decision you have in front of you.

Recognize when you are procrastinating

It’s essential to recognize the difference between thinking a problem through and procrastinating.

If you procrastinate for too long, you are giving up one of your inherent advantages of being nimble and making the right decisions quickly.

A straightforward way to help avoid procrastination is to list the benefits you will gain from being decisive versus the consequences if you delay making the decision.

Break big decisions into series of small decisions

Breakdown big decisions into a series of smaller steps. See each step as a stepping stone towards solving the bigger issue.

Keep dealing with each smaller question and you will eventually crack the big decision. 

Try journaling the steps, your notes and the ultimate decisions you made. It is a good habit to get into as it allows you to visualise your progress over time.

Use simple lists of “pro and cons”

I don’t know who thought up the concept of “Pros and Cons” but they were a genius. Such a simple process yet so powerful. Few things help you to gain clarity around making a choice as well as the good old pro and con.

A great tip is to apply a weighting to the more important points on your list. This way you are able to rank what is most important. It will help you decide whether the “pro’s” outweigh the “cons”.

Deciding “no” is not procrastinating

Deciding not to do something is still a decision. Procrastination, on the other hand, is the act of avoiding the decision making process all together.

Some of the best decisions you will ever make are the ones where you decide NOT to do something.

What is the right decision?

What constitutes a “good decision” depends on the individual circumstance and its’ end result. Clearly, a vital aspect of any decision-making process is the time horizon over which it is reviewed. Sometimes, the result of a decision will not be known for a significant period of time. Nevertheless, it still rings true that if you make more good decisions than bad, your business is more likely to prosper.

You are in business to achieve results over the long term. So, try to make decisions that will yield long term benefits. It isn’t always the easiest thing to do. Especially when there are attractive short-term gains to be made but whose impact will be short-lived.

You will not get them all right, so get over it

You will inevitably make some wrong decisions because nobody gets every decision right.

Overcoming the fear of making a poor decision is an essential step in your business journey.

Avoiding making decisions through chronic procrastination will spell doom for your business and is probably far more damaging than the risk of making a wrong decision.

The key to avoiding procrastination is to improve your decision making process and embrace a positive decision making mindset. Be thorough. Don’t cut corners. Take the pressure off yourself.

Do these simple things and you are well on the way to becoming a better business owner.

Changing how to set goals may help you avoid procrastination.

One powerful goal setting technique is reverse goal setting which is a mindset used by many successful business leaders across the world to significant effect. Setting goals and objectives is how to grow your business in a planned way to achieve your ambitions.

Let’s compare forward and reverse goal setting.

The forward goal setting approach

The classical approach to goal setting is to consider your current position and plan steps logically “forward” into the future.

You consider all the facets of your business and other internal and external factors that will have an influence.

Your goals inevitably will be based upon what you think you can achieve, based on a set of assumptions. The goals can include stretch targets or challenges to push your business along.

You then build your business plan upon a series of steps or building blocks using your origin as the foundation.

New or inexperienced business owners often think in this logical forward-thinking way. We are often encouraged to think in this way when writing business plans.

This approach works well to achieve a defined outcome using planned resources, similar to a project management style.

The reverse goal setting technique

Some successful business owners, however, don’t think in this traditional way but in a reverse mode. They start by imagining a situation they would like to achieve in the future. Then, they work in reverse to come up with the steps to achieve their goal.

Core strengths and capabilities, along with opportunities that they see in the broader market, all go into the mix.

Often, they seek inspiration from other industries or best practice benchmarks that help them set an ambitious framework of goals.

Initially, they are less concerned with a defined outcome or even the resources they might need. They are more focused on what they might be able to achieve rather than how they will achieve it.

They are more focused on what they might be able to achieve rather than how they will achieve it.

What is the difference between forward and reverse goal setting?

In the forward-thinking style, the hidden trap is your current circumstances, and resources constrain your thinking.

You might underachieve on your potential because your current position is dominating your mindset.

This traditional method is also internally focused and incremental.

The reverse thinking method focuses on what you want to achieve rather than your origin and current resources.

Your visions are, therefore, not constrained by your current limitations and much larger ambitions and achievement can result.

It also provides the opportunity to think more creatively and consider the direction that the business should take. Creative thinking and goal setting fits in perfectly when you are developing your business model.

It is more externally and cross industry-focused as you set targets using best industry practices and new ways of thinking.

What about a reverse goal setting hybrid?

Great businesses need vision and ambition for effective goal setting, married with excellent execution.

Use reverse goal setting to help you form the vision and direction of your business.

When it comes to working out how to get there, then a traditional, forward goal setting approach will help you with implementation.

Goal setting is essential whether you are focusing on improving a business, or pivoting toward a new strategy or starting fresh.

Very few SMBs have either useful improvement or strategy plans, so improving your goal setting represents a great opportunity.

Using a business mentor can be a big help to build your confidence and business knowledge.

Avoiding procrastination and improving your goal setting go hand in hand and can help your personal resilience.

Our Entrepreneur Personality Quiz has other great insights for successful owners.

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