Entrepreneurs procrastinate just like everyone else. Sure, they’re driven, focused, and motivated to do well – after all, if they weren’t, they’d never create the goal of starting a business.
But for many entrepreneurs, procrastination is an evil force that saps their productivity while inducing serious stress and pressure. Many think to themselves, “Why can’t I make myself do this simple task right now? I’m so lazy.”
What most people don’t realize is that the number one reason for procrastination has nothing to do with being lazy, feeling depressed, or lacking motivation.
Instead, it’s rooted more in perfectionist tendencies. That’s right – procrastination may be a side effect of perfectionism.
The underlying reason entrepreneurs procrastinate
When someone makes the decision to put off a project or task for a later time when they intended or needed to get it done sooner, researchers say they’re not merely avoiding the task – they’re waiting for the “right” time to do it. They want perfect conditions before they begin working on the project.
According to Joseph Ferrari, professor of psychology at DePaul University, “We delay action [procrastinate] because we feel like we’re in the wrong mood to complete a task, and we assume that our mood will change in the near future.”
Waiting for the right time
To explain this phenomena, let’s consider an example that many can relate to: Handling conflict.
Let’s say you saw your friend’s spouse kissing a stranger on the patio at a party you attended. What do you do? You know your friend deserves to know about it, but you’re reluctant to bring it up because you know it will be a difficult conversation that will end with heartbreak. Your friend is nearby and you could tell them now, but it just seems like the wrong time to bring it up. You decide to wait for the “right time” to share what you saw.
At no point do you think, “I’ll never tell my friend about this.” You just know that right now isn’t a good time.
When we face conflict with a person we know and like, we focus on the goal of the interaction; i.e., what we want the conflict to achieve. We concentrate on creating the right conditions to handle this conflict to give us the best possible chance of achieving the goal (i.e., not at a party or at 3:00am).
Similarly, when we face a project or task at work, we focus on the end goal – what the project is intended to achieve or do. If we don’t think starting right now would give us the best possible chance of achieving the goal (perhaps because we don’t feel equipped to handle it right now, plan on doing more research before beginning, or simply know there’s a better time to start working on it), we will “procrastinate” and put it off for a later time.
In our minds, we don’t say “I’m going to put this project off as long as humanly possible, and then never do it.”
Instead, when we procrastinate, we think “I’m going to put this project off a bit longer until I can give it the attention/research/time it deserves.” The intention is not malicious. Even if we’ve done the procrastination dance a million times before, we always believe ourselves when we say “I’ll get to this when the time is right.”
Procrastinating can still hurt your business
Even if entrepreneurs procrastinate for benevolent reasons and not out of laziness, there’s no denying that chronic procrastination has negative consequences for business owners.
James Clear, human behavior specialist, calls it the Present You vs. Future You problem. “Future You knows you should do things that lead to the highest benefit in the long-term, but Present You tends to overvalue things that lead to immediate benefit right now.”
In addition to overvaluing the present while undervaluing the future, we tend to overestimate how involved the task or project we’re reluctant to start right now will be. It seems monumental from here, making us feel more unsure about jumping in and getting started.
The number one reason entrepreneurs procrastinate is their tendency to wait for the perfect conditions before starting a task. Why do you procrastinate? Do you think procrastination can be a healthy thing in entrepreneurs?
Look for an upcoming post detailing ways to beat procrastination with simple psychology tricks and time management tips.
- Time Inconsistency, According to Harvard Professors
- The Procrastination Doom Loop