Stop putting off essential work tasks! Stay focused and get those jobs done.

This is potentially the biggest killer of the home business

I’m a regular at the gym, but such is the environment there that it’s rare I actually have a long conversation with anyone – I’m plugged into my iPod as are most people and everyone is extremely focused – so there’s not usually any chit chat.

But last week I was away in Spain for 5 days on a ‘Beach Boot Camp’ which was organized by my gym, and apart from being fabulous fun (and extremely tough) it was a pleasure to make a whole bunch of new friends and really get to know them rather than just the usual cursory nod and hello!

During our down time in the evenings we all went out for dinner and as you would expect, during the course of this social time, the inevitable questions were asked; ‘So, where do you work? What do you do?’

Even though I’ve been self-employed for a good ten years now, I still find it extremely difficult to explain to people what it is that I actually do! I know that may sound a little strange but I have so many different hats and do such a variety of things each day that I find it really hard to put myself under one single umbrella and come up with an all-encompassing job title for myself. I mean – what am I?

A business consultant, online seller, website owner, mentor, product sourcer, researcher, writer, editor, author, company director…

So, you can see why it’s difficult for me. It’s not like I can just say “Oh yes, I work in a bank” for example. Everyone knows roughly what that might entail so it’s all pretty straightforward.

Me, on the other hand, well I immediately start procrastinating, try to change the subject, become a bit tongue-tied, my pulse starts racing and I end up saying “Oh, I do a bit of this and a bit of that – websites, online consultancy that sort of thing…” which makes me sound like Del Boy and I’m sure conjures up images of me selling knock off handbags from the back of a car!

So, as usual, last week I stumbled my way through a vaguely acceptable answer to the question, ending up giving the usual not very flattering image of myself, to which the response was:

“Oh, so you work from home? Isn’t that really difficult with so many other things to distract you? I’ve tried that and I just couldn’t make it work.. “

And then someone else piped up: “I’d love to work from home but I don’t think I’ve got the discipline or the motivation…”

Strangely, I find it fairly easy these days – job title or not – but I think that comes with practice and of course I am by no means perfect. Anyway, the conversation got me thinking. If you run your own business, then you’ll probably have heard similar rumblings to the one above at some point.

There’s a definite reason why some people struggle to keep their full focus on work with the cleaning, laundry, television, games console, books, magazines, children and everything else all vying for attention. To be honest, staying focused with all of those distractions around is of course going to be genuinely difficult.

I’ve been there myself – I have days when I just can’t concentrate because I’m worrying about getting the girls’ PE kits ready or I’m almost at the end of a really good book and I want to just read that last chapter.

But do you know what is one of the biggest killers of the home business?

It’s procrastination….

It’s so easy to put off essential work tasks that need doing, to focus on something else, even if that something else is ‘the laundry’.

The problem is, a bout of procrastination is often followed by a bout of negative thoughts, which in turn can lead to more procrastination, and more negativity, until we’re left thinking that it’s not only impossible to keep our minds on the task in hand, but that we’re not even capable of completing those tasks at all. It’s a vicious cycle, and one that can be very difficult to overcome even with a positive mindset in place.

So, whether procrastination is something that you suffer from regularly, or just something that hits now and then when a particularly boring task needs doing, these tips that I have found really helpful in the past, can help you now.

Don’t beat yourself up

If you find yourself drifting away from a job that needs doing to take care of something less important, or even if you find yourself staring into space for a few minutes, don’t beat yourself up about it.

Making yourself feel guilty will just make it harder to get back into what you need to be doing, so instead put the moment behind you. What just happened doesn’t matter, it’s in the past, what matters now is getting back into the work that needs doing in the present. Refocus and start again.

Don’t try and do everything

I am guilty of this! My ‘To Do’ list is usually as long as both my arms, but if I’m really honest with myself then it’s doubtful everything on it is absolutely essential. When you have a multitude of tasks to do you can often start to feel confused as to where to start, or in my case, overwhelmed with a feeling of being unable to complete everything that needs to be completed. If this sounds familiar, here’s what to do.

Look through your ‘To Do’ list and put stars by the tasks that really do need doing and choose just a few of them. I highlight the most important tasks on my list. The ‘To Do’ list for your day should consist of around five items to save you from the feeling of drowning under a mountain of work. If you then complete those five tasks with time to spare, then you can go back to your longer list and choose another couple of tasks.

Manage distractions

Unfortunately this step isn’t always possible, but you should try your very best to remove any distractions from your work area.

  1. If you’re in the middle of a good book, make sure it’s removed from your sight. Not sat on the desk next to you.
  2. If you’re working on your computer on a task that doesn’t need the internet then disconnect it otherwise every time you hear the ping of an email you’ll be tempted to have a look (I am guilty of this).
  3. Clear the clutter from your desk so that you don’t start fiddling around with ‘stuff’ instead of working.

I’m sure this will sound familiar, but you’ll know the triggers that tend to distract you personally, so banish them from your presence as much as possible. Also if you feel the familiar sensation of your attention starting to wander then stop everything, remind yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and draw your focus back to the task in hand.

Celebrate your success

It’s often the tasks that we really don’t enjoy that are the ones we procrastinate most about, so how about offering yourself a reward when you complete a task.

  • “If I finish this task I’ll take 20 minutes off to read a chapter or two of my book.”
  • “As soon as this is done I’ll have a coffee break.”

You know the type of thing. Use a reward that’s relevant to you and is something that you actually enjoy; this will keep you striving to finish the task to earn your reward.

You’ll need to be disciplined so as not to allow yourself your reward prior to completion of the task, but if you can get into the habit of treating yourself for particularly big challenges or tasks that you really don’t want to do, you’ll soon find yourself more able to deal with them and get them done.

Set deadlines

Tasks can tend to slip when there isn’t a specified date for their completion. To me, deadlines are everything because I work so much better that way. The thing is, deadlines create a sense of urgency that makes us work on those tasks sooner than those that don’t have deadlines.

Some tasks such as listing products or answering emails will come with their own intuitive deadlines, but make sure you also put deadlines on jobs such as researching new stock or getting your accounts in order. You might want to create a calendar using a program such as Google Calendars to keep track of your deadlines, so that you can see at a glance what you need to be working on and what can wait for a day or two.

Whatever happens, it is essential that you don’t let procrastination be a force that stops you achieving all that you would like to achieve within your business. Remember to manage your mind and you will find yourself able to stay on track of even the most mundane tasks that need doing.

As always I wish you the best of success,

Amanda

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