Why do we procrastinate—and how can we stop? Facing your fear-based procrastination.
“No, I just didn’t get to it this week,” Candy sighed. “I don’t know why. I’ve been busy, and I just didn’t get around to making those sales calls. But look at all I did accomplish! I got a new graphic designed for the program I’ll launch next spring, I cleaned up my CRM, and I even created a spreadsheet to track my calls. It’s just too bad that none of that brought in any money.” My client Candy was falling victim to one of the most prevalent causes of business underperformance: procrastination. And I knew if she didn’t beat it, her business wouldn’t survive.
How often do you procrastinate?
Procrastination falls into two categories:
- Pure time-wasting, such as following interesting but ultimately useless Internet rabbit holes
- Productive procrastination, in which you accomplish something, just not something that you’d intended to accomplish, instead of handling a task that needs your attention.
Procrastination is costly. It takes away from important activities and slows down or even undermines success. Worse yet, procrastination leaves us feeling defeated, knowing that we’re standing in the way of our own success. Procrastination is a fatal and unaffordable flaw when trying to grow a business.
I’ve identified five causes of procrastination:
- What you fear
- What you don’t know
- What you feel
- What you believe
- How you behave
Through the next few months, I’ll cover each of these causes and the way to overcome procrastination in the context of business development.
What do you fear about building your business? Candy feared rejection and failure. In fact, she was so concerned about the possibility that she might not succeed in making sales calls and landing new business that she put in hours avoiding those calls.
Other fearful voices might warning about the risk of looking stupid, not being able to do what you’ve set out to do, or even the costs of success. These fears are universal; they can be paralyzing. The most painful part of succumbing to these fears is that avoiding the frightening activity ensures failure—in one area or in business altogether.
So, how do you overcome fear-based procrastination?
- Get clear on specifically what fear is underlying the procrastination. Fear of the consequences of bringing on so much new work that you’ll end up exhausted and take time from your family is a very different kind of fear than the fear of looking stupid. To address the fear (or, quite often, fears), you must know what your fear is.
- Choose a Bible verse that speaks to you about fear, and put that verse where you can see it often. I keep a sticky note on my monitor, and you might consider putting a card with the scripture in your wallet or next to your telephone.
A few of my favorite verses about fear are Psalm 27:1 (“The Lord is my light and salvation—whom shall I fear?”), 2 Timothy 1:7 (“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline”), and Isaiah 41:13 (“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you’”).
- Check the reality behind your fear. Will you fail sometimes? Of course, but failure is rarely fatal if you pick up and keep going. Will you look stupid? Maybe, but you’ll survive—especially if you can find a way to have a good laugh about it somehow.
- Set goals and find someone to hold you accountable. Fear can be paralyzing. When you confess your fear to someone who can listen with compassion and urge you forward with fierceness, you’ll have an ally against paralysis.
- Get started. Although it’s helpful to find the “why” and the ways around your fear, the only true way out of fear is through it. Once you have your support in place, take a deep breath and take the first step.
If you know fear is blocking you, go through these steps today.
Fear builds on fear, and the sooner it’s addressed, the sooner you are released.
About Julie Fleming
Julie A. Fleming, principal of Lex Innova Consulting, teaches lawyers to use innovative and effective measures to build a strong book of business and a lucrative practice. A former patent litigator, she is the author of The Reluctant Rainmaker: A Guide for Lawyers Who Hate Selling, Seven Foundations of Time Mastery for Attorneys, and the forthcoming Legal Rainmaking Myths: What You Think You Know About Business Development Can Kill Your Practice,as well as numerous articles focusing on topics such as business development, practice management, work/life balance, and leadership development. Before launching her consulting business, Julie practiced law for over a decade in firms of 3 to more than 2100 attorneys, specializing in patent litigation. A graduate of the Emory University School of Law, Vanderbilt University (B.A.) and Georgia State University (B.S.), Julie is a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation and currently serves as Vice Chair of the ABA Section of Science and Technology Law.
Jory has invited me to write on how to grow a solid business, and I’d love to hear your questions! What frustrates you? What challenges would you like to transform into opportunity? What are you curious about? Comment on this post and/or send your questions directly to Julie@LexInnovaConsulting.com. Please let me know you’re a friend of Jory’s. Can’t wait to hear from you!