A decade ago, my friend Bill said, “Perry I’ve got a million-dollar idea for you. There’s just one catch: If you sell a million dollars, you have to give $10,000 to my favorite charity.”
“OK Bill, you’re on,” I said. He insisted I was leaving tons of money on the table by only writing and publishing books. He advised me to expand into business coaching.
I decided he was right. And guess what? I had the hardest time getting myself to actually do it. When I sat down to execute the details, my inner procrastinator said, “Wait a minute, why don’t you go get a haircut.”
I recognized the inner procrastinator as a signal that I was precisely on the right track. I resolved to finish the project.
That move doubled my income. Bill’s favorite charity, an inner city school in Philadelphia, got a check for $10,000.
I’m a passionate advocate of the 80/20 rule, which says 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your customers. It applies to most other aspects of business and life as well, like how you spend your time.
I’ve discovered that your inner procrastinator — if you pay close attention to him — tells you exactly what you should be doing.
The top 20 percent activities that produce 80 percent of your results are the very same things that trigger you to procrastinate — to delete old emails or water plants instead.
Eventually I had to cloister myself in a library with no Internet to craft the marketing for a business move that scared me deep down. Those demons inside my head knew it was a good idea, so I decided to harken unto them.
Whenever my inner procrastinator tells me to check Twitter or iron my shirts, instead of what I’ve planned, I know I’m on to something good. I switch it around.
It’s not that we don’t want to work. It’s that we’re afraid of doing work that will move the needle. Most of us are afraid of success.
Here are tips on how to direct your inner procrastinator to your advantage:
Flip your daily to-do list. You wake up and list the 10 things you need to do today. Odds are, one item is worth 10 times more than the rest. Our natural human tendency is to put it off until later, diverting into mundane tasks like Facebook. We invent devilishly clever reasons not to get that one thing done.
Check your gut and do it. Now. (Or at least after you finish reading this article.)
The ‘procrastination demon opportunity detector’ works for big-picture projects, too. If you’re all-consumed with $10 per hour busy work, you have no time to stop and ask yourself, “What salvo should I launch next week that will double sales next year?”
That question makes you squirm. The more disconcerting, the better. It challenges the status quo. Whatever gives you that queasy, familiar feeling of asking for a big check — or for dad’s car keys at 11 at night — that plan probably belongs on the top of the stack.
Make constructive use of the time you liberate. I urge entrepreneurs to hire house cleaners and personal assistants to free themselves up from mundane activities. What do you do with the extra two hours a day you free up? You could fritter it away – or go nuclear on your business strategy.
Perfectionism is the root of all evil. Most of us soothe our anxieties and stay mediocre by perfecting things that don’t need to be perfect at all. You spend 15 minutes editing that email before you press send. You clean out your car twice a week.
Most procrastination isn’t doing nothing, it’s doing what’s comfortable and mediocre.
Put ‘Do Nothing’ on your to-do list. I’m a huge advocate of Sabbath — taking Saturdays or Sundays off. Instead of wasting time on busy work such as checking email, everyone should create space where they pray or meditate — or simply do nothing. Your best business ideas will come when you’re not working. When you’re having fun doing what you enjoy doing, whether it’s reading novels or tossing a baseball with your kids, that feeds your creativity.
I learned this the hard way. I spent years with the pedal to the metal, working seven days a week. It got me nowhere because I was not doing what I needed to do most.
Harken unto your “procrastination demon opportunity detector.” Choose the thing that makes you most anxious. Then head straight into the wind, because those anxieties are merely birth pangs of a larger success.