As a new business owner, it feels like you have to do ALL THE THINGS, all the time, to grow your business. And if you’re a solopreneur, it’s even worse. You’re not only the person delivering the service — you’re also the marketer, the accountant, and the salesperson, too. So it’s hard to get a break and a moment for yourself. And if you deal with procrastination, it’s going to make your life a lot more difficult.
What I hear from my clients is that they struggle with procrastination, and they don’t really know why it’s happening or where it’s coming from. They’re aware of it, but it’s a hard pattern to break. They have the best intentions to grow their business, but their mindset gets in the way, and they spin their wheels or stay stuck in self-doubt instead of just doing the thing they want to do in the first place. They waste a lot of energy fretting over something instead of just doing it.
The Universal Truth
While I believe the root cause of procrastination can be different for every person, the universal truth I’ve found is this: It’s uncomfortable being an entrepreneur, when you’ve never been one before. You are building a new identity for yourself, and doing things like being visible and marketing yourself are going to feel unpleasant for a while.
Not to mention, that you’re most likely used to being an employee and being told what to do. As an entrepreneur, you get to write the rules, but with that freedom comes the challenge of actually holding yourself accountable to reach your goals. You also don’t have anyone giving you any feedback or advice along the way. So, you have to become used to planning and executing things on your own, and making lots of small decisions without much input from others.
It’s important to understand that as a new business owner, things aren’t always going to be easy for you, and you’re going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
That’s why many of the people I talk to who are naturally introverted struggle with putting themselves out there and being visible. It’s easy for them to write a blog post or do something more “behind the scenes,” but they really cringe at the idea of being more public. And they intuitively know that doing so would make it easier for them to grow their business, but they’re still convinced that it will be a terrible experience.
If I speak from my own personal experience, I know that it’s not easy to put yourself out there, but it does get easier with time. Once you start to build your expertise and have something to actually talk about and a point of view, it feels a bit better. But I’m not going to lie — it can still feel uncomfortable to pitch yourself, talk on camera or put things on social media, but it’s a necessary evil if you’re trying to grow your business. And I’m also coming from a marketing background which means that I already know how to do it, but it’s the doing that’s actually the hard part.
And I want to normalize something for you: Even if you’re a more outgoing person, it isn’t always easy selling yourself or your services. It’s just something that gets easier over time and with more experience. You may look at someone who has been doing this for a while and think they’re completely comfortable, but even they may be nervous once in a while.
Want more proof? Take a look at this article which says that the one question Oprah hears most after interviews is some version of: “Was that okay?” “How did I do?” And she’s interviewed everyone from world leaders, successful athletes, and musicians––all people we consider to be pretty confident from the outside.
What’s at the root of your procrastination?
1. You’re afraid of being visible.
This is the one I’ve mentioned already, but here’s the reason behind it. You think that if you’re visible, that you’ll be judged, and you’re afraid of what people will think of you.
As a new business owner, you’re going to have to step out of your comfort zone and be public about what you’re doing, while also talking about your business and what you offer. If this makes you feel like a fraud or you think others will think you’re stupid, then investigate this belief: Is it really true that I don’t know what I’m talking about?
You may be just getting started and don’t have enough experience to talk about something with confidence. That’s okay. Most business owners feel the same way in the beginning. It’s something you’re going to have to push through to get to the other side. Start with baby steps, and work up to bigger stretch goals. Pretty soon, you’ll be doing what you thought was impossible just months ago. And remember, that nobody starts out as an expert. They have to go through the learning process, just like you. Expertise is built over time.
But it’s also possible that you actually do know what you’re talking about. Otherwise, why would you be starting a business and trying to help others with your knowledge? If this is the case, you’ll just want to take the focus off yourself and create with your customer in mind. What I mean by this is to try and serve others, instead of making it all about you.
Most likely, you already are an expert to your ideal customers, because you know something they don’t. It’s not your competitors or other people you need to impress, it’s the people who actually need you. If you only think about how uncomfortable you are, you’ll never put out any content that could help solve a problem your ideal audience is having. And that’s doing a disservice to the people who need you the most.
2. Your perfectionism stops you from moving forward.
Why does it matter if you’re a perfectionist? Well, if you think that you can only put something out there if it’s completely, 100% perfect, then it’s likely you’ll have a hard time finishing anything at all.
Unfortunately, many times, the root cause of perfectionism is also the fear of being judged by others. You think that if you just make one more change, it will be good enough to share. But most likely, you’re tying your own self-worth with whatever you’re creating. And if you don’t feel good enough about yourself or the value you provide, then it won’t matter how many changes you make to your draft. You’ll still have the itch to change it.
So I challenge you to start seeing your own innate worth as something different from your business or whatever you’re creating in the world. They are two separate things, and if something fails in your business, it’s not a reflection on you.
It may also have to do with your upbringing. If you had parents who had very high standards, you may have learned that you had to be perfect to get their approval. To get over this, I’d suggest looking at it this way — maybe they had your best intentions at heart, but they didn’t necessarily know what negative patterns that might create later in your life. So choose to be more compassionate towards yourself. You’re an adult now, and can choose how you interact with yourself––and the world––going forward.
Try to understand if this is something you deal with. If so, you’ll need to start putting your work out into the world, even if it feels uncomfortable. And even if it’s not 100% perfect. Again, this is a learned way of being. To break the pattern, you have to do something that you wouldn’t normally do. And most likely, it will prove to you that you don’t have to be perfect to make an impact. Because perfection isn’t real, anyway.
3. You fear failure.
When you have a fear of failure in your business, your brain does this sneaky thing of convincing you to just not take any action at all. That way, you don’t have to fail. But it also stops you from trying, and you’re not actually giving yourself the chance to succeed, either.
How do you get over this fear? Well, imagine your worst-case scenario, and see if you can live with it. Also, examine what you’re making this outcome mean for you.
So, let’s say your worst-case scenario is your business fails and you lose all your money. You think you’ll feel embarrassed and you’ll have to start over from scratch.
While there is definitely some truth to this, it doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to move forward and rebuild. Yes, you may have some negative emotions, but that’s really all they are. Emotions that can be worked through.
You can always start over with a new business idea. Or you can get a “normal job” like most of the people out there. You can also rebuild your bank account. While it may not be fun, it’s still doable.
So, you’re not really risking that much when you start a business. Or at least not as much as you’re making it out to be in your head. Of course, it’s still scary, but it’s a leap of faith you have to take if you want to grow. If you’re always “half-in” in your business, you’ll never be able to take enough risks to actually succeed.
And as far as what you’re making it mean: I hear from people that they don’t want to lose their financial independence, and have to be dependent on others. But it’s kind of ironic because most of them aren’t actually financially independent when they talk to me. They’ve been relying on their partner to help them out as they start their business. So they’re worried about a future scenario that is the exact same as their current reality. What do they really have to lose?
4. You fear success.
On the flip side, some people fear success in their business, leading them to procrastinate and self-sabotage.
The reason this happens is that you’re assigning meaning to success.
For example, you may fear that when your business grows, it will make your life more complicated. You’ll be too busy to spend quality time with your partner or kids or go on that vacation you’ve been wanting to take. Or you’ll have to deal with more drama or things you don’t want to be responsible for. While this may happen, it’s not completely inevitable.
If you’re aware of it, you can set up your business in a way that doesn’t take over your life, from the very beginning. There are systems and processes out there that can make running your business easier. And it’s also possible to automate or outsource certain things so you don’t have to be tied to your business all the time.
Which of these reasons above resonate with you? Take a look at all of them, and see if there’s something you need to work through to stop procrastinating in your business.
And a final question to ask yourself: Is this a pattern in my life as a WHOLE, or just in my business? If it’s just in your business, then there’s probably something deeper going on that you’ll want to investigate.