Procrastination may be one of your greatest allies for avoiding annoying and mundane tasks, but sadly, it won’t do much to help grow your business.

When I speak with owners of small businesses, one of the first tips I give them is to stop procrastinating and start doing. Now!

Examine what it is you’re doing right now. Is it productive? Is it needed? Is it moving you one step closer towards your desired outcome?

If you answer “No” to any of these, you may just be procrastinating and now is the time to change that.

Schraw, Wadkins and Olafson suggest three criteria for a behaviour to be classified as procrastination: the activity must be counterproductive (having the opposite of the desired effect), needless (superfluous) and delaying (stalling or dithering).

Psychologists are split on the causes of procrastination. One group of theorists says it is a mechanism for coping with the anxiety attached to starting or completing a task (or decision) while another group suggests that it is impulsiveness that causes people to procrastinate. One way or another, putting off important tasks leads to a loss in productivity.

Procrastinators are more optimistic about time than other people. They tell themselves white lies like, “I work at my best under pressure.” The truth is that working under pressure doesn’t make you more creative; it squanders your ability and doesn’t allow you to make considered decisions. Good time management makes you more creative.

Procrastinators also actively look for distractions. Checking your email account is a perfect way to look for distractions although I think everyone is guilty of that.

For some procrastination is a problem, for the rest of us, it is just something to be careful of indulging in during times of stress.

Here’s a quick checklist:

  1. Do you pay your bills on time?
  2. Do you file your tax return on time?
  3. Do you forget to cash gift certificates or cheques?
  4. Do you leave your Christmas shopping until Christmas Eve?

If you said yes to all four of the questions above, chances are you’re a procrastinator and procrastinating may have become a way of life for you.

For the rest of us (yes to two or less questions), employing good time management skills such as making lists, having a default diary and working consistently on tasks will get us past those overwhelming impulses to, ‘just sort these paperclips into piles of plain and plastic covered before I get started on…’