As someone who wrote a book, I know a little bit about procrastination. Writers will famously clean their entire house, organize their closet, and vacuum their car, all in an effort to avoid sitting down to do the one thing they know they need to.
Procrastination is a vicious cycle, and it’s a behavior that affects almost every salesperson. After all, who wants to sit down and make calls for three hours when you can check ESPN.com or have fun with your coworkers? But that wasted time isn’t going to get you where you want to be. If you use your work hours more productively, you’ll thank yourself when you see your commission check.
So, we did some research on procrastination and came up with a few techniques to help you avoid it. Here are seven ways you can finally stop procrastinating and get stuff done:
1. Pay attention to it
Procrastination is like any other behavior – you can only change it if you pay attention to when and why it’s happening. If you notice yourself starting to procrastinate, then you can do something about it by refocusing on the things you need to get done. Similarly, if you can identify why you seem to procrastinate instead of doing specific tasks, you can prioritize those tasks so they don’t trigger your behavior. Put simply: to avoid procrastination, you need to understand yourself better.
2. Eliminate distractions
As I’m writing this article, I have eight different tabs open on my browser, and each of them is doing their part to distract me. Distractions are endless, so you have to actively eliminate them when you want to get something done. Close out all the other browser windows, put your smartphone away in a desk drawer (unless you’re actually using it to close deals), and make sure your coworkers understand that you’re going to focus on work instead of play today. If you eliminate all distractions, you’re setting yourself up to get things done.
3. Write down the things you want to get done
If you have a list of things you need to do to hit your goals, you will spend more time doing those things. Just as importantly, you spend less time figuring out what to do next, or using your lack of a plan as an excuse not to do anything. You might actually be surprised at how much you can get done and how quickly by using an organized list. This is especially true if you focus and work right through it. You can make this list daily, weekly, or monthly – whatever works best for you. Just make sure you have enough on it to keep yourself busy, otherwise you’ll find time to waste.
4. Do the difficult things first
Everyone has tasks they dread, whether they’re ongoing or just one-time occurrences. And it’s usually this dread that’s responsible for at least some of our procrastinating. The solution is to get these tasks out of the way so you can focus on things that come easier to you. Just make sure that you save your energy for things that move the needle, since in sales not all tasks are created equal.
5. Work in time blocks
Highly productive people like Elon Musk and Bill Gates organize their day through time-blocking. Time-blocking means working in pre-planned spurts to avoid distractions, downtime, and procrastination. While these business titans probably block out their entire day, you don’t need to – and probably can’t – do the same. Instead, just apply the distraction-free time block to your process. Try working in 15 or 30 minute increments during which time you’re only allowed to focus on one task at a time, and give yourself a break in between blocks. Maybe you want to do 30 minute cold-call sprints, or have an hour dedicated strictly to follow-up with prospects you’ve pitched. Whatever you choose, the goal is to devote time only to the task you want to get done.
6. Reward yourself
Your brain has a built-in reward system, which is why you’re probably thinking about that brownie sitting in the break room right now. You can train yourself through a process known as operant conditioning by tying rewards to the behavior you’re looking to reinforce. So if you’re having a hard time getting all of your necessary prospecting done, you can give yourself a positive reward (brownie) every time you manage to prospect for two hours straight.
7. Constantly keep your goal in mind
An offshoot of the reward system; if you’re trying to avoid procrastinating, you should always keep your goal in mind. But this doesn’t necessarily mean the sales goal that management set for you – that’s usually not enough. Why do you want to close a lot of deals? Is it because you want to make a lot of money? If so, what will you do with all that money? That answer is what you should be visualizing. Maybe it’s more about career advancement. Do you want to be a Vice President of Sales for a large software company someday? That’s what you should visualize as you work. Just make sure you don’t spend too much time daydreaming and not enough time doing, otherwise you might have to reread this article again.