Why we (…I) procrastinate? Instant gratification …can be a good thing

photo credit: https://www.splitshire.com/focus/

First posted on my Medium.com account.

I am doing good, business wise. Not “here in my garage” good, but the I am happy where my business is going and that my effort is bearing some fruit, and don’t need to brag about it good.

Doing good also means constantly working on it. Improving, checking your stats, competition and making sure that you don’t fall between the cracks of time by being too complacent.

Setting goals that will keep you focused and will give your customers something more than your competitors offer. Goals. Not shit to do today or this week, but thinking beyond this month or year. What few things should I invest my energy into, that will give my (and future) customers what they need? My goals stem from this thinking.

I’m doing good so far. I read clever books and gave it a good thought, spent good amount of time thinking about my goals. Hell, I even broke those big goals into smaller tasks that I can chip away at, on a weekly or daily level.

Business planning heaven. All by the book, so far, so good.

I even use Google Calendar to put in slots for these smaller tasks that will, over time, deliver the long term goals. Fuck, I feel very good, well done man:

The pink ones are the important tasks, that will improve my business over time — my own goals. Other ones are standard work for clients. See the problem already? No? There’s a strange grouping of the important tasks towards end of this week. Can you guess why?

Yep, because I keep doing other stuff and pushing these back. Why? And here, my friend, is the answer:

Instant gratification

“ The term instant gratification is often used to label the satisfactions gained by more impulsive behaviors: choosing now over tomorrow.” — wikipedia

I am choosing now over tomorrow. I am choosing doing things that bring money today over things that might bring money tomorrow. I am choosing pressing deadlines from my clients over my own, less pressing deadlines.

It’s easier to move a deadline I set to myself: Do this and that this week. There’s no accountability, only to myself. If I don’t do it, I can do it next week, the only one I answer to is myself, my conscience. It’s not a big deal, it’s comfortable to just say: “What the heck, no one is going to shout down my neck for this.”

But if I don’t do a task that a client is expecting — I have to answer to them. That’s less comfortable. There’s dissapointment (or avoidance of). There’s a certain SLA /promise I need to stick to in order to keep the client happy.

That’s how the standard thinking goes at least. The shallow, first thought. Now stop and think about it for a longer moment:

  • What are you really delaying if you don’t work on your own goals?
  • What are you really gaining, if you work on only your clients goals?
  • Whose goals are more important in the long term?
  • Would your future self, the one you imagine having more time and money from achieving the goals you set, shout down your neck for not working on the tasks?
  • Achieving which / whose goals are going to build a better future for yourself?

You know the answer. I do. But still, I work on my clients goals first. Of course, you can’t just work on your goals and leave clients hanging. They won’t come back and the damage will be worse than delaying your own goals.

So what’s the trick? Solution?

Build in some instant gratification into your own goals.

You will get a good feeling from ticking off that goal you set yourself. But that might not be as strong and instant as getting paid for finishing your clients project.

You need to build in some more, stronger instant reward into your goals. Ask yourself:

  • What do I need right now? (i.e. I need a new gadget. I need to go hiking. I need a good fuck. I need a new movie)
  • Tie what you need to your goals / tasks. The ones that will grow your business in a few months. Tell yourself “If I do this, I will buy that gadget. But only if I do this.”
  • Then go and do it, then go and reward yourself.

Bring some of the future benefit of each goal into today‘s task.

Your long term business goals are probably based on growth of some kind- double my revenue, outsource to gain more time but keep the revenue, grow profitability, sell more, work less.

Now think about how can you bring that future benefit into today?

  • what would it mean if you doubled your revenue? You would probably be able to afford something— link that to today’s task — afford something more after you complete it. Reward yourself. Maybe not a new car, but there’s a smaller thing you need, for sure.
  • what would it mean if you achieved your goal of gaining more free time? You’d probably go and spend it on something meaningful. Bring that, even if a smaller part, into today and link it to today’s goal. Would you spend more days in a week doing <fill in the fulfilling activity you wish you did more>? Then do some of it after you complete this task. Not the whole thing, but whatever you can afford to do now. Reward yourself.

See what the key is here?

Instant gratification can be used for your own good.

Reward yourself for achieving your own goals.

We get some form of reward for our work — if you have a job, or you freelance or you have a business — you create something that others are paying you for. That’s the world it is today.

What happens when you create something for yourself? Who pays you for that? If you don’t, who will?

Make sure you pay — reward yourself for achieving your own goals. No one else will.

Got any other handy advice to motivate yourself into working more on your own goals? Let me know — always happy to learn how to do more of the really important stuff :).

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