Do You have Projects You Procrastinate On?

img_1011Have you ever found yourself working happily on the project that you are most excited about only to have a voice in your head reminding you of that one job you put off for way too long?  Those projects you procrastinate on consistently? That one job that you set on the bench in the corner of your shop and feel it staring at you throughout the day?  In your mind you know that you need to just put down what you are doing and get it done so you can get back to what you love.  But as the days, weeks, or maybe even months continue to cycle by, you make an honest attempt to convince yourself that you will do it “tomorrow.”

 This is procrastination, resistance, or simply lying to yourself.  We all do this from time to time, but for some of us this can become a chronic disease among the best of craftsman.  We work so hard to improve our skills and talents, that we tend to put off the types of work that don’t add value to our skill set.  In an attempt to be good stewards in our business and remain financially responsible, we take these jobs because of our lack of confidence in our true passion.  We tend to look at these jobs as a necessary evil because it must be a sin to turn down work.  So we end up taking the project on, knowing in our minds that we don’t want to do them and in turn putting them off to the point that the customer is upset.  And we ourselves are upset for having to do them.

As craftsman, we are blessed to have the freedom of working for ourselves and being the sole person who decides what it is we should be working on at any given moment.  The word “freedom” here can be somewhat incorrect at times to some of us.
In this blog post I will help you to identify the projects that will lure procrastination into your workplace and show you how I work to manage these.  The biggest thing to remember here is that if you are finding yourself stuck with endless deadlines for projects that sap energy from the craftsmanship you love, then you are the problem… the good news is that you are the solution.

Identify the “Energy Killers” in your To Do List

The first step in resolving this issue for me was to sit down and decide what my focus looked like.  With this I mean I had to sit down and be honest with myself and analyze my business goals and decide on what jobs helped me to get to where I wanted to go.  I put a lot of thought into what my craftsmanship was calling me to do and what jobs answered that call.
This can be hard for many, especially starting out.  Many of us starting out did not have a clear picture of where exactly we were trying to go with this.  But, as hard as it is, spend some time visualizing what your craftsmanship is calling you to do and then look at the jobs you’re doing and see if they align with that vision.
Once I could clearly see what I wanted and the goals I had for myself, now I could see what jobs added to those goals and what jobs didn’t.  The jobs and type of work that did not align with my goals, were the type of jobs that I most commonly procrastinated on.  These were the jobs that I would usually put on the back burner until a few calls from the customer and then finally do them unhappily.  They would take me away from what I wanted to work on and since I had put them off for so long I would usually give the customer a big discount or not charge them at all just to keep them happy.  So not only was I not excited about doing the job, but now I wasn’t making any money either… not a good business practice at all.

Don’t Take Them in the First Place

Once you can clearly see what these jobs look like, my top suggestion is to not take the job in the first place.  This will be hard for many, as it was for me.  Saying no to a customer, especially a great customer, is one of the hardest things any business owner has to do.  But it is the best possible answer that you can give if the job they are bringing you falls into the category of an Energy Killer for you.
One of our main calls in business is to serve our customers well.  Now that you have the knowledge from this article you have the ability to identify the jobs that are on your “do not take” list.  If a customer, even a great customer, brings you a job on this list and you don’t tell them no, then you are not serving that customer well.  We have already affirmed that the job will be put off and put off and then when you finally do it you will have cost yourself money and cost the customer time waiting… plus you will have put a strain on the relationship.  Its better to refuse the work kindly and refer them to someone else.  The customer may be disappointed but you will know that you are serving them well by saying no.

Craft the Art of Kindly Saying No

At first this will be extremely difficult and you will receive a lot of push back from your patrons.  The best thing is to stay kindly stern in not accepting the work.  The best thing I have found to help with this is to have answers to common responses when you do say no.
Most people just want there “whatever” fixed and they are not worried about your craftsmanship nor your calling.  If your calling and your craftsmanship is repair then this still applies.  For instance, if you repair boots and saddles then you have been asked at some point in time to repair a leather seat in an automobile, or a baseball glove, or a purse made of plastic (but the handle is leather).  No matter what your specific niche is in this industry, the general customer assumes if you work with leather then it’s all the same.  For this reason, it is our responsibility to educate and serve the customer well by having quality reasons as to why we can’t do a certain thing.
Customers are not trying to undermine your success they just don’t understand what your goals are in your business. But the good thing is now you do, so define those goals and focus so that you can confidently reply to push back when you turn down jobs that you know will not allow you to serve the customer well.

If you Have to… Know What They Look Like

No matter how hard we try, we will from time to time get sucked into the very jobs that we decided are off limits for us.  This happens to us all.  When this does happen to you, be sure and have some way of tagging these jobs as such. Be tactical in this process and know that you have just allowed an enemy into the gates and you must identify him and deal with him accordingly.
Although I work very hard to insure that my to do list doesn’t contain anything that doesn’t align with my vision, I will still occasionally weaken under pressure and accept a job I shouldn’t.  When this happens to me, I make a deliberate effort to identify the mistakes I made leading to me accepting the job, identify the job as what it is… an Energy Killer job that I shouldn’t of taken, and then put it front and center of system.
In this step, I make myself aware of the job and want to make sure that I properly block out time to get it out of my system as quickly as possible.  Much like our bodies work to rid itself of a cold virus, I shift as much energy as needed to quickly and effectively isolate resources to process the job and complete it before the symptoms of procrastination take hold.  You are going to loose time either way, pay me now or pay me later.  Do it now, if not spend the waiting time having that job staring at you from across the shop and ruining your day.

How to Handle Energy Killers

Group all into a Hell Day

If you are just getting started with this, then you probably have many of these energy killers laying around your shop. You undoubtedly have customers calling frequently “just checking” on if they are finished yet… and you can probably feel the patience wearing thin on the other end of the line.  Are you tired of the way those phone calls leave you feeling?
Take an action step here and identify all the jobs like this in your shop right now.  Once you have them, decide on a time estimate to complete each one.  If there are enough, I suggest batching them into Hell Days.  Depending on how many there are, you can set one day a week aside as a Hell Day.  On a Hell Day, you will only focus on these jobs. Start in the morning and just go from one job to another as you complete them.  DO NOT MULTITASK HERE, do only one job at a time.  Multitasking is actually less efficient than one at a time.  If you multitask here you will get to the end of the day with a bunch of these started and none of them finished… and then the phone calls will continue.  I would rather you have one job finished than a bunch started… customers don’t care about “started” they care about “finished.”
Continue doing this once a week until all the little Energy Killers are out of your shop.  This is ground zero, a clean slate.  I know this first option is a little hardcore for some, but I am trying to clear the battlefield of all undesirables first so that we can start saying “no” with confidence when more come through the door.

Sprinkle the Week if that Works Better

If the first option is too severe for your shop, then I suggest a lighter version which is to block in a Mini Hell Block into your day once or twice a week.  This can make the time to ground zero longer depending on how many of these jobs you have accepted, but it is still effective.  The same rules as above apply on a Mini Hell Block.  The same goal of clearing the battlefield applies here.

Start for 15 min… As much as it Sucks, JUST START FOR 15 MINUTES

The biggest focus here is to clear the books of all Energy Killers.  These are difficult jobs to finish mainly because they are extremely hard to start.  You look at these jobs and immediately you feel frustrated and have zero energy to dive in and attack them.  I completely understand this feeling.
My rule for all jobs that I don’t want to do is very simple but it works everytime.  When I have one scheduled I tell myself that I am going to start for 15 minutes.  That’s it.  I just tell myself that I am going to commit to starting for just 15 minutes.  You can even set a timer.  If the job isn’t going well and the timer goes off, just put it down and go on to something else.  But you will have to come back to it tomorrow for 15 minutes.
Most of the time you will make so much progress on the project that when the timer goes off you are almost done so you will just finish it.  Inertia is the hardest thing to break when it comes to procrastination.  We just have to start and usually that is the hardest part.

Conclusion

None of this is easy and we all have to deal with this in our businesses.  If you are plagued by deadlines and customers calling wanting their stuff, remember you made the decision to tell them you would do it.  Take an inventory on those jobs that are causing the issue for you and you will discover that the reason they are a problem for you is because they don’t align with your vision and goals for your craftsmanship.
Take an inventory of these job types and decide if they are truly adding value to your business and allowing you to serve your customers well.  If they aren’t then its probably time for you to cut them from your services offered and focus on what your craftsmanship is calling you to do because those are the jobs you enjoy spending time on.
What are some of the jobs that you found on your list of Energy Killers?  I would love to hear about them in an email and how you battle getting to ground zero.  For more information and content like this, be sure and sign up for our newsletter.

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