I always thought procrastination was a byword for lazy until I met a neuroscientist who gave me a startling and very different take on it.
Our brains have all the resources we need to sharpen up our awareness, to notice thoughts and to question them for greater insight into what is possible, which takes us forward to what’s next. It is also exceptional at swiftly telling us all the reasons why something will be hard or not for us, and so on and so forth. When we ‘procrastinate’ it is because something new, different or likely hard (for us) is on the horizon. Something that we may have told ourselves is impossible. It may even be something that we’re very excited about but for some reason we are dawdling and finding every distraction and interruption fascinating.
Procrastination is the brain’s way of saying ‘ I need more information’ and developing your ability to get comfortable with discomfort will enable you to make procrastination your friend. It is a crucial skill to master, to set yourself the perfect foundation to achieve your potential. Consciously breaking out of your comfort zone is achieved by creating the new habit of ‘doing something new’, or seeking new information everyday. When we explore something new and different, we will develop new pathways in our brain and also new neuronal (brain) cells. It will give you new information and knowledge, which in turn will put a different light on what you are procrastinating about, and you can make a decision to act or move forward.
Do you feel like procrastination and delay has set in?
● Find some more information, do some research, talk to someone who has more experience than you or even someone that hasn’t for a different perspective.
● Do something new, go somewhere new, read a paper or newsfeed that you wouldn’t ordinarily.
● Take a first step, a small action that you can take right now.
● Get comfortable with discomfort – take a stance that you wouldn’t ordinarily.
Think about a project or activity that was going well and no procrastination had set in.
● What were you doing? What was happening?
● Who was there?
● How much data/information did you have, and where did it come from?
● What was going well, i.e. were you hitting deadlines, seeking out the right people. Write it all down and then apply to your current scenario – is anything missing?
Remember that procrastination is the brain’s way of telling you that you need more information to move forwards. In other words the brain is saying ‘I need more data’ to make sense of something and act upon it. Through recognizing procrastination for what it really is, you will be driven to gain more information and develop your muscle of potential. Of course there is always the possibility that your procrastination is just laziness masquerading as procrastination. Do some research, make a phone-call, find a different angle – then my challenge back to you is that deep, deep down, you probably do know!
Reaching your potential is about being in a constant state of discomfort. Make procrastination your friend and take a step, even if it is tiny. When we realize and see glimpses of what might be possible through discipline, action and embracing the new, taking procrastination as a signpost to seeking out more, it is a very exciting place to be. Enjoy and remember; everything was impossible until someone made it possible. That someone might just be you!
Kate Tojeiro is a leading Executive Coach and author of The Art of Possible, new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action, out now. Tojeiro is the founder of leadership development firm, X fusion and has built an impressive list of FTSE 100 and Fortune 100 clients over the last 15 years. She has formed a reputation for developing some of the world’s most successful leaders, as well as the next generation of rising stars. Tojeiro is a regular fixture on BBC radio and a voice in the media.