When we are thinking about the bold, the big and the exciting, it’s not unusual for a bit of procrastination to set in.
“Imagination only comes when you privilege the subconscious, when you make delay and procrastination work for you” – Hilary Mantel
That’s thought-provoking, isn’t it? And yet we often give ourselves a telling off for procrastinating or being lazy.
Procrastination can be our friend. Even in high pressured, fast-moving industries like sales.
Your brain has all the resources you need to sharpen up your awareness, to notice your thoughts and to question them for greater insight into your possibilities. It is also very good at swiftly and efficiently finding the information and experience that you have gained in your life thus far.
Procrastination, like all brain systems, has many different functions. One of its functions is to tell you that you need more information, more knowledge, insight or information. Procrastination could also be a sign that we are uncomfortable with the new, so we delay engagement. The key is to self-analyse and see why the procrastination is occurring.
Of course there is always the possibility that your procrastination is just laziness masquerading as procrastination. So one of your tasks ahead will be to know when and what you can do to harness your procrastination and give yourself the proverbial shove if you do discover that it’s just laziness.
Let’s consider that you may be thinking, ‘But I don’t know how to tell if my procrastination is just laziness’. My challenge back to you is that deep, deep, down you probably do know.
Cast your mind back to a time when you were thinking about planning and working on something and it was going well; a strategic annual plan or sales pitch for example, or a holiday, a change in career, a decision to re-train or even to start a new hobby.
When your plans were going well, what was happening?
What were you doing, saying, how were you behaving, where were you, who was there?
There was most likely quite a lot of activity; planning, making calls to new people, researching information, scoping out details. Can you identify exactly what it was?
Do you know why it was going well? Sometimes we know why something is going well and sometimes we don’t. If we can’t immediately identify why something is going well then we need to take a closer look at the situation and consider the elements of what was going on.
What was going well? E.g. were you hitting your sales targets, following up leads, seeking out the right people?
It probably went well because you had all the information you needed and a good idea of what success would look like when it had been achieved.
Now think about a time when the planning and actioning was going less well and you appeared to be procrastinating.
Let’s look at what might have gone wrong/be hindering you.
Was the task (the thing you were trying to get your thoughts around) too big for you to manage without breaking it down? If it was too big, e.g. running a new company, being fit enough to run a marathon or changing your career, your first step towards this goal may not be so obvious.
Do you need more information?
If you envisage the odd gap in your current skills (and you will, that’s perfectly normal), note it down on a training needs list.
Remember that if you have been procrastinating it has been the brain’s way of telling you that you didn’t have enough information to move forwards and make a decision or good judgement. In other words the brain is saying ‘I need more data’ to make sense of something and act on it.
Through recognising procrastination for what it really is, you will be driven to gain more information and develop your muscle of potential.
By Kate Tojeiro, Executive Coach, facilitator to senior executives and author of new book: The Art of Possible, new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action. She is also the founder of leadership development firm, X fusion and has built an impressive list of FTSE 100 and Fortune 500 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. She is a regular fixture on BBC radio and a voice in the media. She is also the author of The Art of Possible, new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action.