+44 (0) 7947484866


Delays Expected

Until this week, the best thing I’d read about procrastination was “The Procrastination Equation” by Piers Steel.  It’s evidence-based, and pretty good about the “How To” in overcoming procrastination. The best thing about it, is that it’s not preachy. If you check out any articles on the internet, most of them will tell you that you procrastinate because you’re lazy, and if you just got off your arse, well, that will fix your procrastinating. The protestant work ethic frowns deeply at procrastinators. There’s a special circle of Hell reserved for us, where we’re always waiting for the right moment, but it never comes.

This week I read this article, though (by Eric Jaffe). I thought it really got to the heart of procrastination, and didn’t need 215 pages plus notes to get there. There are some top quotes in there:

“It really has nothing to do with time management. To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”

“The chronic procrastinator, the person who does this as a lifestyle, would rather have other people think that they lack effort, rather than ability”

“…procrastinators comfort themselves in the present with the false belief that they’ll be more emotionally equipped to handle a task in the future. The future self becomes the beast of burden for procrastination”

These all resonated with me, particularly that last one about the future self. Honestly, when I get hold of that future self guy, I’m going to tell him what I think about him.

When I coach people who procrastinate, the first thing I do is to find a link to their deeper values and re-frame it so that it becomes important at a personal level. Very often, people will baulk at doing something that is on their To Do List, put there by someone else. So really, they have an Ought To Do List. Words like “Should”, “Ought” and “Must” are modal verbs, often issued from a disembodied voice, nagging us to do something. We meet this voice with resistance, passive aggression and failure to act.

Many team leaders and bosses will have encountered this at work. Subordinates just won’t do what they’re asked to do, and there doesn’t seem to be a good reason. I think it’s because the task you’ve given them has no worth, to them. It doesn’t line up with their values, and until it does, it gets shoved down the list. So you have a choice, you can show them a carrot, or a stick, tell them to JFDI, or find out what really motivates them, and connect the task to that. In short it’s a problem of motivation, rather than time management. Or if you can’t be bothered with that, give it to someone who gives a damn.

One other thing. That shadowy figure of authority, can be anyone, though. If you’ve ever had “Tidy Bedroom”or “Clean Fridge” on your To Do List for more than a month, it’s probably an “Ought to Do” coming from a parent, echoing back through the years, not you!

So you’re there, waiting for the right moment, like you’re in a Samuel Beckett play. Inspiration will visit you, one day. Until it does, find something worthwhile in the task, take a small step in that direction, get some momentum, and keep going.

I’m one of the pioneer service providers for Google Helpouts, giving 30 minute coaching sessions to walk up clients.


Google Helpouts


This is the logo for Google’s new video-based service. He’s waving, not drowning.

Being a Helpouts dude has  been a combination of great satisfaction and niggling frustration.

 “I make sure they come away with at least one practical step they can take to solve their issue”

On the plus side,  it’s been brilliant with the guys that made the time to navigate the new service. Establishing rapport over a video link isn’t too difficult, even though the clients are from all over the world. I’ve learnt to be even crisper than I normally am, and I make sure people come away with at least one step they can take towards solving their time management problem. I like the discipline of the half hour slot, it really concentrates the mind. The trickiest part is figuring out if the customer wants to just hangout (it’s all based on Google Hangouts technology) and get a bit of free advice, or if it’s a really pressing problem that they need fixing NOW. If it’s one of those, I can’t over-complicate things. Diagnosis and cure have to be pretty rapid, especially if they don’t intend having a second session. We normally think of coaching as a process. Not as long as therapy, but usually more than one half hour slot.

The feedback has been embarrassingly (for a Brit) excellent, and I’m hoping to get repeat business as a result, which is the whole point of me doing this.

On the sucky side……

“My head space becomes like a hotel room. I have to remake it so the next guest believes they’re the first occupant.”

We have just finished the first week, and the sessions have all been free, just so we can all try it out and see how it works. But there have been about 50% no shows. I guess this is because there’s no cost for non-appearance, just my time. I’m now charging a nominal fee, and I hope that will make people show up. The worst part for me, though, is getting ready for the next client. I’m half expecting them not to turn up, but being in a state of readiness if they do. My head space becomes like a hotel room. I have to remake it (in 60 seconds) so the next guest believes they’re the first occupant.

Speed coaching – for people who don’t have time. It could catch on.

Why not try it out? You need a computer, a video camera, some free software and 30 minutes