Tag Archives: procrastination

Feel the fear and do it anyway

By Elisabeth Goodman

Last night I heard Sheri Kershaw & Band at the Royston Folk Club – our favourite twice-monthly music venue.  She introduced her first song ‘Colours of Life‘ with the observation that we will all suffer at some time in our lives, and the suggestion that we embrace rather than resist this experience, as it is what adds colour to our lives.

One of the reasons that I write these blogs is the opportunity this gives me to share the insights that experiences like hearing someone like Sheri gives me.  Combine this with a Harvard Business review blog by Peter Bregman ‘The unexpected antidote to procrastination‘ that I spotted in my twitter feed earlier in the day, and some magic happened that I wanted to share!

Not being afraid to fall

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

Bregman writes of his experience of watching surfers, who dare to ride the waves in search of that epic experience, with the full knowledge that they will always end by falling.  Some fall gracefully, others resist it for as long as they can.  But inevitably, they do fall.  He suggests that the reason we put off doing a lot of difficult things in work or in life, put off taking risks even if what we might achieve might be epic or wonderful, is the fear of what might happen, of failing, of falling, of being hurt.

However, if, like Bregman, like Sheri Kershaw, we accept that the intensity of what we might feel, of what we might suffer, is an integral part of life’s rich tapestry, and of what we can achieve and succeed at, then it’s going to be about feeling the pain, and doing it anyway.

The link to engagement, empowerment and change

This brings me to why I’m writing about music and surfing in a business blog, and why I do the work that I do!  I had the pleasure to experience a one-day course on coaching, organised by the Cambridge Network‘s Learning Collaboration, and led by Sue Blow from Management Learning & Coaching.

Listening to Sue and hearing about her approach as a coach reminded me that my work with teams is all about giving the individuals within the team the time, environment and skills to deal with the pain that they have been experiencing.  As a result, the members of the team can become more engaged with their organisation’s goals, and also feel more empowered to do something about the challenges that they are facing.

I was talking with David Bance and John Moore earlier in the week, in our nascent Melbourn Business Association Special Interest Group for Operational Excellence. We were comparing experiences of how empowered people had been to raise suggestions for improvement as a result of participating in Total Quality Management, or Lean and Six Sigma initiatives.  The best outcome was that it gave them the permission, the courage, the skills, the data and reasoning to dare to change situations where they had previously been feeling the pain.  Of course, a successful outcome is also dependent on the management and organisational support to make the resultant changes.

The fear and the pain can be large or small

I definitely do not wish to minimise or trivialise the fear, pain or suffering that people might experience in their working or home lives, and the courage and the risks that they take to overcome them.  I recognise that these can be very great and some of the situations that I come across can seem relatively small.

For example I also recently attended an excellent seminar by Janet Burton, of The Training Manager, where we explored how to develop, prepare for and deliver  presentations.  Even these kinds of situations can feel challenging and require effective mental preparation, a good stretch and taking a deep breath before beginning!

I’m also a trustee of the Red Balloon Learner Centre in Cambridge, and admire the courage of the students who come in to tackle their personal challenges of recovering from bullying and other traumas that they’ve experienced, so that they can come back to learning again.

The main thing is, as Sheri Kershaw and Peter Bregman suggest, to embrace these experiences and to also remember that there are people out there who will help you if we can.


  1. Elisabeth Goodman is Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, enhancing team effectiveness through process improvement, knowledge management, change management and MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator)
  2. Follow the links to find out about other ways in which Elisabeth Goodmanand RiverRhee Consulting can help your team to work more effectively for greater productivity and improved team morale.

Tackling procrastination – making “mañana” today

Why am I writing about procrastination?

This is a topic that lots of people will have written about, and it’s not quite in my usual line of work but…

On a fairly regular basis, I help someone close to me, who has asked not to be named, with her paperwork.  I will call her Sue.  It’s the bane of her life and piles up days and weeks at a time (we usually tackle it before a month is up!).  It’s a perpetual worry to her.  She knows she wants to get it sorted, but somehow can’t get around to doing it.

Sometimes Sue surprises both of us, and gets a lot of the paperwork done before I visit.  Other times we tackle it together and get through it in just 20-30 minutes and are then left saying “it wasn’t that bad after all”.

It’s not the only task that Sue finds hard to get on with, but she’s developed tactics for tackling some of them and I thought there might be some clues there to help her.  So I’ve decided to put my mind to the subject, hence my revisiting of a wonderful chapter entitled “Mañana” in the Mind Gym book “Give me Time”1, and writing about it in this blog2.

Procrastination is all about underlying beliefs

The essence of the Mind Gym’s approach is based on reprogramming our underlying beliefs – what it is that we are telling ourselves, often unconsciously, that is getting in the way of getting things done.  The chapter itemises the different types of beliefs, then helps us to ‘soften them’ and add a ‘get out clause’ so that they no longer stop us doing things.  But apparently this approach takes practice, so the authors also give us some quick fixes to be getting on with.

Here is a summary of the various misleading self-beliefs, using my own framework of ‘Can’t and won’t’.  I’ve added a third main category of ‘I don’t have time’, which although not in the “Mañana” chapter, is a theme of the book as a whole!

I haven’t discovered yet which of these beliefs is at the root of Sue’s procrastination with her paperwork but if she’s willing I’m looking forward to having an interesting conversation with her to find out.

Some quick fixes for procrastination

The authors very helpfully give us 10 short-term alternatives to use whilst we are practicing to adjust our self-beliefs.  I’ve used a number of these myself but also have a couple of others, which I’ve added to make 12.

  1. Adjust the level of challenge -so it’s stimulating enough without being de-motivating.
  2. Choose a reward to fit the challenge – a way to celebrate getting the wretched task done!
  3. Commit to a penalty or forfeit – if you don’t get the task done then pay up to your favourite charity!
  4. Double your estimate e.g. if it might take twice as long as you thought you had better get started!
  5. Dive in – do the hard part first – after that it’ll be easy
  6. Do something to change your mood or your view of things – stand-up, get a cup of tea or go for a walk around the garden (but don’t take too long about it!)
  7. Tap into positive peer influence – mix with people who get things done and perhaps it will rub off
  8. Tackle it in bite-size pieces – how do you eat an elephant (metaphorically speaking of course)?  A bite at a time.
  9. Break it down into short stretches of time
  10. Make a 5-minute start – and then see if that gives you the incentive to continue!
  11. Make a public commitment – which is what I did about writing this blog.  I also use this approach at the end of my training courses / workshops when people tell each other what they will do, how, by when.
  12. Ask a friend or work buddy to give you moral support – which is what I do with Sue, and she also helps other friends in this way

When is it OK to procrastinate?

I came across a variation of this question in my copy of a new book “ And the next question is…” personally autographed by one of the authors, Rachel Alexander3.

I was wondering what this question was about when Sheila Thomas (@Speranda), from TWI, answered my tweet request for issues and solutions around procrastination.  Her example was: “we do postponed things in the first week following the monthly Weldasearch database update as getting enough in for that has priority.  [Procrastination is] planned in that we always do this, although [the] specific tasks put off [are] not always predictable.”

I realised then that we can and should apply this principle at work by regularly reviewing and reprioritising what we do, but in a planned way so that the reprioritised items, if they are important, still have an allocated time.

We should of course also give ourselves scope to do this at home, for example when a friend drops in unexpectedly, or to catch those last warm sunny days in our English Indian summer.  However it’s a grey day today, so I’m off to the gym just after I get this finished and posted!

Concluding thoughts

I hope you’ve found reading this as helpful as I’ve found writing it.  If I’ve missed your particular procrastination issues, causes or any solutions you’ve found to address them – don’t delay, post a comment against this blog so we can share these extra insights with others!


1. They Mind Gym.  Give me time.  Time Warner Books, 2006.  ISBN 0 316 72992 2

2.  I can have my own issues with procrastination.  Writing this blog has got me re-reading the chapter, and just to make doubly certain that I would both read the chapter and write the blog I put out a note via LinkedIn and Twitter saying that I would be writing the blog in September and inviting input – a public commitment which resulted in some humorous responses: “I’ll think about it…;o)” (thanks Richard!), but also an insightful work-related approach to procrastination from Sheila Thomas at TWI which I’ve shared at the end of the blog.

3. Rachel A. Alexander and Julia M.L. Russell. And the next question is… powerful questions for sticky moments. MX Publishing, 2012 ISBN 9781780922881.  The question is number 342 in there list of 364 questions: “When would be the best time to procrastinate about this?”