The Art of Procrastination

With a blog entitled “The Procrastination Pen” I suppose it is reasonable to expect that at some stage there would be something on procrastination.

To be honest the naming was something that came to light after several days of brain stretching. It was only fixed after I discovered that all my other great name ideas were already taken.

(This is fairly familiar, see my discoveries about the use of the term “Wreck of the Week”).

It was all going swimmingly until Amazon launched a product which is actually called a  “Procrastination Pen”. This consigns my little blog to low down in the Google search results.

Anyway enough of this – suffice to say that the title “Procrastination Pen” was in the search for a unique blog title rather than some manifesto of intent.

However it is not a title without aptness. Throughout my life I have struggled with procrastination. At times I would rather clean the toilet than embark on the task that I regard as the most important. During revision for the various exams I have undertaken in my life I have dusted, hoovered and tended the garden to avoid picking up a single book.

And so it was with great embrace that I greeted the book that is the subject of this post.

If like me you have symptoms of procrastination in your life I recommend that you buy this before any other book on the subject.

Procrastination 1

Bookfinder

My copy is now very precious to me.

John turns out to have been a lifelong procrastinator of the advanced order. This puts him in a uniquely sympathetic position to other sufferers. He is the most positive person I have encountered when it comes to the treatment of procrastination.

If you want a flavour for the author’s style then visit his website here.

He raises the idea of akrasia (apparently originally from Aristotle). This describes why people will do anything other than the thing they are supposed to be doing.

He proposes that procrastinators far from being inefficient wastrels actually get a great deal of work done. However they get that work done whilst avoiding some other task.

Perversely they may be seen to be very hard-working and efficient as a result.

The major outcome of which is that being a procrastinator is quite positive and nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of.

Although he is perhaps the first to propose the term “structured procrastination” to cover this behaviour the first to write about it apparently was Robert Benchley in the Chicago Tribune in 1930. The article “How to Get Things Done” is now the subject of a blog posting.

Structured Procrastination

The benefits of structured procrastination (as opposed I suppose to doing absolutely nothing) is that it is feasible to get procrastination to work in your favour. A great deal of work can be accomplished whilst avoiding the task you really do not want to engage with.

The issue is that mentally (or physically if we can bring ourselves to be that organised) we have a list of tasks which we must accomplish.

Habitually a procrastinator will have the most important task glaring him or her in the face. He or she is quite prepared to exercise his or her self in the performance of tasks lower down that list to avoid that most important task.

The wrong thing to do when you have this mindset is to address the task directly. Worse still is to attempt to minimise the distracting tasks to focus fully on the main one. If you succeed then the only way to avoid the main task is to do something which is not constructive – watch the television, cut your toenails, pick your nose and so on.

One approach is to try to find another yet more important task and to mentally (or physically if it helps) add this task to the top of the list. Now you will be spending all of your efforts to avoid that task. Your previous most important task is now second on the list and is likely to receive attention to avoid the new most important task.

Alternatively, if no likely task presents itself, promote one of the less important tasks to be the most important one.

This means you have to fool yourself that this task is more important. As John points out we fool ourselves all the time anyway in the pursuit of procrastination so we’re already experts at this.

Perfectionist Moi?

Procrastinators are fantasists, unable to complete the task perfectly but nonetheless imagining that they are able to do so.

Finding themselves unable to complete a task to this imagined standard of perfection means the task does not get done.

That is unless the task has a deadline, in which case as the deadline passes guilt kicks in. The procrastinator attains a mad scramble to complete the task. In the process he or she gives his or herself permission to do a less than perfect job.

John states that we would be better using a task triage in this situation. Decide which tasks you can forget altogether, which you can forget until later, and which to start work on.

In the process decide whether a half-arsed job is sufficient or if a perfect job really is needed.

Lists

Surely the bane of any procrastinator and the subject of way too much time-management reading I’ve performed over the years.

Procrastinators keep lists – either mentally or, for the more disciplined, physically.

The lists are pretty pointless. The only reason they are created is to get the buzz from crossing things off the list. Hence the list grows with items that did not need to be on the list simply for the feedback of all those ticks.

Where lists do come into their own is when the procrastinator is faced with a task that he or she cannot face. Something so daunting that nominating some other task as the most important will surely fail.

Here the task needs salami slicing. Each component of the task listed out so that the procrastinator can approach it piecemeal.

The safest time to make such a list is just before sleep – that way you’re less inclined to be distracted.

Music

Motivational music is well worth having.

Personally I think that you can’t go far wrong with this:

You will have your own preferences.

Distractions

These are bread and butter for the procrastinator, email and web surfing for example. Avoiding these is not realistic. Set something that will interrupt you. At least you will stop emailing/surfing the web (or alternative distraction of choice) and do some work before the sun sets.

Desktop

A lot of procrastinators work by spreading papers across the desk. Do not resist this if it is you.

Putting papers into filing cabinets is an almost certain way of never dealing with those papers again. If you are not bound by a clear desk policy feel free to leave the papers exactly where they are when you stop working. That way you can instantly pick up where you left off.

Non-Procrastinators

Procrastinators drive such people mad. Non-Procrastinators are useful to have around. They will insist that you work in a non-procrastinating way. This can be very motivational (if hard on any relationship that you have with them).

Obsessively productive people may choose to do the tasks for you. Make sure that you contribute equally if so.

Positives

A surprisingly large number of tasks don’t need doing at all. By not working on them you gain time that non-procrastinators lose.

Some tasks find better qualified people to work on them and they also disappear from your mental (or physical) to do list.

There are many ways to spend time and many opinions about the best way to spend time. Spending time daydreaming may in the long run be more productive than writing that essay.

Procrastinators may ultimately find better ways to enjoy life.

Unpleasant News

Whilst John is positive throughout about the impact of procrastinators he does reference some material which is likely to bite a bit harder.

Procrastination: Ten Things to Know. (Read this if you’re a procrastinator in a really upbeat mood or a non-procrastinator who needs validation).

For those determined to beat their procrastination into submission John recommends this book:

Procrastination 2

Bookfinder

However as John concludes, procrastination is not the problem. You will only attempt drastic action against procrastination if you are unhappy.

It would be far better to work on the unhappiness rather than the procrastination.

 

 

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Failure

Throughout my life I have liked writing, but I have never understood writing.

Someone my age once said that she felt that during our time in the school system there had been some great social experiment in which the basic rules of punctuation and grammar were avoided as if we would ingrain them though some process of osmosis.

Certainly I can only remember being told to add a full stop when I needed to breathe and commas were just little breaks in between.

As for concepts like verbs and adjectives I remember a conversation about doing words at one stage but little else. So in many ways I am ill-prepared for a blog, a book or anything involving the written word.

So it is that when reading that this offends people http://theeditorsblog.net/2016/12/19/please-learn-the-rules/ I feel like a failure.

I considered that a person writing a blog should try to understand something about writing. The only method that I can conceive of is to read accounts written by other people who have tried it. To this end subscribing to blogs written by people who have been writing for some time seemed an obvious avenue.

It is surprising therefore how often these successful bloggers start to write about failure.

For example:

https://writetodone.com/10-ways-to-stop-feeling-like-a-failure-as-a-writer/

It seems that failure is a pain that can afflict those who genuinely know nothing and those who really should be feeling great about their success.

I read a great deal about counselling now. (I need to do this because I am a volunteer counsellor). Failure is something that will feature in this reading.

Attitudes to failure can be shaped by a person’s upbringing.  But no counselling literature I have encountered maintains that anyone is a failure. Hence when working with someone who perceives themselves to be a failure the first technique is encouragement.

Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Austrian psychiatrist

I studied Adlerian Counselling and I think that some quotes from Alfred Adler may be relevant here:

“No experience is in itself a cause of success or failure. … We are not determined by our experiences but are self-determined by the meaning that we give to them”.

“No one need remain inescapably bound by the limitations of their brains all their life”

“We will always find in all human beings this dominant theme running through their lives – the struggle to rise from an inferior position to a superior position, from defeat to victory”

Failure 2
Photo by Alex Smith from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/naked-baby-sitting-813616/

It seems however that fear of failure is not constant throughout a person’s life. For example children learn to walk and in the process fall over many times. However this is not seen as a barrier to learning to walk.

Similarly on the way to becoming adept at speech children make mistakes and this causes them no pain. I remember that my Nephew said ominge for a while on the way to saying orange.

There is no doubt many paths from a child that embraces failure to an adult that has to get it right first time.

Failure 3

High standards (either from parents or schools or some combination) may have had a role to play.

“Over-parenting” may teach a child that they are incapable.

Failure 4

The simple act of labelling a person as a failure becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; worse still if the label is derogatory.

For this reason I dislike the term “loser”. A label such as “loser” is easy to apply but is going to discourage the person it is applied to.

A person is not a failure. They can fail to perform a specific task but that does not make them intrinsically a failure.

In fact each failure is a chance to learn and to apply the learning when you try again.

Failure 5
Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

Many enlightened businesses now embrace failure as a fact of life.

Some regard failure as a pathway to success; if you haven’t succeeded yet then you haven’t failed enough.

Fear of failure can lead to undesirable side effects such as perfectionism and procrastination.

Fear of failure can lead to avoidant behaviour. Whilst avoiding the problem alleviates the fear it also removes any chance at having the experience. This ultimately means that you have no chance to succeed.

Failure 6
Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

The only way to develop as a writer is to fail. I have no doubt that in some years I will look back on the items I blogged today and wonder at how inelegant they were.
But unless I keep on trying I will never get the chance to get to a better place with my writing.
The lessons of a child are the ones we need to recapture; it’s ok to fall over when you’re trying to walk. Later you can get up and have another try.

 

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https://www.adler.edu/page/about/history/about-alfred-adler
https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/06/23/why-we-all-have-fear-of-failure/
http://www.selfgrowth.com/articles/overcome_fear_of_failure_be_aware_and_take_action
https://amotherfarfromhome.com/how-to-erase-your-childs-fear-of-messing-up/
http://thebrainflux.com/how-fear-of-failure-affects-learning/
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/sep/05/parenting-tomorrow-why-should-let-children-fail
http://opencommons.uconn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1074&context=srhonors_theses
https://www.empoweringparents.com/article/loser-how-labels-stick-to-your-child-and-affect-behavior/
https://willyac.wordpress.com/everyday-articles/dont-fear-failure/
https://www.arrkgroup.com/thought-leadership/fail-fast-fail-often-explained/
https://webstandardssherpa.com/reviews/breaking-the-perfectionism-procrastination-infinite-loop/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/overcoming-self-sabotage/201005/avoidance-anxiety-self-sabotage-how-running-away-can-bite-you

Happy Seed – Worry Seed

I’ve used this technique myself with clients. It is a good creative technique to use with people who worry excessively or are anxious. Sometimes it is good to use techniques other than talking (and listening) in the room. Visual techniques are helpful in that they display to the client where their current thinking style/behaviour is taking them. It also can help them to clearly see changes that they need to make.

Everyone in the world has two seeds. There is a happy seed and a worry seed. You can do what you like with either seed – there is no instruction book. However the way you behave towards these two seeds is not without consequences.

This exercise is to show what happens when you pay attention to one or other seed.

Draw a happy seed and a worry seed at the bottom of a large piece of paper.

Happy Seed 1

The client can pay attention to either seed. They must first nominate one as the happy seed and one as the worry seed. (Draw a label clearly at the base of the paper so that there is no doubt which one is which).

They can pay attention to either seed. Each seed needs feeding and watering so that it can grow.

If the client is prone to worry it is usually easier for them to pay attention to the worry seed. If a worry comes to mind have them draw a shoot from the worry seed. Have them attach a leaf to this shoot labelled with that worry.

Happy Seed 2

At this stage the worry seed is developing into a plant. The happy seed is still just a seed. The client has free rein to add shoots to either seed. Have them add more shoots with whatever comes to mind.

Their predominant thinking style will rise to the surface. Someone who worries draws more worries.

Happy Seed 3

Dependent upon how much the client has to bring up it might be that you will need a very large piece of paper for this. (Plain wallpaper for example is good).

As you watch what the client is doing you can see that they have a tendency to water and feed one particular plant dependent upon their thinking style.

Happy Seed 4

This can continue for as long as you have time designated to this. However a definite pattern will have emerged.

Happy Seed 5

Eventually the client will run out of things to add – or will have added as much as they can within the time you allotted for this activity. There will usually be an asymmetry between the two plants:

Happy Seed 6

At which point you can point out to them that in life there is only one pot of time. They can pay attention to anything that they like but only one thing at a time. If they pay attention to the worry seed – they care for it, water it and it will start to grow.

A first worry leaf develops. With further attention to the worry seed another leaf pops up. If they keep caring for the worry seed in time a tree of worries will fill the page.

Their life will be full of worries and there will be no space left for happy.

They can’t care for the worry seed and at the same time pay attention to the happy seed. With no attention to the happy seed they concentrate all their energy on worry.

The worry tree becomes so huge that it is overwhelming. By comparison the stunted happy tree is undeveloped. In fact the happy tree is completely overshadowed by the worry tree and is not going to grow properly.

Get them then to consider how life would be different if they spent at least some time on the happy seed.

Better still if they watered and cared for the happy seed at the expense of the worry seed. How much different would life be then.

The intention is for them to seek out the parts of their lives that are happy and to minimise the time they spend worrying.

Thanks to my counsellor Rachel http://www.elyhypnotherapy.com/ for suggesting this technique.

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The Apology

I can remember as a child being forced to apologise to people when I hadn’t any feelings of being sorry. In some cases I actually believed the other person was at fault.

I found that apologising has to come from within. Apologising when you do not mean it is empty and encourages feelings of revenge.

Research indicates that refusing to apologise is as beneficial as apologising. Refusing to apologise allows a person to feel more powerful and energised. The worst position is to sit on the fence and do nothing.

Some research shows that people who fail to apologise are happier than people who apologise.

In some circumstances apologising is damaging for the other person. For example if you reject someone with an apology this is more hurtful than plain rejection. The person is feeling both hurt and the need to forgive in the same moment. They need the time to process the hurt before considering forgiveness.

There are some benefits from choosing to apologise however. People prepared to apologise are viewed as more trustworthy. (Even where they apologise for things they cannot be responsible for – such as the weather).

Choosing to apologise may not be without consequences. These can range from embarrassment to admission of guilt. Admission of guilt can lead to other consequences: job loss, imprisonment, court cases and so on.

Every apology has to be considered. If you decide to apologise then at the very least you want your apology to be effective.

A recent counselling article indicates that apologies should contain the following elements:

  • Acknowledge the offense clearly – for example I did drive your car without your permission.
  • Explain it effectively – for example I waited until you went to work and took your keys from the dresser.
  • Restore the offended parties’ dignity – for example – it’s your car and I understand you will be mad that I used it.
  • Assure them they’re safe from a repeat offense. – I will not take your car again.
  • Express shame and humility – I feel very bad that I did this to you.
  • Make appropriate reparation – I will pay you for using the car and for the petrol.

Research indicates that apologies should offer assurances that the behaviour will not reoccur. They should contain sympathy for the victim. (An acceptance of responsibility coupled with a request for forgiveness).

The request for forgiveness may need to be withheld in some cases – when the victim needs time to process feelings and may not feel at all ready to forgive yet.

The timing of the apology is important. Apologising too soon may not have left the victim time to process feelings. Too late and the apology might appear to be insincere.

The key to a great apology lies in 6 key components:

  1. Expression of Regret I’m sorry I ate all the French fries
  2. Explanation of what went wrong I was hungry and ate them all
  3. Acknowledgement of responsibility It was entirely my fault
  4. Declaration of repentance I am really sorry
  5. Offer of repair I will buy you some more French fries
  6. Request for forgiveness. (However this is not applicable in every case – see text) please forgive me

These can be summarised as:

  • Tell the person how you feel I feel bad about what I have done
  • Admit the mistake and the impact of the mistake I ate the French fries and you went hungry
  • Repair the situation I’m going to buy you some more French fries

There are several examples of apologies that did not contain these key components. These have made the situation worse and/or made the victim(s) feel worse than prior to the apology.

A poor apology can lead to a desire for retribution by the victim. This could lead to a worse situation than if no apology had ever been offered.

The best apologies take into account the needs of the victim. This will require humility and empathy.


https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/02/how-to-apologize/470457/
https://theconversation.com/the-science-of-saying-sorry-73298
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-best-way-to-apologise-discovered-science-a6982966.html
https://news.osu.edu/news/2016/04/12/effective-apology/
https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200207/the-power-apology
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/good-thinking/201304/are-you-big-enough-apologize
http://www.hbs.edu/faculty/Publication%20Files/Brooks%20Dai%20Schweitzer%202013_d2f61dc9-ec1b-485d-a815-2cf25746de50.pdf
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/advantages-of-not-saying-you-are-sorry/
https://blog.frontiersin.org/2017/09/14/frontiers-in-psychology-sorry-apology-social-rejection/
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/people-who-never-apologize-are-probably-happier-than-you-12584567/
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_three_parts_of_an_effective_apology
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/making_peace_through_apology
https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_make_an_apology_work

 

Life Space Diagram

As a volunteer counsellor I am always on the lookout for techniques that may help my work with clients.

My supervisor suggested this technique.

I have used it with several clients. On each occasion I find out something new and/or interesting.

This technique enhances my awareness of the client. Frequently it enhances our relationship as well.

Discussing people (and tasks) and their relationship to the client can create insights. The life space diagram makes visible people and tasks in the client’s life.

It also teaches me a great deal about how they are thinking.

The process is as follows:

Encourage the client to draw a circle for their life – encourage them to make this as large as possible. Ensure that it uses as much of the paper as they are comfortable with (as there will likely be a lot to put in it).

Suggest the client put themselves somewhere in the circle. Where they put themselves might be important – it might not. (It is also a starting point for conversation.)

For example, many people seem to put themselves near to the centre of their own world. However I saw one client who put himself in the top left hand area of the circle.

It might be that this can be a discussion point – what made them choose there? Was there a reason?

Ask the client to put in anyone else who is important. The positioning is usually important – is their partner close to them in the circle? Is somebody else closer? What is the relationship like with those furthest away?

One client fenced himself in with people tight up against him as if he had no air to breathe. We discussed this and he did feel that he was responsible for everyone and everything. He also felt it was more than he could cope with.

Ask if there are other people. (This may include people who have died). Get them to include these extra people in the diagram. Observe where the client puts the new people. Is it close to them? What caused them to fail to include them in the first place?

Are there people that occur outside the circle? What is it about them that causes them to be outside the circle?

Review the diagram – how much space is there? Is life pretty full or pretty empty? How does the client feel about that? (This might be a starting point of future goals for example.)

Put in squares for work, hobbies and tasks – how does this look in comparison to the number of people? (In nearly-all life space diagrams I have seen these squares outnumber circles [people]). How does the client see these areas? Are there enough activities? Is there too much responsibility? How balanced is their life? Is there too much work/too little work?

Put in triangles for things that concern the client.

How many are here? Does the client have too many concerns? Are they weighed down by them? Is there enough challenge in their life? Are they bored?

Quite often aspects of the client that have not come up will appear after this activity. (Every time I have done this I have learned something beneficial).

Representing things in pictures makes the process more accessible to the client. They may never have considered their life in this way before.

It may increase their awareness of areas in which they would like to make changes.

diagram-2

 I hope that this is also a useful tool for you. Whether you are receiving counselling, performing counselling or curious about your life.

There is nothing to stop you completing a diagram for yourself. See if you learn something.

Restarting Your Life

This week I was sent an inspirational video.

It stood out because of the parallels between the way this method suggests you manage challenge, and counselling practices I have observed.

Sadly for me the whole thing falls down through its focus on people of greatest ability; I think this is a mistake.

These people are certainly the highest earners and therefore unsurprisingly the focus of an enterprise like Thrive Labs http://www.thrivelabs.co/ which Priya Parker is running.

Elitism over life-changing advice ensures that Priya’s business gets to pay the bills but the very brightest are only going to be a percentage in any population.

If we said for example only those with a PhD it turns out to be about 1 in 500 people (https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-percentage-of-the-worlds-population-who-hold-doctorate-degrees).

That would leave 499 out of every 500 people who are not benefiting from this technique.

For every Einstein there are hundreds that made sure he had roads to drive on, bread for his sandwiches, and cotton for his shirts.

This needlessly restricts the audience for such advice. Given this is very like a standard CBT technique which is designed to work for everyone.

When I saw this video I thought about the aspects of its message that involved challenge.

Important and creative parts of the counselling process involve challenge.

Counselling homework involves facing your true self and your fictions.

Challenge is key to making positive change.

Priya indicates self-challenge is critical in leading a life you will be happy to look back on in later years. Her strap line is “quit your life and reboot”.

The video had no associated transcript: you may want the edited highlights rather than the entire talk.

These are the highlights that stood out for me:

  • People hate their jobs. They apply themselves and work hard but they stay because they are afraid to leave.
  • People would like to make better life choices.
  • The anxieties of the “brightest” is a public problem.

Everyone has fears I wonder what those who are not thought of as the “brightest” are to do about them?

There are various methods to address these anxieties. These methods also attempt to identify need in the world and recruit people to address that need.

There are different levels of need in the world: whilst one man’s challenge is to resolve drought in sub-Saharan Africa, another man may content himself with fixing the neighbour’s car.

1. The Obituary Test

Imagine that your death is being announced. Write your own obituary.

(Presumably you are not allowed to use latitude here. For example I would probably start out “Phil was a bang up chap who everyone loved…”)

The aim is to drive out how you would like to have lived

(I’m guessing this does not allow for: “like Ozzy Osbourne”).

2. The Passion Comic Strip

A number of people believe that they have no passions. This method will help you to identify your passion.

Interview five to ten people who know you well. Ask them when it was that they saw you look most alive. (Think Wallace meets Wensleydale.)

(I wonder if all such moments would be suitable for sharing?)

Draw a comic strip:

The reason you use drawing here is that:

  1. Drawing utilises a different part of the brain to writing. (This seems to assume that you have the capacity to draw.)
  2. Images are more powerful than words. (In what way images are more powerful is not described.)
  3. Most people’s drawing skill is rubbish so you will not be able to take yourself too seriously once you have seen the resulting comic strip. (Again a valid counselling technique.)

3. Get Comfortable With Discomfort

This strikes me as like CBT in terms of challenge which indicates that almost anyone could participate in this activity.

Quitting life is scary hence you need to develop “discomfort muscles”.

(You will still feel the fear but you also need to be able to manage it).

  1. In a queue (say at a supermarket checkout) start singing – keep singing even when you can feel your heart pounding.
  2. Take yourself to dinner alone AND take no reading material. Take no phone. Do not make any excuses. Book it; turn up; eat a full dinner alone with nothing to distract you from your discomfort.
  3. The backward elevator test. Walk in to an elevator, face the back. Keep facing the back even as everyone in the elevator gets uncomfortable.(What prevents people dragging you off to certain institutions, thumping you or reporting you to law enforcement agencies is not detailed in this video.)

4. Give Yourself a Life Sentence

Critical questions:

  1. What do I value?
  2. What is my purpose?
  3. What do I want to be?

There are three parts to a life sentence:

  1. What are the qualities or values I want to bring with me?
  2. What is it that I actually do?
    (Given you’re on The Procrastination Pen this might be a valid question).
  3. To what end? (Why do you do this)?

This is regarded as the hardest of the methods but it is the most effective. It needs a large commitment of time. Generally with someone who knows you well.

Once completed this is useful as a filter – everything in life will take you closer or further away from your life sentence.

If it is part of the life sentence you do more of it. If it falls outside the life sentence you do less or stop doing it altogether.

5. Dwindling Cash Experiment

How do you know how much is enough money for you?

Not merely how much do you need to live but how much do you need to feel comfortable?

The test is to understand what it is like to live on different incomes by experiencing those incomes.

Sit down and calculate how much money you spend in a month. Take out this sum. Hold it in an envelope (say under the mattress)
.
(Given I work in security this sounds needlessly scary why not store it in the safe instead.)

Week 1 – take out 40% of the amount you withdrew; spend it on what you like.

Week 2 – take out 30% of that original figure and spend it.

Week 3 – take out 20% of the original figure.

Week 4 – take out 10%. (This assumes a four week month).

So if the total amount is £5000 a month.

In week one you have £2000 to spend.

In week two £1500.

In week three £1000.

In week four £500.

The lack of knowledge about how much money is enough creates fear. This enables you to work out how much is enough for you.

(£1 ½ million monthly would do me nicely.)

6. Help Somebody Else

Work out which five of your friends do interesting work.

(Assuming that you have five friends).

Spend an hour with them problem solving their stickiest problem.

This assumes you are capable of solving this problem –perhaps for the purposes of this the attempt is sufficient.

This is beneficial because:

– It creates a habit of “how can I help” – a habit which is helpful to society. It has also been established that helping others is good for your well-being as well.

http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/can_helping_others_help_you_find_meaning_in_life

– It helps you to find the problems that you care about – these are the ones for you to focus on.

– It shows what you are good at solving.

7. Set a Withdrawal Date

Send evites for a farewell party (this is a real thing; evites are electronic invites).

Personally this just sounds like “getting down with the kids” – I’m sure that paper invites, cards or telephone conversations would do as well.

Include seven of your closest friends.

(Assuming that you have seven friends).

This makes you accountable to a peer group – the assumption being it is much harder to back out once you have completed this stage.

Conclusion

Stepping back from your life allows you to see it clearly (a pretty key step in any counselling) and is also key in being able to change it.

Problems require talent to work on them and to solve them.

The part that doesn’t work for me is that only the brightest can benefit from this practice.

I would counter that you can skill up all kinds of people to resolve existing problems.

Thinking about meaning is scary. However fear should not deter you (another key counselling concept).

Change requires: time, space and risk (which is also why counselling can take time).

Thinking about what matters to you, what makes you come alive and then dive in.

This will make a difference to society, yes, but in my view, more importantly, it will make a difference to you.