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.

 

 

If you liked this article why not follow this blog

Follow The Procrastination Pen on WordPress.com

On The Theme of Hell

I have enjoyed the idea of stories about hell ever since one of my writing instructors asked me to consider the neighbours from hell as if they were literally from hell.

Over time I generated several stories on this theme.

Following on from the Book Planning article recently: https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/02/11/book-planning-pt-2/. In this I consider James who has escaped Hell (but possibly not for very long).

In this one a tormentor from the flame regions tries to find himself a new employee.

The Apprentice

“Ah Lawrence, dear, dear Lawrence, I see that you have put in a request for retirement, you know how I get upset about such things”

“But Your Eminence I have served you faithfully for longer than any of your previous servants, surely I have earned it?”

“Oh dear, this concept of having earned something Lawrence, how very demanding of you.  I’m afraid that I may have to provide myself with a little entertainment at your expense.”

“Ah, that is, I apologise for not having explained myself properly Your Eminence.  What I meant to say was that I have found an excellent replacement servant.”

“Now you have given this some thought Lawrence haven’t you?  It isn’t just the first name that happened to turn up in ‘The Book of the Damned’ is it?”

“Err, well, no Your Eminence.”

“Oh Lawrence don’t lie to me, I’m very good at detecting it you know.”

“Well, I was flicking through ‘The Book’ this afternoon and discovered a possible candidate who lives just next door.”

“One hundred percent for convenience Lawrence but is he as talented as you are?  I’m not sure that I need another apprentice.”

“But think of the advantages Your Eminence, the bending of a new recruit to your will, the fresh viewpoint, the different ideas.”

“Very well Lawrence you’ve made your point, let’s have a look at him shall we.  Oh and Lawrence.”

“Yes Your Eminence.”

“Here’s a set of painful mouth ulcers to repay your feeble deception attempts.  I think I’d rather like to watch you eating some nice hot chips – and don’t stint on the vinegar.”

*          *          *
“David, DAVID, get up now and be swift about it there’s a good man.”

The voice sounded like it came from inside my head. I knew that I was still asleep but without thinking I was up, out of bed and padding down the stairs, still dressed in my pyjamas. I seemed compelled to head towards the source of that voice. Down the street; the house adjacent to mine; through the gate and the front door, which were hanging, open as if in readiness for me.

*          *          *
“Lawrence?  Could you just sort out the business with the wife now?  That would be lovely.  Ah David how nice for you to finally meet me.”

I had a feeling that there was something very wrong with that sentence.  There was also something wrong with being fast asleep but with your eyes wide open.

“Lawrence, come and look at him would you?”

“Yes Your Eminence”

“This would be David. I see from his entry in The Book of the Damned that he would be forty six. So far he is a man largely without drive or ambition, are you sure that he’s the right sort to replace you? It’ll be the hot bath for you if you’re wrong.”

“No, no, I’m sure” Lawrence sounded anxious to please.

“As long as you’re not putting your wishes above mine, such as sneakily nominating a replacement servant so that you can take it easy you know that would just make me annoyed.”

Lawrence sighed “With respect your holiness; everything makes you annoyed.”

“I’m sorry Lawrence but that’s it; off to the hot bath and don’t come back till you’ve mended your ways.”

“No, no, please; I didn’t mean it.”  Lawrence’s voice was edged with fear.

“Oh we’re going to try overacting are we?  Excellent Lawrence; I do love a spot of melodrama; do go on.”

“I was going to beg for my life Eminence.”

“Beg for it Lawrence?  Beg for it?  Have you learned nothing in the three hundred odd years you have served me?”

“Eminence?”

“That life to which you would cling so tenaciously is my invention. It is a shadow of consciousness sufficient to enable you to appreciate the suffering which I can provide, nothing more. Oh, and to provide me with a fine entertainment I might add. Now off to the baths there’s a good man.”

“But, but…” Lawrence had begun to babble.

“Oh dear Lawrence; a desperately slow learner aren’t we?  (I wonder why I’ve never encountered that before.) Should I take that life away from you then?  You could call it a last favour as a long-time companion.”

“No, thank you Eminence; I’ve grown rather attached to it.”

“Well; I’m sure that you know best.  Oh and Lawrence.”

“Yes Your Eminence.” Lawrence responded with a hopeful note to his voice.

“Wake him up before you go; there’s a good man.”

“Eminence” Lawrence’s voice fell to a hopeless whisper.

*          *          *
I had been listening to the whole conversation from the depths of a dream.  I was insulated from it and distant, but now as Lawrence touched me an incredible pain brought me instantly awake and to my knees in one moment. As I gasped Lawrence took one last reproachful look at me and then departed.

“Ah, David, delighted, delighted, now I am really at a loss I really am.  My old slave seems to think that you will be an adequate replacement for him but you seem really lack-lustre to me, it is really bemusing.”

I was still dazed by the pain and unsure what I was supposed to say next.

“Perhaps you might explain what qualities you possess that would make you interesting.  You see I would ask Lawrence but it would be rather difficult right now, he may not have time to explain; in between the screaming that is.”

I continued to stare at him mute with disbelief; it seemed like mere seconds before I had been resting in a comfortable bed.

*          *          *
“I’ll forgive you the silence this far David because you are new; but I warn you don’t stretch my patience any further. What is it about you that makes you so useful?  Hmm?”

I remembered the fear in Lawrence’s voice when he had been told to go for a ‘hot bath’. “I’m sorry, I really don’t understand; this is really a strange kind of dream” I blurted out without thinking.

“Oh this is so annoying; fortunately I had prepared a demonstration, I always find them so useful in illustrating the realities as it were.”

“A demonstration?” I could feel my voice quaver a little; what did he mean by a demonstration?

“Yes David it’s time we had our relationship on the proper footing which it will be I have no doubt after you have returned home.”

*          *          *
Before the sound of “home” had properly died, I found myself back in my bedroom, still kneeling. Looking into the staring eyes of my wife; fixed now in death, around her throat a set of bruises, causing it to be swelled and purple.

I stared in disbelief, Deirdre, my companion now for twenty years. It took me some time to understand that this was real. As I knelt there in shock, the realisation dawned – he had said that there would be a “demonstration.” He had done this – he had murdered my wife.

I looked around for a weapon and saw an ugly brass table lamp – something Deirdre’s mother had given us and I had been too polite to throw out. I grabbed it, pulling the cable from the wall socket and set off down the stairs.

*          *          *
“Back so soon David? How admirable, how quickly you are facing up to the realities.  So much faster than Lawrence did; there really is hope for you.”

“She’s dead, she’s b b b bloody dead and you killed her” I heard myself yell.

“Well of course I did at least indirectly. Of course it was your actual hands that committed the evil deed so to speak but yes I was the guiding intelligence behind it.”

I looked down and saw that my hands were red and trembling as if from some great exertion. The muscles were aching badly –how could this could be, had I killed her?

“Of course it was me that gave her that wretched life in the first place. I certainly think I have the right to take it away. If I get a bit of enjoyment watching her struggle and finally despair as the last gasp chokes from her then I think that is only my due don’t you”

“You bastard, you evil, crazy, mean-minded, bastard” I was desperate now.

“David; I don’t think that’s wise. Whilst the words are inevitably accurate it’s traditional to keep up a modicum of front about these things.  Put down the table-lamp. You can’t do anything with it you know.”

At that instant, my arm started to spasm and I rapidly dropped the brass lamp “Aaah, ah, ah, shit, damn, it electrocuted me. How could it do that?  It wasn’t even plugged in.”

“Because I commanded it to of course; when I say ‘Lord’ I mean ‘Lord of Darkness’ and all that charming Gothic nonsense.

“You mean that you’re The…Devil?” I asked gaping in disbelief.

“Well if you must use such a demeaning term, I prefer to think of myself as ‘The Prince of Evil’ or something similar but each to his own.”

“You’re insane; you know that, you can’t possibly be The Devil. I mean The Devil doesn’t exist.”

“You’ll have plenty of opportunity to verify my existence over the millennia I will force you to serve me. This really is most tiresome; I feel that I’ve given you quite enough time to knuckle down. Tell me why you are useful to me; or shall we go for a tour? I could show you some of the less well-publicised elements of my realm, hmm?

I was distracted from the menace of his last sentence. My mind filled with the image of Deirdre lying dead “I loved her; I really loved her; what will I do now?”

“Well of course you think that you loved her. That was all part of the plan to increase your wretchedness when she finally gave up the ghost. It really is most gratifying that it has worked out so well. Now if you don’t mind your qualifications?”

“M-my qualifications? I-I don’t know about qualifications; I’m just a civil servant.” I could feel my sanity wrestling away from me.

“Oh I think it unlikely to be anything about your job. I’m not interested that you have served 26 years with the Inland Revenue.  Charming though that cliché would be.”

“I c-can’t understand what you mean” my mind felt like it was drowning.

“Let me put it simply for you shall I? You have mere moments to explain to me in what new and diverting ways you can increase the misery of the world or you can join my previous employee in a rather warm bath.”

“I? Increase the misery of the world?” I knew now that it was insanity; I must be delusional.

“Well I’m sure that you do David; merely by breathing. You really are quite dull you know; but that is not quite on the scale that I imagined. I do so love the petty annoyances; they do make the time pass so delightfully swiftly.”

“Petty annoyances?” I was repeating everything he said; by now reduced to parrotry.

“I take it all back David; you really are so incredibly slow I am amazed that anything makes it through that dense artefact you call a skull. An example I think, just to make things easier. Last week I believe was your dear departed wife’s birthday?”

“Deirdre; oh my God; Deirdre” tears fell so thickly now my eyes felt like open sores.

“Yes, as you so eloquently put it, Deirdre. You booked a table at eight and promised to be home on time. Unfortunately, your boss gave you a grilling about use of the photocopier in work time. This delay caused you to miss the bus and the next bus of course didn’t turn up. You decided to walk but a sudden downpour turned that into more of a frantic run didn’t it?”

“Yes, how …?”

“So that by the time you arrived home soaking wet; stressed, tired and an hour late Deidre was slightly less than pleased to see you. Of course you did try the restaurant but due to some mishap they had failed to take your reservation.  Deirdre’s birthday turned out to be a Chinese takeaway and she didn’t talk to you for three days!  It’s all so delightful when it works so well; rather like poetry really.”

“You did all that?” I felt as defeated as the look in Lawrence’s eyes when he departed for the ‘warm bath’.

“Oh not personally of course; I did have Lawrence; He was really very good you know. But then I am hopeful that you can do better.”

“Better?” What did he imagine I could do?

“Well keep the gears oiled, the wheels rolling; continue to make life miserable for people.”

“But why?”

“Oh purely for my entertainment of course; I’m stuck in this realm for all eternity so I definitely do not wish to see anyone enjoying their time here.”

“But surely when the time comes.”

“You die? Oh purely an artefact David I can assure you.  You see you were never living in the first place.  Life is merely that essence that I have caused all the residents of my kingdom to be addicted to; to treasure; to give everything for.  But in fact it is completely worthless.”

“Worthless?”

“Oh yes, you see you can’t cease to exist, you have been imprisoned here for all eternity with me; every miserable one of you. The ‘Day of Judgement’ – over hyped as it has been, has, actually occurred. This place you call ‘home’, ‘Earth’ and in fact this entire Universe is the home of darkness and of suffering for all eternity.”

“But then where do you go…?”

“After you die? Well you see it’s a bit of a sleight of hand.  I whip you out of one rotting mound of flesh and cause you to be born memory erased somewhere else equally miserable; equally without hope.”

“I don’t see the point…”

“Of course if I can make you a little uglier; maybe give your mother postnatal depression so that she can’t stand you. Perhaps I’ll settle for something more minor like a severe nappy rash or that you develop debilitating asthma at a young age.  It’s all rather gratifying once you know how it works.”

“So this is purgatory?” (I remembered something about this from a programme on television; unfortunately, I hadn’t given it much attention.)

“Well not, as such, no; you see as I understand it the definition of purgatory is that eventually you may escape it. You, I’m afraid have no hope of escape, ever. So now” (his voice took on a truly sinister edge) “why are you of value to me David?”

If you liked this article why not follow this blog

Follow The Procrastination Pen on WordPress.com

Photo by imagesthai.com from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/ash-background-beautiful-blaze-216640/

Fifty Special Things – Brampton Wood

When: 30-10-2016

Where: Brampton Wood http://www.visiteastofengland.com/Huntingdon-Brampton-Wood/details/?dms=3&venue=0211398

Price: Free

Review: Not at its best in October; go when it’s warmer

Tip: follow the satnav in this case it makes a better job of finding it.

Brampton wood and the start of many wood visits.

Communing with nature is restorative: http://www.yesmagazine.org/planet/we-know-nature-makes-us-happier-now-science-says-it-makes-us-kinder-too-20160312.

So to start with this appeared to be a great choice.

The Wildlife Trusts’ guidebook states that they have managed the wood since 1992. They bought it from the Ministry of Defence.

Guidebook:  Bedfordshire Cambridgeshire Northamptonshire guide: “Where to See Wildlife in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire & Northamptonshire”.

I was attending the Bolnhurst Steam Fair http://www.bolnhurstrally.org.uk/ when someone came up and sold me membership. This is not an organisation I would have thought of but I am supportive of any group that puts trees before house building.

They have a good little guide to local woods and also a website worthy of a visit: http://www.wildlifebcn.org/.

Brampton Wood has been a site of Special Scientific Interest since 1954.

But it turns out that spotting wildlife is somewhat more difficult than on some of our trips abroad.

The wood is home to dormice (which were re-introduced in 1992) but so far all we seem to have seen in our woodland visits are species of canine on and off leads.

It is the second largest woodland in Cambridgeshire at 132 hectares (327 acres). The largest is Bedford Purlieus: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bedford_Purlieus_NNR.  (Which might be the subject of a future visit/blog item).

The Wildlife Trusts organisation have a good leaflet on Brampton Wood: http://data.wildlifetrusts.org/sites/default/files/Brampton%20Wood%20Leaflet%202015.pdf.

But the wood majored less on the picturesque and more on the damp and cold the day that I went.

The guidebook states there are more than two miles of wide mown pathways and some minor pathways and follows: “pathways maybe muddy” – read will be very muddy. Take wellies (and a small tractor to drag you out).

Brampton wood appears easy to find. But where it appeared to be on the map was not where the satnav wished us to go. We went with our own judgement, and got lost. (OS Ref is TL 184 698).

If you want to find it Google indicates that it is here:

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/place/Brampton+Wood+Nature+Reserve/@52.3166644,-0.2744105,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m5!3m4!1s0x4877c3cb62522f8f:0x491c3106c976241c!8m2!3d52.3166644!4d-0.2722218.

Directions are: From A1, take A14 exit towards Huntingdon. Take the first exit off A14 to Brampton (B1514). Go straight at the first roundabout then right at the second roundabout. Turn right at the T-junction on to Grafham Road. Follow Grafham Road through the village and over the A1. The reserve is on the north side of the road – 1/2 mile out of Brampton. A brown sign indicates the entrance to the wood. Park in the small car park. (When they say small they are not kidding).

Following the satnav lead to a tiny left-hander off the A1. This looked to need the sort of deceleration which the Beagle Lander attempted on Mars.

As a result we took the circuitous route. This required navigation of a narrow road with enough oncoming traffic to provide diversion. After many wood-related trips we found this was typical.

Being a virgin of wood visits I anticipated a car park devoid of vehicles, our journey punctuated by some kindly gamekeeper (with a discussion of pheasant breeding practices or some such).

But turning into the most bijou of car parks I found it already well inhabited with vehicles which could have labelled modern, shiny, and family.

We squeezed in at the end of a row of these.

dsc01893

Vehicles distinguished by large rear load areas. Every one of those vehicles contained inhabitants which you could call “Rover”.(Second piece of education of the day).

All varieties of fur – caked in material which was going to need more than a small towel to remonstrate with.

Each one of the human car inhabitants turned out to have a species of cheeriness, this associated with bobble-hat, fleece, and large rangy hound.

We had snaffled the last space (or so we thought). Yet another shiny Tonka-toy-thing burbled in behind. The driver did not resort to shouting or fist-waving so I assume found somewhere to slot it.

The ground was that species of compliant which one will be familiar with if embarking-out barefoot on a wet evening and murdering a large slug in darkness with one’s toes as the offensive weapon.

Phil’s recommendation: go when it’s warmer. Although given how popular woods turn out to be with dog walkers you are always going to have a lot of company.

It is a top site for bluebells in the spring so that may well be worth a try. I wouldn’t bother with October. Unless you have a 4×4 and something large with waggy tail which doesn’t smell great when it’s wet.

Fortunately the ground was well furnished with leaves. Rainfall sufficiently far in the past that waders were not a necessity.

The Wildlife Trusts’ booklet informs me that the wood is at least 900 years old. And so had a mention in the Domesday Book.

I’m sure in the summer it is a goodly place. But the day we went it had the kind of sombre air usually reserved for death and religious buildings. (Or some combination of those).

img_4595

The link above http://www.wildlifebcn.org turns out to be the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire Wildlife trust – check out their website for further details.

We decided to do a circuit (starting at the noticeboards).

img_4594

The link above http://www.hffs.org.uk is for the Huntingdonshire Fauna and Flora Society – check out their website for further details

And so embarked on a journey around what one imagined to be the circumference – just inside the tree line.

Diverting at intervals to have privacy from the next bobble-hatted group.

In places there were stands of conifers – planted when the Government managed the wood.

These are being removed for the wood to re-establish.

img_4592

The circuit seemed too brief to me and convinced me that we must have taken the wrong route.

I’d only said good morning to 1/2 dozen people or so and I estimated the population at that time to be several times that. So where had they all gone?

After reviewing the map of the wood we realised that we had only circuited part of it. So there was a lot left to see on future visits.

A little of a good thing convinced me that more of this experience would prove more fulfilling. So decided that this wildlife idea was for me.

Gazing between the trees gave me brief memories of Borneo. It was with sadness I realised that we would see no macaque this trip. (Nor catch our clothes on any rattan).

Back to the car. The surrounding shiny and four wheel drive had swapped about a bit but not reduced in number. So lesson of wood exploration wood=popular=pooches began to form in my mind.

img_4593

Stately homes seem to be the places where frazzled adults take their small person. Woods however are where red cheeked outdoors people range about with carnivores.

Well there’s a learning point.

Brampton as we found out later was remarkable in its tidiness (i.e. no dog faeces).

Despite the car park it also proved to be unrepresentative in its lack of population. Subsequent woods were to prove much more popular.

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.

Grafham Fireworks – Grafham Village – 2016

An Unofficial Review

Summary:

When: 05-11-2016
Where: Grafham Village Hall http://www.grafham.org.uk/villagehallhire
Price: £4 per adult, £2 children (free parking) – sparklers £1 for 5
Tip: take something to light sparklers with.

Amazing the number of places who believe that the gunpowder plot was on November 4th. Maybe my memory isn’t so hot but I thought it went “remember remember the 5th of November.”

I had high hopes of attending Kimbolton this year but it turns out the Catholic attempts at shrugging off Protestant repression occurred a whole day earlier than I thought.

Sadly coincidentally with my seeing a couple of counselling clients. (Who (I imagined) might think it a bit rich if I sloped off to catch a few fireworks).

Anyway so it was the 5th and fight my way into Cambridge (and choose between parking in a dinky car sized space or paying an Ivana Trump style fee for leaving my wheels somewhere).

Alternatively something a bit more local and risk fireworks – the impressiveness of which probably wouldn’t disturb the wildlife much.

And so I saw an advert for fireworks at Grafham (piggin’ close), ample on street parking (free) and £4 entry.

This appealed to every cheapskate aspect of my personality.

Of course it is dark around 11am now and this is profoundly disturbing to a large number of motorists I have discovered.

Therefore I was pleasantly surprised when turning off at Great Staughton that we managed a steady 50mph all the way to the Grafham village turn.

The event is surprisingly well subscribed and we joined a convoy on the access road which culminated in the inevitable car park when we reached the village.

However there was a left turn which had something to do with the church – I figured we had legs. The decision turned out to be a good one as we parked just inside the village limits and were followed by lots of other motorists looking for some gridlock respite.

The walk to the village hall had a frisson of excitement as I had no idea where it was. There was general milling around of tired taller people with excitable smaller ones.

Eventually tagging along with a reasonable sized group of smaller people (at a distance I judged appropriate to avoid Rolf Harris accusations) led us out into a well-lit area. Where people were extracting us from our silver and permitting us access in one motion.

It turned out that smaller persons were only £2 so something of a bargain if you have smaller persons that you intend to take.

The field was already looking like the early stages of a concert venue and one person was doing a swift trade in packets of sparklers – something I cannot remember playing with since I was myself a smaller person.

These were the ruinous amount of £1 for a packet of 5 (so we got two packets).
I hadn’t thought to bring lighting devices so sidled over to a man who seemed capable of turning multiple sausages at once on a barbecue that the US airforce would have envied.

We got the first sparkler lit but then instead of enjoying it I spent the remaining time anxiously lighting one after the other from it to ensure we had a means of lighting them.

Phil’s top tip take a cigarette lighter…

By this stage a healthy queue had developed and given the English love of queues I had to participate.

We were queuing beside the QE2 sized barbecue and heading into a village hall so I had strong hopes of tea.

The queue became porous as greater and greater numbers of people poured in and wanted intimate contact with the bonfire. Only accessible apparently by pushing past those queueing.

The night was perishing windy and I was grateful for the surrounding houses which kept the autumnal blast down to merely finger biting proportions.

After an interval – in which some members of the queue had evolved into other life forms – we got inside the door and saw the queue split in different directions.

No tea.

There was a sign saying mulled wine – tempting but no mulled wine was off. Later someone went in for mulled wine from the bonfire and I reflected that they really needed to up the volumes – a lot.

There was hotdog, there was soup, there were baked potatoes.

Hmm decisions decisions big stomach ache or really big stomach ache. (I have IBS so I’m not supposed to eat wheat or potatoes).

So we opted for hotdog, which on a cold autumn night was frankly delicious in fact I had two of them.

£1 each – another Grafham bargain. Volunteers were friendly and in frank amazement at the level of demand – food shifting at a rate of knots. I reassured them by telling them about the car parking demands and likely consequence for their ability to get out at the end. (I’m noted for my helpfulness).

We emerged at the self-same moment the fireworks began with an enormous clap that should have accompanied the London New Year’s celebrations (and not a small fireworks display in a local village).

It was so exciting that out came the iPhone:

limerelight1484476945894.png

 

After far too many pictures and fingers turning the shade of whitewash I had to put gloves on again – never thought iPhone gloves would be of any use till this.
It was spectacular so many bangs you could have made a convincing run at the 1812 overture. So many wees and squeals that a room full of piglets with a megaphone would not have outdone it.

Every time that I thought it was at an end another ffft-pow and a great hailstorm of light followed.

Truly the best £4 I’ve spent of late.

And then the silence of the expiry of a few thousand pounds of fireworks.
Followed by much whooping and cheering from the taller persons assembled.
(Smaller persons engaged with various highly-lit toys including some very impressive light-changing light sabres which I really wanted).

So the crowds headed for the exit like some AC/DC concert exodus.

Reason dictated that the tiny village exit road was now swamped with 4x4s and people carriers so we snuck over close to the dying fire.

Just enough heat to warm the face not quite enough for toasty to properly set in.

After a wait that just saw the worst of the crowds dissipate we headed out.
Every road was a trail of red tail lights – it appeared I was going to get to know the best of Radio 4’s evening entertainment.

However the choice of church lane turned out to have been an inadvertent masterstroke.

Somehow we had parked in an area that had quickly cleared of cars.

A quick turn into the village and it was out on the road we came in on. Not only that but 45mph was a reality – despite the obvious darkness. (There is no understanding the brazen guts of people is there).

So home in minutes – feet up with a glass of something – can’t say fairer than that. A top endorsement from me; if you’re in the area next November…

https://www.facebook.com/GrafhamVillageFireworks

Things You Really Will be Doing Now You’re 50 – Part Five

Following on from part four of the things you are going to find when you’re 50.

https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-four

Ten more items from the same list:

  1. You can’t see road signs so you get glasses. You can’t see to thread a needle, so you get glasses. Any task involves juggling eyesight correcting devices. You develop a facility for recognising different varieties of fuzzy as objects.
  2. Just as you get to like something you find that the shops stop stocking it. Years ago you just moved on. Now you find yourself scanning auction sites, second hand stores, junk shops in the hope of continuing to use that thing you have a fondness for.
  3. Suddenly everything in the past seems more pleasant than today. You forget the shoddy brakes on your first car and wish you still had it. You forget the unpleasantness with the neighbour and consider that everyone was much friendlier then. Constant rain showers are dispelled in memories of long summers of unbroken sunshine. You have entered the nostalgia zone.
  4. After a long time of dismissing it as boring you find an hour of Gardeners’ World quite relaxing. You get drawn in. Before long you find that you are making way too many visits to garden centres. Eventually you start listening to Gardeners’ question time…
  5. You meet up with some friends that you haven’t seen in a long time. You know that you haven’t changed but you are shocked at how old they look…
  6. In conversation someone remarks that you have a lot less time to go than you have already had. After the message has had time to sink in you realise that actually you don’t mind about that. You wonder if that means there is something wrong with you.
  7. Whitening your teeth sounds a great idea. Surely this would improve your appeal to other people. However you realise that your mouth now contains more amalgam than tooth.
  8. Snoring will start to punctuate your night time hours. You will find no explanation for this. In order to avoid being murdered by your partner you take to the sofa.
  9. Your body formerly lived a halcyon existence of cooperative equanimity. Now the disparate parts engage in a war with one another. If one area is dry an adjacent area is greasy. If one is jittery due to inactivity another is tired out from exercise. Whilst one feels fit another feels damaged. Every action is punctuated with either fatigue, itching or little stabs of pain; apparently to remind you that this dispute is underway.
  10. Other people have now moved you from a position where you might have been appealing to some kind of universal parent figure. Your role is now to listen and support; to give advice (which they will ignore). This enables them to go on with their lives; in which it is never suspected you could be involved.

That’s the 50 things that will happen to you now that you are 50, I’d welcome any comments (unless of the trolling variety. If you like this blog please subscribe by email and you will get updates as I post new stuff.
If you missed part one you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50
If you missed part two you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-two
If you missed part three you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-three
If you missed part four you will find it here:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-four

That’s it for this series.

Things You Really Will be Doing Now You’re 50

Articles on how to live your life abound; instructions on this; guidelines on that.

If the first 5 decades seem to have been chaotic it might appear that consulting this guidance may provide some hope of enlightenment.

It was in light of this that I stumbled across this article which gives suggestions about what you can do now that you have reached 50:
https://www.onefamily.com/hub/wellbeing/50-things-to-do-now-youre-50

All very well but for me this article did not reflect being 50 in any real sense.

Here are the steps that you will inevitably encounter when you’re 50.

Tradition dictates that there should be 50 of these, but 10 is all I’m prepared to read at one sitting.

  1. Alcohol: moderate drinking leaves you with a hangover which would’ve taxed Gandhi. More than moderate drinking has you escorted to a hospice. Drinking over more than one day means a trip to an expensive rehab centre.
  2. You will forget the name of someone you’ve known for at least ten years; you’ll be too embarrassed to admit it. Months later you’ll be trying to remember where you put your keys; for no obvious reason the name will pop back into your head.
  3. A malicious poltergeist will move into your house. It will confine itself to moving your keys, your money, your work’s access pass. You will spend the start of most journeys hunting for one or more of these items.
  4. You will develop an irresistible urge to sleep whenever you sit down – any comfortable surface will find you drooling into your collar: park benches, train seats, brambles, nettles.
  5. You’re on better terms with the doctor than you have been your whole life; your medical records are being moved to The National Archives.
  6. You meet some people from school and find at least one person you knew is already dead and has been for some time. You start guessing which of you will be next.
  7. Without warning you develop a fondness for cardigans, they become your default outer wear.
  8. Saga starts to send you junk mail – for some reason their trips start to look interesting.
  9. Room temperature of 20 oC seems to be like the inside of a Greenland glacier; you keep revisiting the thermostat.
  10. The heroes you’ve had in your life now turn out to be paedophiles or dead or more often both.

Instalment two in this series covers the next 10:
https://magic-phil.co.uk/2016/12/11/things-you-really-will-be-doing-now-youre-50-part-two