Just Seven Things

Exploring why and how we do what we do, and how we can do it better

Archive for the category “Conscious and Unconscious”

Procrastination is Like Learning to Drive

I was thinking today as I ran about what happens when we think about tasks/ actions/ challenges. For a while I’ve been thinking about how I need to create as shallow an ‘on-ramp’ (like a ramp into a carpark or motorway?) as possible to tasks. Rather than having the action to do and building up objections sub-consciously to the effort of doing it (Forster’s reactive brain), I need to do a little bit of pre-planning to stop building the blockages to doing the task.

What I thought about as I ran was when I learnt to drive in a fully manual car, one of the really tricky bits was the clutch control. The whole balancing/ tipping point bit around not over-revving and potentially stalling when taking the clutch off too quickly and not under-revving and avoiding going anywhere (apologies to any pure- automatic drivers who think I’m now talking in Swahili…….) In the worst case scenario you end up flooding the engine.

So my question was whether taking action on tasks/ projects/ challenges and goals is like learning to drive and are we all still stuck in learner mode? I know I sometimes over-rev and stall in advance of taking action. Over-thinking and over-anticipating the small amount of effort actually required to be successful. There are still skeletons littering my project and task list (and in some furthest corners my goals and vision statements) which are like flooded engines. Too much anticipation has built up in the cylinders of my mind and I just can’t start on them.

I need some advanced driver lessons.

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Are you having visions?

Well, if you’re not, you should be.

The power of the human imagination is still relatively little researched. Productivity literature, parents and teachers ask us to focus on the task in hand and our project plans. Yet we know through our human history that it has been the big thinkers that have enabled our faster progress as a human race: not those who just focus on the here & now and accept the norm.

As animals, we are goal oriented (food, sex….) and from what we know about our evolution, we can speculate that a sophistication in our goal setting was introduced as we developed consciousness. We could defer satisfaction. Invest time and energy, working together for a longer-term and ultimately more rewarding goal. I suspect this skill is also subject to further evolution. We can be bound by what we know, as framed by our human history and what we tell each other. Limited by the current ‘realities’ of our knowledge. Or we can recognise this will just bring us a tomorrow that looked like yesterday.

Instead, we need to recognise our own power of imagination. We use the same parts of our brain in imagining as we do in remembering. Your ‘brain’ doesn’t really know that your big vision hasn’t already happened; therefore you are the only blocker to your dreams. Your limiting self-beliefs, your why-nots. So let’s take advantage of our sophistication. Let’s blow the doors off everything that limits us. Let’s all start to have visions that we’re proud of: our reality is what we make it.

Fortunately a giant robot dinosaur called FAKEGRIMLOCK comes to the rescue of our human limitations on a post on Eric Ries’ Lean Startup blog. My favourite part:

EVERYONE GOOD AT SEE CAN’T. EVERYONE LIVE IN WORLD FULL OF IMPOSSIBLE.

EVERYTHING THAT MATTER IMPOSSIBLE UNTIL SOMEONE DO IT ANYWAY.

STOP BEING EVERYONE. STARE AT WHY NOT UNTIL IT GIVE UP AND BECOME HOW TO.

Managing the brain and managing the emotions…

… are absolutely two different things. I was talking with one of my client senior managers with the widest span of responsibility yesterday.

They’re coping with a lot of the things that leaders have to. I started to explain things in terms of suspending a balance between the following areas of accountability as a leader and manager:

1. Being involved in the detail (normally on an urgent/ important basis) sufficient to be able to make an informed decision when called on to do so

2. Maintaining progress on the list of important value-add or change areas that will step change the company’s performance and future success (inc. strategy)

3. Monitoring and maintaining the systems of control over process as well as managing, mentoring and coaching people to be able to run the company tactically and operationally

I realised that the big challenge in this is that you can mentally allocate the focus to areas two and three; area one normally drags you in without your planning. Arguably, area three. is easier to plan for in terms of operational review meetings, 121s, performance reviews and coaching sessions.

But that’s all about the conscious intent as opposed to the reality.

Read more…

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