Epic Tales of Procrastination from the BBC

Procrastination fans (or haters), check out these stories from BBC readers including:

I am a teacher, I once left a set of books unmarked for so long I was embarrassed to give them back to the students yet again unmarked. So I hid them, then went into the classroom and told them they had been stolen. Sonia, London

There is also a Radio 4 documentary which you can download in the next 5 days. Or of course, you could procrastinate…


Truthiness and pictures

“Truthiness is a quality characterizing a “truth” that a person claims to know intuitively “from the gut” or because it “feels right” without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.” Wikipedia

For those of you who may not know, “truthiness” was coined by American satirist Stephen Colbert in 2005. It is the appeal to emotion rather than reason. What you feel is right rather than what the facts of evidence tell us. Now a student from the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand has been looking into how pictures affect it with a rather cunning experiment.

The conclusion: pictures rock. And if you don’t believe me, here is a picture of Stephen Colbert to convince you.

How do you perform under pressure? Take the test and find out.

When I first started playing concerts with bands or doing amateur drama, I got scared. Really scared. Throwing up scared. In fact I still remember the sheer terror of being chosen to sing “In the deep mid-winter” at our school assembly at the age of 9. The stuff of nightmares. Perhaps these may be feelings not altogether unfamiliar for you. As I spent more and more time on stage however, the feelings of nervousness and apprehension slowly disappeared. I got used to the stress and could handle the pressure.  But did I actually perform better?

What has always intrigued me is how our mental attitude affects performance.  And of course, what we can do to improve things. One of the most studied areas of performance under pressure is the world of the top athlete and the psychological skills they put to their advantage. Great for them, you say, but do these techniques actually work? Or more importantly, what tips or tricks can we use to help us perform when we are giving a presentation, interviewing for that dream job, or closing that sale?

If you are equally curious as to the answers to these questions, and what indeed works for you, then I suggest that you head over to the BBC Lab where you can find out.  Not only do you get your performance analysed by none other than Michael Johnson (sort of), but you get to be part of actual science. Hooray!

Steve Jobs being insulted

I know this is a little bit old, however I just had to get it out of my system and post it here. My favorite Steve Jobs you tube video. And no, it is not the one you are thinking of.  This one has a little more edge to it.

Watch with amazement, as Steve takes the insult caterpillar, allows it to pupate in his head for quite a while, before releasing a radiant butterfly of leadership and common sense. And not once does he get confrontational. He even tells the guy insulting him that he is right. Great stuff.

Measure Your Procrastination Level

„Never put off till tomorrow, what you can do the day after tomorrow“. Mark Twain

One of the challenges I come across with scary regularity with my company presentationgym is procrastination.  (presentationgym is a bit like a normal gym, but it is your communication skills rather than your muscles which get the workout). The problem is this. Just like a normal gym, you need to do the work. You need to go. You need to put the effort in. People REALLY want to find the time to practice and prepare, they understand the benefits of doing so, and even the risks of not doing so, however, they delay things up until the last-minute and use adrenaline to get the job done. Sound familiar?  It should do.  95% of people have a problem with it, with over 15% admitting it to be a very serious problem. That means 1 in 5 people.  Now think. Do you know anyone like that? Is it perhaps you?

I find procrastination fascinating. Primarily because it used to be a problem for me (I was the sort of student who would work through the night in order to meet the morning’s deadline). For that reason, I try to keep on top of the science behind procrastination. Now….

Dr. Piers Steel is one of the world’s foremost researchers and speakers on the science of motivation and procrastination. He is also the author of the best book I have read to date on the subject – The Procrastination Equation. But before you all rush out and buy his book, why not first find out how bad a procrastinator you actually are by taking his survey here……


Warning – This is not a „for entertainment“ survey, but actual science you are contributing to. Therefore there are over 100 multiple questions you need to answer and it took me about 15 mins to complete. As a reward for doing this you will receive a personalised procrastination profile, along with 3 scientifically proven tips for you to put into practice. Cool stuff.

Alternatively of course, you could put it off until tomorrow……….

“Holy presentation nonsense Batman” – The Dr. Fox Lecture

According to Aristotle, you need 3 things to convince people:Ethos – people need to like and respect you; Pathos – you need to appeal to their emotions; and Logos – you need to appeal to their reason.

As it turns out however, Ethos and Pathos might just be enough.

In this 1976 experiment, Batman actor Michael Fox, in the guise of Dr. Myron L. Fox, presents absolute nonsense to a group of experts… and fools them. Fifty-five psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, graduate students, and other professionals all gave him overwhelmingly positive reviews. How did he do it?

I’m not a great fan of anyone speaking nonsense, however the Dr. Fox Effect illustrates just how important Ethos and Pathos are. If you cannot connect with your audience AND appeal to their emotions, your presentation will probably be boring, ignored or forgotten.