Book Review – Stop Procrastinating and Start Living by Gemma Ray

Stop procrastinatingThis is the second book from Gemma Ray that I’m reviewing. The first one was on self discipline and you can read that review here. Gemma subtitled this book, beat procrastination and boost productivity for self care and success, and in today’s busy and fast moving world, I’m sure that’s something we all need. And if you’ve been procrastinating on that side hustle then maybe Gemma can give you a few lessons. So, a bit about the book. It has 27 chapters and according to Keep average reading times will take place over three hours to read. Here’s a top level review of what you can expect to learn from each chapter:

Chapter 1 – What is procrastination?

  • A comprehensive definition and description of what procrastination is including some history.
  • Here’s one of the way proscratination was described : it is an undesired delay, the act of putting off things that are really important in favour of less urgent tasks or to actively engage in more pleasurable activity over less pleasurable expectations, promises or tasks.
  • It is knowing exactly what we want to achieve in the future, while taking no action in the present moment to actually make the future achievement a reality.

Chapter 2 – Drop the perfectionism

  • How having extremely high standards which adds up to perfectionism makes us proscratinate.
  • Gemma writes that: perfectionism is one of the most debilating forms of procrastination. The two go hand in hand playing  merry dance that keeps people stuck. 
  • Steeped in low self esteem, perfectionism sees someone paralysed by the fear of failure and not being good enough – so they either waste valuable time trying to make everything perfect before taking action or take no action at all.
  • Thanks s chapter not only tells us what perfectionism is, it also d scribes how it works in our lives and it’s negative effects.
  • Key advice given to deal with perfectionism nis to learn to get better at being worse

Chapter 3 – Count down and take action

  • This chapter is about taking action. Waiting too long will lead to procrastination.
  • So count down 5-4-3-2-1 and act. 
  • Couple of things about this s strategy – it is simple and effective, the more you practice it, the better you will get at it, and there is never a right time so stop wasting time and start.

Chapter 4 – The two minute rule

  • Similar to the previous chapter but this time it’s a 2-minute count down.
  • Gemma gives us a strategy here for identity my what we can achieve in two minutes and acting on it.

Chapter 5 – The five minute rule 

  • Another time rule which Gemma days is more realistic than 2-minutes.
  • It’s about learning to achieve this nfs in five minutes.
  • Here’s an exame that Gemma usrs to explain the principle: i have a friend who works in finance and she uses a daily five minute break to record her receipts and financial transactions, check her bank statement and ‘skim’ save money.

Chapter 6 – Implementation intentions

  • An implementation intention is a statement is a statement of intent. It is a decision made in advance by yourself declaring what your intention is, when you will and where.
  • Gemma writes that we can use implementation intentions to follow through on what we said we will do. 

Chapter 7 – Habit stacking

  • According to Gemma, habit stacking is a way to take advantage of the habits that you currently perform and stack new behaviours onto these  existing automatic habits.
  • Habit stacking can help us change behaviour and create a simple and easy roadmap for our minds to follow every day.
  • Reading this chapter will teach you how habit stacking works, how to create a habit stack and and to be consistent with it.

Chapter 8 – Use the Pomodoro  method

  • The pomodoro method is a techniques you may already be familiar with. 
  • The pomodoro method involves breaking NY down tasks into 25 minute chunks of time. The idea is that you work for 25 minutes focused on getting be task and on that one task only and then have a five minutes break.
  • You get enough information here to start using the pomodoro technique.

Chapter 9 – Create a tidy space

  • Clutter can prevent us from focusing. A messy desk can make us procrastinate.
  • This chapter reinforces the importance of a clear and clean space both physical and digital to productivity.

Chapter 10 – Visualise yourself productive (or a success!)

  • What do you the no about yourself?
  • If you don’t see yourself succeeding you probably won’t succeed.
  • Visualise yourself succeeding.

Chapter 11 – Get in the zone 

  • Get into a state of flow where you get work done without distraction or friction.
  • For this to happen you need to be self aware of what gets you into a state of flow.
  • What factors need to be in place for us to be able to.get things done Iman unhindered way.

Chapter 12 – Play to your natural energy type

  • We all have times when are more naturally energetic. 
  • Some of us are more energetic on the morning and some of us in the night.
  • Gemma encourages us to find our natural energy state and take advantage of it.

Chapter 13 – Practise forgiveness

  • What in the world does practising forgiveness have to do with overcoming procrastination?
  • Here’s how Gemma connects the two using an affirmation: i forgive myself for the decisions and choices I have made in the past. I no longer need to hold onto guilt and shame to punish myself. Every experience is a learning opportunity and a chance to to grow into my new future.

Chapter 14 – List your fears

  • Identify your fears, list them out and take a stand against them that they will not become a barrier against you moving forward.
  • An affirmation Gemma usrs for this one is: my fears will not stand in the way of my goals.
  • And her journal prompt for it is: what is it all am procrastinating on the most right now? What is the worst that can happen if I do not achieve it. What fears are standing in the way if my success?

Chapter 15 – Put in the f*ck-it bucket and move on 

  • The important message in this s chapter is that we should not waste our time and energy on things we cannot change or control.

Chapter 16 – Write down your wins 

  • Instead of creating to-do lists that may overwhelm you especially if you have not achieved most of it, create of list of things you’ve achieved.
  • Here’s the affirmation for this one: ehat have I achieved so far this year that I would deem as a win?

Chapter 17 – Create a lightbulb list

  • Are there things that pop into your mind while you are in the flow of doing something else. These may be outstanding that ngs that need to be done or things that are bothering.
  • These things can become a distraction and impede your flow.
  • Create a lightbulb blist for these things.
  • Gemma describes it this way:: i like to keep what I call a lightbulb list. Those moments little lightbulbs go off in my head, I now choose to honour them, listen to them, list them and then turn off that light in my mind promptly.

Chapter 18 – Pick your winning music track

  • This chapter is about choosing music that gets you in a productive mood.
  • Gemma writes that, we all have music we hold an emotional connection to that impacts our brain waves and can change our mood.
  • She encourages us to find an anti-procrastination song.

Chapter 19 – Listen to binaural beats

  • Gemma suggests in this chapter that if we are struggling to focus and get complex tasks completed we should consider listening to binaural beats. According to Gemma, binaural beats are popular in productivy circles for people looking to reduce stress, alleviate anxiety, increase focus and concentration, improve motivation and confidence.

Chapter 20 – Have a power nap 

For many people taking a power nap in the middle of the day can have positive effects on their mood, stress levels and productivity. Power naps will work differently for people. An ideal time for a power nap is 90-minutes because doing that can give you the benefits of full 8-hour sleep. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the luxury of having 90-minutes for a power nap during the day. If you can’t do 90-minutes then 20-minutes is a good amount of time to help boost cognitive function. Again that may be difficult for some people who need just that amount of time to fall asleep. The best advice here is find what works for you. Find a good location (preferably not your bed or somewhere that is too comfortable) and experiment with an optimum time for your power nap.

Chapter 21 – Have a coffee nap 

This does sound like a weird one but what Gemma is suggesting here is that we drink coffee before having a nap because coffee competes with a chemical in our brain called adenosine which can cause tiredness if the levels in our body rises. Caffeine prevents our brains from receiving too much adenosine which means we feel less tired. This is why caffeine can help reduce tiredness levels. Here is how she describes it:

“So, if you want to really boost your energy levels in a double hit, drinking caffeine and then sleeping will cause your body to naturally decrease adenosine and the caffeine won’t have as much adenosine to compete with for the receptors in your brain. So coffee on its own will increase the availability of receptors for caffeine in the brain but the decreased adenosine will also provide an energy boost too. Put the two together and there’s double the energy you may have felt just drinking coffee or having a nap.”

Chapter 22 – Accountability and making it public 

Accountability is not something we all like but it works and Gemma recites some research that backs up the effectiveness of accountability here. So, making yourself accountable to someone or a group that can check on you to make sure you are doing what you would normally procrastinate about can be very effective. Here are some examples that Gemma shares of how accountability can work in our favour:

  • A fitness company that does fitness coaching through video and WhatsApp calls encourages clients to send in videos showing themselves doing exercise and take pictures of meals and snack they eat. They also have 1:1 and group coaching calls for clients to share their experiences. This level of accountability means clients are less likely to cheat on what they are supposed to do to improve their fitness.
  • Hi – I’m reading “Stop Procrastinating and Start Living: Beat Procrastination and Boost Productivity for Self Care and Success (The Stop Procrastinating and Start Living Series)” by Gemma Ray and wanted to share this quote with you.

  • “The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) did a study on accountability and found that publicly committing your goals to someone gives you at least a 65% chance of completing them. However, having a specific accountability partner increases your chance of success to 95%.”

  • Gemma has an accountability partner who knows her goals and constantly checks on her. She was able to write this book because Ben was her accountability partner.

Find a way to get some accountability for that thing you are procrastinating and it can be in person or virtually accountability for example, on a WhatsApp group.

Chapter 23 – The accountability mirror 

Gemma uses the example of David Goggins who wrote the book, Can’t Hurt Me, to describe how an accountability mirror works. David Goggins wanted to change his image from the young ‘ghettorized’ kid with low-slung trousers who was ‘too cool to learn’ to one who would study to achieve his goals and transform his life. David set up an accountability mirror and he would look at his reflection in the mirror every night and ask if he’d done the best he could that day. About David and his accountability mirror, Gemma writes that:

“His daily self discussion with the accountability mirror saw him go through the gruelling Navy SEAL ‘Hell Week’ (he is the only person to have gone through three separate Hell Week processes!), combat in Afghanistan, treacherous training with both The Rangers and Delta Force.”

Another example of the accounatbility that she writes about is from Marisa Peer, a British therapist who is widely known for her ‘I am Enough’ mirror concept. Marisa’s mirros is different from Goggins because she challenges you to write all your mirrors. It is different because Marisa focuses on I am NOT enough but Marisa’s one is about I am enough. The key principle is to find the one that works for you and use it.

Chapter 24 – Audit your phone use 

The affirmation for this chapter is:

I appreciate that time is as valuable as money, thus I use every minute wisely.

That affirmation is very relevant to the chapter’s title because phone use has become one of the biggest ways we waste our time.

Even Gemma admits that she has a problem with phone use. She writes that:

My greatest problem is my mobile phone use. It could be social media, messaging friends and family on WhatsApp or using apps. I spent a lot of time on my phone and everyone around me noticed. I’d always lie and say I was catching up on emails but the truth was I was just wasting time and procrastinating on it – as usual!

She took certain steps to address this such as:

  • deleting the FaceBook app on her phone
  • charging her phone overnight downstairs and not close to where she sleeps
  • becoming more aware of her phone usage and not incurring high costs

Gemma came up with a process she calls Reassess, Realise and Re-commit

  • Reassess: analyse and identify how much time you spend on your phone including the time you spend using various apps.
  • Realise: look at the total time spend on your phone and be honest about how time it is taking from your life.
  • Re-commit: re-commit to new phone habits now that you know what your phone use it like. Don’t let your phone waste your life.

Chapter 25 – Factor in play

I like a statement that Gemma made about this one:

Playing around does not necessarily mean a lack of focus and effort. Sometimes if life is too serious and rigid this creates inner conflict which in turn can create procrastination.

The summary of this chapter is the advice for us to incorporate play into our work. We can’t work and be serious all the time. Play is not only allowed, it is necessary for efectivenessd and productivity.

Chapter 26 – The dopamine fast and digital detox 

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with helping us experience pleasure and it may also cause us to be distracted too as we engage in pleasurable behaviour which breaks our focus. To be sure there is nothing wrong with pleasure seeking behaviour but when it becomes excessive and starts interferring with our lives it can become a major way to proscrastinate.

As discussed by Gemma here, different solutions have been suggested here such as dopamine fasting which is abstaning from things that generate pleasure such as TV and our phones. Gemma also talks about having a digital dettox which is really about cutting down drastically at specific times on our use of digital devices. We use digital devices at work and even out of work we are still switched on.

What can your own deigital dettox be? Less TV? No phones for a certain period?

Some things that Gemma said may help follow.

  • Go greyscale on your phone by taking the colour out of your phonescreen to make them less atractive.
  • Use distraction apps to reduce your phone use while you are trying to focus. Examples of such apps are:
    • Self control (on Macs only) which can be used to restrict access to social medial, email and the whle internet.
    • Freedom which will block the internet for up to 8 hours. Available on Mac, PC, Android.
    • Anti-social lets you block access to socila media and websites like Wikipedia for up to 8 hours.
    • LeechBlock is a Firefox add-on where you can set rules for accessing certain sites.
    • StayFocused is a Chrome plug-in similar to LeechBlock

There are many more of these tools which can help you beat online distraction and be more focused.

Chapter 27 – Enjoy the discomfort.

Being disciplined and doing things that you noemally don’t enjoy doing will be uncomfortable but Gemma encourages us to intentionally make up our minds and learn to enjoy the discomfort. She cites the example of how listening to an audio book from David Giggins who is a master at embracing discomfort encourages her to start enjoying the discomfort whether it is going for a long walk or wokring out in the gym.

The truth anything in life worth achieving in life will include a degree of discomfort. To move forward, we must intentionally learn to embrace that discomfort. There is no shortcut.

My conclusion

There is a lot to learn in this book. So many ideas to beat proscrastination spread over 27 chpaters and honestly not everything will be relevant to you or practical for you. But there’s too much in this book or you not to learn something. If you do decide to read the book therefore, choose what you feel will work for you from it and act on it.

BooK Review – Powerful Focus: A 7-Day Plan To Develop Mental Clarity And Build Strong Focus By THIBAUT MEURISSE

Powerful FocusAccording to Thibaut Merisse:

The ability to focus is one of the most valuble assets you’ll ever develop. When you use it to achieve your most exciting goals, you can reach levels of success you would never have imagined possible.

If you are the type of person that keeps jumping from one task to the next. Or you struggle to stay focused long enough to achieve success. Or maybe your mind is all over the place. Then this book will help you to do things such as:

  • eliminte distractions and develop focus
  • stop jumping from one shiny object to another
  • gain clarity about your goals and focus on what matters

Why is focus important? Thibaut writes that:

Often, the difference between an average person and a highly successful one is their level of focus. Successful people know what they want and place all their focus into the accomplishment of their goals. By doing so consistently over a long period of time, they turbocharge their productivity and achieve most of their goals.

The book has 7 key steps themed as actions you can take in 7 days.

This book is divided into two parts.

Part 1 titled Clarity Deals with the first four steps discussed in the book. In this section we are presented with information to help us refine our vision. The steps are:

  • Day 1 – 15 questions to identify what you want
  • Day 2 – Gaining clarity regarding what you want
  • Day 3 – Gaining clarity regarding what needs to be done
  • Day 4 – Gaining clarity regarding how it needs to be done

Part 2 is titled, Eliminating Distractions and Obstacles. This section of the book focuses on helping you discover how to remove all the distractions around you and develop better focus. The section  has the remianing three steps and they are:

  • Day 5 – Simplifying
  • Day 6 – Reducing useless inmput
  • Day 7 – Eliminating friction and energy waste

Following are six quick lessons for you from the book:

  1. Do you want to gain more clarify and refine your life’s vision? Here are six questions you should ask yourself:
    1. What do you really, really want?
    2. If you were to wake up tomorrow, completely alone without any family member, or friend, or colleague to influence your decisions, what would you do differently?
    3. If you were to be totally honest with yourself, what would you start doing now and what would you stop doing?
    4. If you were guaranteed to succeed in everything you do, where would you want to be in three years?
    5. If you could spend your day exactly the way you wanted to, what would you be doing from morning to night? What would your ideal day consist of?
    6. If you could focus only on doing one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  2. If you have written down your goals, how do you know that they are what you really want? A simple framework to identify whether you are doing the right thing is the love-based vs fear-based model. At anytime we are either acting out of fear or love. Acting out of love focuses you on giving and acting out of fear is about getting. Love-based goals tend to be fulifing goals which communicate that we have enough and we are happy to contribute to the world. Fear-based goals are an attempt to get validation from the external world and tend to make poor goals. Check your goals, are they fear or love-based? Are they about getting or giving? Your focus should be on love-based goals.
  3. Are you doing what you should be doing today? Here’s a question for you – if I keep doing what I’m doing today, this week or this month, am I likely to achieve my goals? If your answer is no for too many days then you need to do something to change the situation.
  4. Are you constantly distracted? If so, you need to practice ruthless elimination and one way to do that is through zero-based thinking. This is the practice of asking yourself this key question – knowing what I know now, would I choose to start that activity today? Here are some examples of how you can use the question by applying them to various aspects of your life:
    1. knowing what I know now, would I still start this project?
    2. Knowing what I know now, would I still join that group?
    3. Knowing what I know now, would I still create that product or service?
  5. How do you reduce useless input? How do you stop yourself from absorbing useless information? You may need to avoid information overload and here are some steps to do that:
    1. First determine exactly what it is you want or need to learn. That will help you search for information in the right places, identify the right people to get information from and decide the exact amount of information to consume.
    2. Reverse your learning to-to-action ratio. In other words stop spending so much time consuming information and very little time acting on the information you consume. You should act more than you consume. Take a step back and honestly assess your learning vs action ratio and challenge yourself to take action towards your goals rather than just reading about them.
  6. Eliminate anything that wastes your energy and prevents you from focusing on your goals. When you constantly experience friction that holds you back from acting, you waste energy and end up not achieving what you set out to achieve. Here are some steps to eliminate friction and waste:
    1. Turn off things that can distract you such as wifi and your phone.
    2. Implement a daily routine that can put you in a more productive mindset. For some people that can be listening to a specific type of music or doing exercise.
    3. Work on your goals early in the morning before you do anything else.
    4. Be clear about your daily priorities. Have a plan, otherwise your mind will trick you into doing time wasting activities.

This is a book with a lot of simple but practical tips to help you focus better. Even if you don’t read the whole book, you will learn something from it that can improve your ability to focus.

Book Review – The Time Chunking Method by Damon Zahariades

Time chunkingThe Time Chunking Method by Damon Zahariades, discusses how we can use the time chunking method to improve our productivity. In 10 sections Damon describes how we can become adept at using the time chunking method to improve our productivity. He tells us what it is and how to get the best from it. Though this is not a big book, it is full of practical tips that work and are easy to implement.

Following is a top-level review of each section.


How will chunking improve your life? Why do you want use it? Those are the questions you have to answer in this first section. So what things do you want to achieve that chunking can help you with. Make sure you are clear about them. As Damon says, reason drives action. So here you are encouraged to list ways that chunking can help to improve your life. Continue reading

Book Review – The Go-Giver By Bob Burg and John David Mann

The G-_GiverThe Go-Giver written by Bob Burg and John David Mann is one of those books written in parable style, just like the One Minute Manager and Who Moved My Cheese, it uses a story to teach business lessons in a very engaging way. The book is centred around, Joe, a highly driven salesman who is bent on achieving his quarterly target. Joe needs all the support he can get. He is introduced to Pindar by a colleague, who believes Pindar might be able to help him.

Pindar does end up helping Joe, but not in the way he expects. Though he doesn’t help Joe achieve his sales targets, he does help Joe become  a go-giver,  which is the exact opposite of what Joe had always believed was necessary to succeed. Pindar helps Joe to learn the five laws of  a go-giver which are: Continue reading