Zabby Allen is the creator of the Procrastination Paper so if anyone knows about the impact procrastinating has on our calm and joy it’s Zabby!
In this episode we discuss:
Pressing Pause Episode 81 Making procrastination a positive with Zabby Allen
Welcome to Pressing Pause. I’m Gabrielle Treanor, a mindset and positive psychology coach and writer, exploring how we can create, find and feel more calm, ease and joy in our daily lives.
For my very first interview episode on Pressing Pause I’m delighted to be talking with Zabby Allen. Zabby is the creator of the Procrastination Paper, a monthly mini mag that encourages people to step away from their screens for a while and procrastinate positively through creativity, curiosity, conversation, play, adventure and reflection. Zabby is also the editor of The Happy News which is how we first connected because I write for the newspaper. So, here’s Zabby…
Gabrielle: [00:00:00] So, hi Zabby, thanks so much for joining me today.
Zabby: [00:00:03] Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Gabrielle: [00:00:06] So I wondered if we could begin with you just telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Zabby: [00:00:11] Yep, I, um, Zabby Allen. I live in south London. I run a monthly mini magazine called the Procrastination Paper, which is like a paper alternative to scrolling through social media, basically, the tagline is waste some time offline and, it kind of encourages people to get off their phones for a bit and, and to procrastinate positively.
Gabrielle: [00:00:36] Love that I think that’s going to be appealing to people straight away.
Zabby: [00:00:40] I hope so. And I also edit the Happy Newspaper, which you’re a part of, I should say that too.
Gabrielle: [00:00:46] Yes, of course. That’s how we know each other from the Happy News. So I write an article, one article for the paper and you edit the entire paper, which is an amazing job to do.
Zabby: [00:00:56] It’s a big job that’s for sure. I’ve just sent the most recent issue off to Emily who runs it. So that’s a big weight off my mind at the moment.
Gabrielle: [00:01:05] Brilliant. Brilliant. So actually how does working on those two newspapers and kind of how you go about your life, how does that inform how you feel calm? Is it something like you thrive on the busy-ness of life and that sort of helps you feel calm or do you need to really separate things out to bring some calm and chill? Like, what does calm look like in your life?
Zabby: [00:01:28] Well, to be honest, no, I think I used to thrive off the busyness and after burnout kind of realised that that’s not the way to go! So now I think I’ve gone in almost the opposite direction and I tried to be as chilled out as possible and take on only the work that I’m really interested in and that I think is not going to cause me too much stress.
In terms of calm, what it looks like to me. I think just trying to be really present, that’s something that I’ve realised a lot of us feel is really difficult. I think we have a lot of, a lot of difficulty with that these days, you know, without getting distracted by social media or that task that we have to do or thinking, you know, should I take a photo of this?
Just allowing ourselves to be in that moment, I think is something that I’m, I’m trying to get better at myself. And I think when I do, when I do find myself feeling calm, it’s usually just because I’m just concentrating on the task and not worrying about everything else.
Gabrielle: [00:02:33] Yeah. So that, that feeling of calm comes from not being in your head, but kind of being in the moment
Zabby: [00:02:39] Yeah, which is easier said than done I think sometimes.
Gabrielle: [00:02:43] Yeah, absolutely. And I guess that sounds like that sort of thinking has informed the procrastination paper, because you’re saying it’s about coming offline, you know, taking a step back from social media. So has that come from, well, I’m thinking chicken and egg. Did the calm then make the procrastination paper or has the procrastination paper helped you find calm?
Zabby: [00:03:08] Well, yeah, that’s a good question. I started or had the idea for the paper initially when I took a month off freelance work. So I kind of rushed through all of my work the month ahead and gave myself a whole month off to kind of figure out what I wanted to do. And it was only really from having that break that I came up with the idea and, it all started because I’d installed a time tracking app on my phone before we all have them installed already. And it told me that I was spending about four hours just staring mostly at Instagram every day, but I was walking around saying I don’t have enough time to do all of the things I need to do. So that’s kind of how it all started because I realised I was, I was just wasting, wasting time doing things that weren’t making me feel calm at all. And now I’ve been able to kind of simplify things. So it was, I used to work sort of for about four or five different companies all at once. Plus doing my own thing. I used to sell a lot of products that I designed and I kind of realised that I just needed to start breaking away from things. So now I do feel a lot calmer having only one or two things to work on instead of about six.
Gabrielle: [00:04:23] Yeah. Yeah. I can see that that would, yeah, that would steal your calm and some of your joy as well. So, how do you see it? Cause obviously you, you know, you must spend a fair amount of time thinking, writing, creating about procrastinating and exploring all the stuff around why we procrastinate.
What do you think that procrastination has in terms of its effect and its impact and how it’s tied up with the calm we can feel and the joy we can feel, what part does procrastination play in, maybe getting in the way of our common joy?
Zabby: [00:04:59] Well, it can definitely get in the way. I mean, simply put procrastinating is just avoiding a task. I spoke to Sas Petherick, who is a self-doubt coach, for the first issue. And she describes it as the gap between intention and action which I thought was a really nice way of looking at it. And, that’s really stuck with me.
So I think we, we just have to choose how we are using that gap and how we’re using that time. And usually procrastination is, is so wrapped up in fear. Usually we’re just avoiding a task because we’re scared of it. I am anyway for the most part. So, you know, we might, we could, we could turn that into something positive.
I really think that procrastination can be positive. And it’s really just about being aware of how we’re procrastinating in the first place and how that’s making us feel. And then once you’ve done that, you know, you can, you can start to unpick it a bit more and use it in a positive way instead of in a negative way.
So for me, like before I was just using social media as my procrastination time and it wasn’t making me feel bad at all. It wasn’t bringing me any joy or any calm. So I had to step away from that and kind of find something else, but that’s also not to say social media is always bad, but there are certainly positives to it.
I’ve found some amazing things that I’ve ended up putting in the paper on social media whilst I’ve been procrastinating working on the paper. So I think it’s just about using social media with intention. And just really paying, paying attention to what we’re doing, how we’re using that, that time.
It’s obviously procrastinating is, often just an instinct, but becoming more aware is important.
Gabrielle: [00:06:51] Yeah. Yeah. There’s so much good stuff in there that you’re just saying. So yeah, it’s that thing, isn’t it? That actually social media is not bad. It’s it’s just a thing, you know, like the internet is not bad, our phones are not bad, they’re just things. It’s how we use them and how we relate to them and what we are spending how much time we’re spending on them and how it makes us feel. Cause even like, you know, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to spend an hour compared to 10 minutes. It depends on how you feel and what you’re doing, whether it’s useful or unhelpful procrastination device.
Zabby: [00:07:23] It’s definitely a quality over quantity thing. Although, you know, I can look at my phone and be horrified I’m spending four hours on it. If I know I’m spending four hours on it, but I’m finding out about incredible people who inspire me or, you know, I’m talking to other people who are helping me then that’s fine.
But if I’m spending four hours just mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I’m feeling bad about myself, which is what I was doing, you know, not so good.
Gabrielle: [00:07:50] Yeah. Yeah. And I think that the point you made about procrastination being, you know, there’s something else going on there, there’s sort of a fear behind there. I think that’s so interesting. Cause I think so often we can think I’m just, you know, I’m just rubbish at focusing. I can’t concentrate and we think it’s a fault within us and that’s why we’re not knuckling down to the task.
But actually it might be that, yeah, there’s a fear there about, well, what if I can’t do this thing very well? Or what if the thing I need to do, you know, whoever it’s for, you know, I do the report for my boss, they don’t like it and actually that’s behind it. And once we identify that it changes it all, doesn’t it?
Zabby: [00:08:27] Yeah, exactly. I think that is, that is the first step is just identifying what you’re procrastinating from, and then you can start to unpick why you’re procrastinating over that task. And yeah, usually it’s just that you’re, you’re feeling a bit scared and sometimes you can channel that kind of feeling of, of being scared into something positive.
Gabrielle: [00:08:49] Mmm. Yeah. So you said that procrastination can be a positive thing. That’s intriguing.
Zabby: [00:08:54] Well, I think so. I think it’s inevitable. Isn’t it? We’re all going to procrastinate. And I think once you do become aware of it, you can, you, you start to tune into, to how you’re feeling or, and like I was saying before, I still procrastinate on social media. There have been times that I have been avoiding writing a certain article or editing a certain article or doing something related to the paper.
And I’ll just have a quick look at something on social media. And in that time, I’ve found something that’s like exactly what I’ve been looking for for a gap in the paper or something like that. And it’s incredible how often that happens. And I think, although I’m still kind of spending time on social media, I’m not doing it as mindlessly as I was before. I’m looking for things and things are standing out to me that may otherwise not have before.
Gabrielle: [00:09:50] I completely get your point now. Cause actually, if you think about it, I’m now thinking the times that I procrastinate, I generally I’m doing something else. And if the other thing you’re doing turns out to be useful. So, sometimes you end up, cleaning the kitchen because you really don’t want to sit down and do that other thing.
Zabby: [00:10:07] Yeah.
Gabrielle: [00:10:07] And all right, so you didn’t do the other thing, but you’ve got a clean kitchen out of it, which is handy.
Zabby: [00:10:12] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I did some surveys when I first started just asking people how they most procrastinated. A lot of people said cleaning and I, I do that quite often too. And it, it does help because quite often you’re, you know, you’re doing something that’s completely different, especially when it’s something physical, like cleaning your kitchen or, cooking something, you’re quite focused on that task at hand, but it’s not necessarily something that you have to really put too much thought into. So it might spark off an idea or something else that then makes the task that you’ve been putting off easier to do in the long-term.
Gabrielle: [00:10:47] That is such a good point because, I’m now going to get this horribly wrong, but I think Albert Einstein worked at a patent office because he wanted a job that didn’t really require his brain because while he was working, he could be thinking about, like in the back of his head, he could be thinking about the work he really wanted to be doing. And that’s where he had marvellous aha moments and ideas pinged into his head and lightbulbs went off. So yeah, I think that’s a really good point while you’re procrastinating and you’re doing something else, it can allow your brain to actually come up with a solution that that’s why you were struggling and didn’t want to do the thing because you were stuck on something or, a brand new, brilliant creative idea pops into your head.
Zabby: [00:11:26] Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And it, you know, you’re procrastinating from it but it doesn’t mean that you’re not thinking about it at the back of your head. Yeah.
Gabrielle: [00:11:35] I’m beginning to see that there’s a value in procrastination. And I didn’t necessarily know that that’s where we would go today.
Zabby: [00:11:41] I love that fact about Albert Einstein.
Gabrielle: [00:11:45] It’s that thing about why you have good ideas in the shower because, you not thinking about the thing you want to have good ideas about. And so then it just pops into your head cause your brain sort of relaxed or something. That’s not a scientific thing, but it’s along those lines,
Zabby: [00:11:58] It’s very true. I mean, like I say, I only had the idea for the paper in the first place because I’d given myself time off and I only ever have shots of inspiration when I am actually just switched off from other things.
Gabrielle: [00:12:13] That is such a good point. Yeah. Yeah. So how would you see procrastination also then feeding into our joy in terms of, can we find more joy when we allow ourselves to have that little bit of breathing space and rather than forcing ourselves to do something we’re not ready to do, but, but having a bit of procrastination time, does that feed into our joy at all?
Zabby: [00:12:38] Well, I suppose if you’re kind of, like you say, forcing yourself to do a task you’re always going to be aware that you’re forcing yourself to do it. So you’re probably not going to feel any joy. Whereas, I mean, there’s obviously a point where you have to stop procrastinating and just do it. But I think sometimes once you’ve given yourself that little kind of, that little gap, that time to do something else, then sometimes it is easier to then move on and do the task.
And although it might not be something that necessarily brings you joy, it might make it a little bit easier and slightly less painful.
Gabrielle: [00:13:14] And have you found that through life experience, but also perhaps because you create the procrastination paper and you edit the happy news, have you found that what gives you joy has changed all? I mean what does give you joy and how has it been influenced I suppose.
Zabby: [00:13:32] I think I’ve definitely become more in tune with what brings me joy. Um, I mean, working on the paper has just taught me so much. I’m working on issue 33 at the moment and we have a lot of contributors to each issue, each one has a different theme and, it’s just introduced me to all sorts of new people and new ways of thinking.
So it’s definitely helped me kind of focus on, on what does bring me joy. For me, things that bring me joy and calm are pretty much the same thing. And it’s nature generally, walking my dog and getting outside into nature is, yeah, that’s my favourite thing to do.
Gabrielle: [00:14:14] Isn’t that interesting that calm and joy can be similar. Similar things cause your calm and joy.
Zabby: [00:14:20] Yeah.
Gabrielle: [00:14:21] Yeah. They can be tied up.
Zabby: [00:14:23] I think they’re definitely tied up. Um, and just, I spend so much time just sitting staring at a screen which, although it’s, you know, what I’m trying to encourage people not to do, the front of every paper says step away from your screens. And the irony is I sit here, just staring at my screen every day. So getting outside just has meant so much more to me than it might otherwise have done.
Gabrielle: [00:14:51] So when, I mean, we’ve had quite the year and a half, when everything is feeling a bit challenging, stressful, it’s all getting a little bit much, how do you find calm and joy? You mentioned about getting out into nature and walking the dog. Is there anything else in particular that you do to help you find calm and joy?
Zabby: [00:15:10] Well, we’re lucky in that we live right next to a big park. It’s got an ancient Woodland. So although, not necessarily walking the dog because, although she’s very well behaved for the most part, it doesn’t always bring you calm walking the dog. Um, so I like to just stand in the woods, actually, one of the other dog walkers in the park, I made friends with a man called Andrew Jenkins who runs forest bathing sessions in the park.
And I went to his first kind of practice one. And, just, since going into that practice session of this forest bathing, it’s just completely changed how I connect with nature. And I, I find myself like sort of coming back to what I was saying earlier, becoming much more present, realising how important is to just be still in the woods instead of just continuously walking through.
Just sitting and being still for a little while in the middle of the Woodland is absolutely game-changing. There’s also a swimming lake in the park, which brings me a lot of calm. Although I do not swim in there anywhere near enough. The cold water seems to have an instant calming effect for me.
Gabrielle: [00:16:21] Oh, interesting. And so for anybody who isn’t clear on what forest bathing is, could you just give a little insight into that?
Zabby: [00:16:29] I can, I will probably butcher this. It sounds confusing because it sounds like swimming, which I also just mentioned, which makes it even more confusing. Um, but I think it’s based off a Japanese phrase, which I won’t butcher, but, it’s essentially getting, uh, well, exactly what I said – becoming more aware of your surroundings when you’re in nature and essentially standing still and using your senses or lying on the ground and using your senses, although I’m not necessarily confident enough to just lie on the ground and, and connecting with the feel of the ground, the sounds that you can hear, the things that you can see moving around you, that that’s essentially it.
Gabrielle: [00:17:16] Hmm, you don’t necessarily need a forest and you’re not, okay, you’re not actually bathing, it’s just, I mean, it’s a gorgeous phrase with the translation, isn’t it? Yeah. Which you can do anywhere. So, you know, anybody, in their back garden, in a park, I mean, obviously it’d be lovely to be in some incredible forest, but a patch of nature somewhere it’s just that being still and paying attention. And how could that not bring your calm down? No, but even if the things that you can hear, you know, maybe there’s a siren going by. Maybe you can hear some kids playing. There can be noise. But it’s just that being still it’s, like you said, right at the beginning is being present is going to help you feel calmer and bring you more joy than when you’re caught up in your head the whole time.
Zabby: [00:17:55] Yeah. And it’s not, you know, it’s not necessarily that easy. And I think it’s something that it’s like meditation. I’ve never been particularly good at meditation. It’s something that I’ve tried many times and I definitely find it easier to do that kind of thing in nature or outside, and to have something to focus on, that’s not just, you know, in my head and that’s it, that’s the thing in meditation as well, isn’t it? Where the thoughts come, you acknowledge them and then you kind of send them, send them away again, it’s the same as what you’re saying with that siren, you acknowledge it. And then you kind of get back to focusing on the way the leaves are swaying or whatever it might be.
Gabrielle: [00:18:36] Yeah, I have quite an urge to go to go out to a forest now. So my last question for you before we finish is what are you going to do today to give yourself a moment of calm and joy, Zabby?
Zabby: [00:18:50] Well, I’m definitely gonna go to the woods now having been talking about it, and that will definitely bring me some calm. And to bring me some joy, you know what, I’m actually going to do the hoovering and then listen to a podcast.
Gabrielle: [00:19:06] Brilliant. I love it. There’s a bit of nature. There’s again a bit of cleaning doing and some and listening to something that’s going to make you laugh. Brilliant. I love it. Thank you so much for joining us, Zabby, do you just want to let people know where they can find you, how they can get in touch with you and see all the gorgeous things you’re doing.
Zabby: [00:19:24] Yes, of course. You can find me on Instagram. I still spend far too much time there. My personal account is @ZabbyAllen or @theprocrastinationpaper, you can find me too, and procrastinationpaper.com is where you can subscribe to monthly magazine.
Gabrielle: [00:19:42] Brilliant. Thank you so much.
Zabby: [00:19:44] Thank you.
It was such a joy to talk with Zabby and if you enjoyed our conversation please do share this episode 81 and I would be enormously grateful if you left a review on iTunes. Every single review makes a big difference to how this podcast can be found and listened to and it makes me do a little happy dance too.
For the show notes and links mentioned in this episode 81 go to gabrielletreanor.com/podcast.
You can also find lots more to help you feel more calm and joy in your daily life at gabrielletreanor.com and in particular my free resource library at gabrielletreanor.com/free.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.
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