[REVIEW] Breaking Through Procrastination with Dr Zed (Adelaide, Feb 2020)

I walked into this workshop both skeptical and annoyed that I’d agreed to go, and I walked out a fan. Here’s my story, and why I think you should go too.

Breaking Through Procrastination is a day-long workshop in which you learn who you are now, and who you need to be in order to do the things that you want to do. I walked in skeptical and annoyed that I’d agreed to go, and I walked out a fan. Here’s my story.

On the morning of Thursday 6 February, I walked briskly through the morning sunshine at Hindmarsh from the Entertainment Centre to the Education Development Centre. It was further than I had remembered, even though the morning was just divine, and I imagined that I was running late. It was 0827 and I thought that the session began at 0830.

I was annoyed.

First, I was annoyed that I’d agreed to go. (Thanks, past me.) Secondly, I was annoyed that I was late. I’m never late for anything. In fact, my clients often tell me that I am precisely 11 minutes early for meetings, every time.

This wasn’t helped by the fact that I had just battled peak hour. It’s been so long since I’ve been in any kind of peak hour situation in a car that I couldn’t believe that people actually put up with it. For the last year, every time I was in peak hour I was on a bicycle, spinning gleefully past everyone just sitting still. I found myself wishing I’d cycled, because at least I could dodge through tiny gaps and roads, and get some exercise while on the way. Weirdly, every major road was almost at a stand-still; in contrast, every minor road was literally empty, like the drones have no brains.

It made me realise how much I dislike city life. Even in a tiny city like Adelaide, whose traffic is almost nothing.

Nevertheless, somehow I’d managed to get out onto a major road by mistake, and proceeded through the sludge.

The EDC (Education Development Centre) is a giant building, filled with training rooms. I always imagine that it’s some kind of government training heaven; where people who get paid a lot to do not much also get paid a lot to sit and eat and learn. I agree, that is an overly cynical way to look at it. The venue itself really is fantastic, and the catering equally excellent.

The bonus, which I didn’t discover until much later, is that the Adelaide Entertainment Centre has a park-and-ride setup. That means that parking is $5 for the entire day! Wow! I expected to pay at least $27 for the privilege.

When I got to the EDC, I looked for a sign that would tell me where Dr Zed and Co were. But there wasn’t one. Instead, there was a screen with a small, interminably scrolling text, as if there was all the time in the world. I joined a silver-haired lady who was also patiently waiting to see where her training was being held.

In a moment of hilarity, I was directed to the room past which I just walked. Its doorway had two very large banners right at the entrance emblazoned with Dr Zed’s ID.

Oh dear, I thought. I am SO late.

The room was completely dark, and a group of students were sitting quietly in front of Dr Zed and his powerpoint presentation.

I tried not to burst into the room in my sunny way, but I did apologise at volume.

Everyone looked surprised.

‘No, we don’t start for another 15 minutes,’ replied Dr Zed.

‘Oh!’ I laughed, putting my stuff down. ‘Everyone was so quiet and studious looking, I thought you’d already started.’

Dr Zed is a publisher of books (print, digital, and audio). His name is Scott Zarcinas, and we’ve known each other since I was a publisher way back in 2007. Late in 2019, he invited me to his smashing procrastination workshop–a whole day for free!–so I happily said yes. Writing this is the least I can do in return, right?

Lest you think that my friendship with Dr Zed will colour this review, rest easy. I’m a great alchemist and have turned many a warm acquaintance into a cold stranger as a result of my reviews in the past; though hopefully that won’t happen with this one!

To be honest, I’ve studied myself and my procrastination so much that I didn’t think I’d get much out of this event.

That’s why I was annoyed at having agreed to go; I felt like I was there as an observer more than a participant, and that there were other things I could be doing.

I’ll give you some context, so you understand.

In the past six years of running Brutal Pixie, I have gone deep down the procrastination-smashing rabbit hole. I’ve had to do this because everything in that company rests on me. If I am not self-motivated, the business dies, frankly. If the business dies, I don’t eat. Extreme ownership is the order of the day, in Pixieland.

I have:

  • tracked every thing I’ve done every day, for weeks, in order to discover my reward triggers
  • worked hard at changing who I am in order to be the person I want to be
  • studied all the greats, from Tony Robbins to Jim Fortin
  • read philosophy, stoicism, and buddhism
  • practised mindfulness every day, in every weird and wonderful way you can imagine, from creating my own zone to enjoying doing the dishes
  • kept a daily Captain’s Log to capture patterns over time and discover new ways of being, doing and working
  • have written down what am I afraid of? every time I procrastinate, and then answered the question on paper…

… and so on.

What I’m trying to tell you, darling reader, is that I didn’t have any hopes for this workshop in the slightest. Especially when I walked in.

Breaking Through Procrastination: The experience

Scott, whom I prefer to call Dr Zed because it’s more super-villain-sounding, seemed nervous, as if he were an inexperienced speaker, and definitely an inexperienced trainer. He seemed to have set up a static, didactic kind of system, one in which we would sit and nod and try not to go to sleep, rather than doing activities. When I walked in, the room’s energy was low; there was an air that we were at school. It was even extremely dark.

Passive learning. Yikes. The very worst kind of education in the entire world, bar none.

Now, I realise that this sounds incredibly harsh. For context, one of my clients is one of Australia’s best trainers. She’s won awards for it, is highly sought after, and I have participated in her workshops as both a participant and an educator. She is truly remarkable at creating high energy levels and driving shift up-front, with or without a powerpoint. The contrast, for me, was marked, but it’s not likely that anyone else in the room went in with such a perspective.

When the workshop started, I felt justified because the way it began is the way I had imagined it would be.

But it didn’t stay that way.

In a very short time I was engaged and thinking. Dr Zed pushing us into reflection and activities along the way, without any time to faff about, helped a lot.

Perhaps it was because it was the first of the year’s workshops; perhaps it was because everyone was nervous and wouldn’t normally go to a ‘procrastination’ workshop; whatever it was, everyone just needed to warm up a bit.

As a workshop participant, I tend to jump in, ask questions, make comments along the way. I did push Scott a couple of times, intentionally, and he handled everything easily and wove it back into the workshop. By lunchtime, everyone else had loosened up enough to jump in with questions, stories and comments.

The upshot of that interaction is that we all bonded a little more.

Participant bonding, in this workshop, is necessary. Perhaps if Dr Zed had time to run a game like the low-tech social network ahead of the workshop, everyone would have bonded, and been interested in each other, upfront.

So, why is this bonding necessary?

Much of the content isn’t what you’d expect. It isn’t all the same-old techniques for getting over the hump of not-doing and into doing. Instead, it is focused on working out who you need to be in order to achieve the things you want to achieve.

(Fans of Jim Fortin, you know this narrative intimately, amirite?)

In order to work out who you need to be, you have to face the deep things that you normally shy away from. What are you actually afraid of? Why are you afraid of it? What kind of person do you need to be in order to overcome it? How does it push you away from action? What would it take for you to be the person who does take action?

Dr Zed’s method works through a quadrant that includes:

  • security and survival issues
  • limiting beliefs
  • issues about pleasure and pain (or, as you might know them, payoffs or ease).

Unless you deal with these things, you will never uncover the whys and hows of the motivation that you require to move you forwards… on whatever your thing might be. That motivation is the fourth quadrant.

A number of participants told us that they didn’t think they were procrastinators. But by halfway through they could identify parts of themselves that do procrastinate. Their realisation is that people are not Procrastinators, but that all people have procrastination behaviours of some kind. That underlying those behaviours are feelings, and thoughts, and that you can change them if you know how.

Working through this material caused one of the men in the workshop to comment, ‘Wow this is deep stuff’.

Yes it is deep stuff.

Some of it is confronting.

Actually, scratch that: All of it is confronting if you’ve never done this work.

A-has early on really got my attention

I had an a-ha moment very early in the workshop in which I identified a limiting belief that has held me back from taking action on my permaculture learning. I’ve been doing loads of reading, for years, and not taking any action. The reason is superficially because ‘I don’t have land’, and ‘I don’t have the money to buy land’. The actual fear is ultimately an abandonment fear: That pursuing my dream may cause my husband to decide it’s not his bag, and not come along for the ride.

Is the fear valid? Well, no. It hasn’t happened yet.

So the question is: Am I willing to take that risk in order to achieve my dream? The answer is yes, because (a) what he does is not inside my control anyway; (b) I can put principles into practice today; (c) the small steps are easy to take; and (d) it’s my dream, dammit, and nobody is standing in the way of that. Except me.

Wow, right?

We did a lot more work, on fears and values, and personal intentions.

Towards the end, we went deep and long on goal setting. But not your typical SMART or SMARTER goals. Simply the action of starting at the dream, and working backwards, while being extremely specific.

And then, in a move that I think nobody expected, we started to do this for goals in every sector of our lives: Family and relationships, fun and adventure, health and wellbeing, learning, and so on.

This is really where we get into Dr Zed’s Life Leadership material, from which this workshop is merely one part.

By the end of the day, I felt like it had been immensely worthwhile.

My attitude had turned a complete 180 degrees, and I feel like I walked out of that workshop knowing myself a lot better, and with real skills.

I still have a lot of work to do: It’s been a few days, and I haven’t sat down to nut out all the rest of the goals and actions. I haven’t reviewed the (substantial) workbook that each of us received and began working through. In fact, I’ve barely scratched the surface.

The critical thing is that I walked into that workshop feeling that it was going to be a bit samey, as someone who’s very organised, and really on the ball when it comes to self-management, and yet it changed me enough that I was in a completely different place when I left.

That change is a hallmark of good education.

Interestingly, in a minor domestic disagreement the very next day, I was able to draw on the values that I’d established in the workshop. The result was a much better overall outcome for both of us, and without fighting about anything. I actually thought, when we were in this disagreement, what top values did I write down yesterday? Ohh honesty and communication. Bloody hell. Well, here goes… and then backed myself all the way, while also being open about that.

It was, as I described it for a friend, an exemplary moment of adulting.

So, what are you to think of all of the foregoing?

First: If you have an opportunity to attend Dr Zed’s workshop, you ought to do it. That is because Dr Zed’s approach knits together many approaches that others teach in isolation, and together they are much more valuable.

Second: Even if you are a seasoned personal development student like me, there is even more reason for you to do it. While perhaps 60% of the workshop wasn’t new to me, at least 25% of the approach was new to me. It plugged fundamental gaps between knowing a territory intellectually, and knowing what to do with the knowing. This means that for you diligent professional development students, you will have deeper insights, more effective a-has, and will solve some intractable problems that you may not realise that you have.

Third: What you learn about yourself in this workshop will continue to grow, and will spill over into other areas of your life, perhaps immediately.

Dr Zed’s upcoming Breaking Through Procrastination workshops in 2020:

  1. The Kiribilli Club, Sydney. 20 Feb 2020. Tickets.
  2. Karstens, Melbourne. 3 March 2020. Tickets.