Agnes Vishnevkin

Episode Description

How to Solve a Procrastination Problem: With Agnes Vishnevkin

“Procrastination” is not a new concept for anyone, and we've all done it. But when procrastination becomes a habit, it can cause many consequences. Even so, maybe there's a way to take something that has a bad rap and actually find a useful purpose for it. But how?

My guest today is Agnes Vishnevkin, Co-Founder and COO at Disaster Avoidance Experts, which is a consulting, coaching and training firm designed to help leaders avoid business disasters and missed opportunities. Agnes has a procrastination problem and is looking for a way to solve it.

While procrastination may seem like just a part of everyday life, you can find ways to leverage it by understanding why it’s happening. Procrastination is actually a great indicator that we are not aligned with a goal. Maybe we think we should be doing something that we’re not doing, but we’re not considering whether or not it needs to be done urgently. We're not focusing on what needs to be on the top of our list, what someone else could do instead, and what’s not important to do at all.

Instead of seeing her procrastination as a major problem, I suggest that Agnes leverages it to the point where she doesn’t feel the need to solve it at all.

Episode Transcript

[00:00:05] Kim Ades:
Hello, hello. My name is Kim Ades, I am the President and Founder of Frame of Mind Coaching™ and you have just joined The Frame of Mind Coaching™ Podcast, where we welcome leaders from all over the world to come onto the podcast and get coached live and in person.  


Today, I have a special guest. Her name is Agnes Vishnevkin. Agnes, did I say it right? 


[00:00:26] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Perfect.  


[00:00:27] Kim Ades:
And she comes to us from a company called Disaster Avoidance Experts. Agnes, welcome! 


[00:00:35] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Thank you so much for having me Kim!  


[00:00:37] Kim Ades:
So what is this, Disaster Avoidance Experts?  


[00:00:41] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Well, we do help folks, leaders and organizations, avoid disasters, and we work with forward looking leaders who want to avoid those dangerous threats and avoid missed opportunities. And we use the power of the latest research and cognitive science to, you know, in our coaching until for training to all sorts of folks who want to, you know, look around the corner and be prepared for the long-term, in their career or with their organization or their team.  


[00:01:08] Kim Ades:
What kind of disasters are you talking about? Are you talking about like, you know, computer crash? Are you talking about... You know, getting a heart attack? What kind of disasters are you talking about?  


[00:01:21] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, well, there are a lot of disasters that we can avoid by making better decisions. So, you can even avoid a heart attack by eating better and exercising, like your doctor tells you and tells me, for that matter. [Laughs] 


[00:01:35] Kim Ades:
[Laughs]  


[00:01:35] Agnes Vishnevkin:
And so disasters, you know, they just happen. Like, for example, the COVID pandemic. None of us could have stopped it, but we can see that some individuals and some companies have adapted so much better to it because they've made better decisions earlier on. So they made the disaster much less impactful for them and for their teams and for their careers and for their businesses.  


So, it's about what kind of a decision can you make today in an uncertain situation, so that you can avoid that disaster in the future, so that you can avoid that missed opportunity, so you can be prepared, and so that you can avoid dangerous threats that are far off. And our brains are really not designed to think about the long-term future. 


[00:02:16] Kim Ades:
Yeah.  


[00:02:17] Agnes Vishnevkin:
You know, our brains evolved for the savannah hundreds of thousands of years ago. We all lived in tribes of maybe 50 to 150 people. You know, life was very simple and life was very dangerous. So, that's why we have our built-in anxiety responses. You know, we see a negative text from someone, we were like "oh my gosh!" You know, but that text is probably nothing and it's certainly not going to kill us.  


[00:02:41] Kim Ades:
Right.  


[00:02:42] Agnes Vishnevkin:
We saw the shadow. What if it's a tiger? You know, if people didn't learn to jump, they didn't make it. And so, we're all the descendants of people who've jumped at any kind of little shadow or sound, and that's kinda what we're built for, which is like the opposite of planning for the future. You know, not just for next week, next year, next to be in five years. So how do we plan for that?  


And so, you can learn more at disasteravoidanceexperts.com, we have lots of free resources you can check out there.  


[00:03:10] Kim Ades:
Very interesting. I went to your website and checked it out, and I noticed that you work with your husband, is that accurate? 


[00:03:17] Agnes Vishnevkin:
That is accurate. We work together and we have been married for 18 years, which is ridiculous. [Laughs] 


[00:03:22] Kim Ades:
Way to go!  


[00:03:24] Agnes Vishnevkin:
So yeah, it's been an interesting adventure to work with your significant other. We both have studied this topic for many years, but my husband does have a PhD and he's kind of like more of the front page kind of credibility. He's actually authored papers on cognitive science.  


[00:03:46] Kim Ades:
I saw that, yeah.  


[00:03:47] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, it's pretty exciting stuff. So, I kind of feel like I'm learning from the best and passing it on to others. And I'm also using the stuff on myself to help myself make the best decisions.  


[00:03:56] Kim Ades:
For sure, for sure. I work with my husband too.  


[00:03:58] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Oh, you do?  


[00:03:59] Kim Ades:
And that's an exciting journey, isn't it? [Laughs] 


[00:04:02] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, it's a lot of learning and a lot of growth and it's definitely not for everyone. [Chuckles]  


[00:04:08] Kim Ades:
Not for everyone. So tell us, what is your greatest challenge today? Let's get into that.  


[00:04:13] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, well, a challenge that I've been struggling on and off for many years, and I still haven't found like magic hack is to how– you know, being self-employed, some people say, you know, "I don't want to do a 9 to 5", okay, great. Now you're doing a 24/7 for your small business, you're a business owner. And so there's always, you know, your day to day, but how do I actually make time to get to things that are not urgent, but extremely important?  


So, for example, you know, writing new copy for your website, something like that, or improving your process, whereas right now it works okay, but it takes you an hour instead of 30 minutes a week. But can you just spend four hours to save that time, you know, forever. And I know it's a good decision to make and I should do it, but like, weeks and months passed and I haven't met me at the time for that. So that's just something on and off, it's really kind of a challenge for me.  


[00:05:04] Kim Ades:
It's interesting that I'm talking to you because I'm curious to know how would you avoid the disaster of not doing the stuff that's important, but not urgent. 


[00:05:12] Agnes Vishnevkin:
[Laughs]  


[00:05:13] Kim Ades:
Right? So I'm curious. I'm curious about that. If the roles were reversed, what kind of advice would you give yourself? I have a whole bunch of advice, but I'm curious how would you react to that.  


[00:05:23] Agnes Vishnevkin:
I love that, and I know, talking as a coach to coach, you know, every coach needs a coach, like every therapist needs a therapist.  


[00:05:29] Kim Ades:
Yeah.  


[00:05:29] Agnes Vishnevkin:
It's always so much easier, and actually one of the points of advice that we have, so if you go to our website, disasteravoidanceexperts.com and you can sign up for free email course. And one of the kind of modules talks about this very helpful tool of imagining what a trusted advisor would say, or ask, you know, calling up, "hey Kim, what do you think I should do?" 


[00:05:53] Kim Ades:
Yeah.  


[00:05:53] Agnes Vishnevkin:
What if it's the middle of the night and Kim is sleeping? They're just like "okay, just close your eyes. What would she say?" And that works pretty well, you know, in a pinch. And so, it's always so great, you know, I love coaching others and giving them advice, but it's really hard. So, if I was coaching someone, I would kind of ask them, you know, why is it not working? What do you feel? 


And honestly, you know, sooner or later would (...) some kind of underlying feelings. Kind of like, what is it? Like, if you have the time, why is it so hard? Why are you procrastinating on that? 


[00:06:24] Kim Ades:
Yeah, yeah.  


[00:06:24] Agnes Vishnevkin:
And that would be, of course, different for everyone.  


[00:06:27] Kim Ades:
Sure. It's interesting. I know a lot of people who have the concept of WWKS: what would Kim say? They have that.  


[00:06:36] Agnes Vishnevkin:
I love it!  


[00:06:37] Kim Ades:
They say that to me all the time. I've heard it before, more than once.All right, so let's dig in. So, it's interesting to me, right? So, in your case, you're like "I'm trying to find a hack", and I think there are hacks that are tactical in nature, but that hack addresses a thinking issue that you have at play. 


So for me, as I listen to you and I hear you saying "there are all these things that are important, but I'm not getting to them", I'd explore a few things. Number one, are they really important? And if they are really important, what's making them go to the bottom of the list? So I would explore that question. 


I would also explore the question of, is it you that has to do them? Right? They're sitting on your plate and perhaps they should be on somebody else's plate. Right? And so for me, I view procrastination as a very, very important piece of information. And procrastination is useful in telling us if a person is aligned with that task or that goal. 


And what I find is that when somebody isn't moving in the direction that they think they should be moving, should being the operative word, I'm always interested in why they think they should be moving in that direction, and then why they're not, and where the lack of alignment stems.  


Very often, people– I can't find one person who doesn't think they should be doing something that they're not. And the question becomes, what slows them down? What gets in their way? And unequivocally, it's a set of beliefs that says "well, yes, it's important, but I'm needed somewhere else". Right? "There's a fire burning and I'm the only one who could put it out" or "these other things are priorities" or "these other things can't live without me". Right? And on and on and on.  


And so I would explore the beliefs that lie underneath the reasons why you're not getting to those important things. And I wouldn't even question if they're actually important! And I would question whether or not there are other people who could potentially take care of those important things. But I will give you a hack.

[00:08:46] Agnes Vishnevkin:
[Laughs]  


[00:08:46] Kim Ades:
You like hacks. I think.  


[00:08:49] Agnes Vishnevkin:
I love hacks because– I kind of use them a lot because knowing so much about how our brain is so imperfect and you know, we have to avoid disasters because our decision-making is just like, terrible for the modern world. Our decision making that if we don't stop and think about it, that automatic decision-making just kind of...  


You know, we have to hack it, and that's kind of what a lot of the strategies are that we we've developed based on the cognitive science that's come out in the past few years. And so, if you don't hack it, it doesn't work. But if you do, then it's kind of like a habit. It's like a thought habit. So it kind of that's what's worked for me so far. So, I'm a big fan of hacks.  


[00:09:31] Kim Ades:
Okay, so let's talk about a hack and I'm going to talk about a hack that I have in mind by doing it a little bit backwards. What are the things that you never miss but you always do? 


[00:09:42] Agnes Vishnevkin:
[Laughs]  


[00:09:43] Kim Ades:
If you look at your schedule, what are the things that you would never ever say "I don't have time for that"? 


[00:09:50] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, that's a very good point. Those are things I find when I have an appointment with my business partner, with my husband and we've actually... well, scheduled many things because I would, you know, they would not happen otherwise. And then, what would happen? We are working together on an important kind of project of like, constantly like different questions about marketing. 


Sometimes it'd be like, I'm too tired or I don't feel like it or whatever. And then we get postponed and then he gets upset and he's like, it's like your important things are slipping. But now our important things are slipping and that's very bad and he's kind of– he doesn't have this kind of issue with important, not urgent. So that's kind of–  


[00:10:34] Kim Ades:
But he's your husband, right? And if you're tired, you're tired. Do you have kids? 


[00:10:38] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, I am! But then if I'm tired, like, every other day, then it's really–  


[00:10:42] Kim Ades:
Hold on a second. You showed up today.  


[00:10:45] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, I showed up today. So then we ended up scheduling the whole decision with that if we're going to have, you know, this particular meeting once a week. And so, we go through elaborate scheduling in our calendar for a lot of stuff. So this is just like another thing that we schedule, okay.  


[00:11:00] Kim Ades:
But do you know why you didn't miss your appointment with me?  


[00:11:05] Agnes Vishnevkin:
I'd make you feel bad. That would be terrible. [Laughs] I'd feel bad you'd tell everyone, "Agnes never shows up for appointments". Who wants that? 


[00:11:11] Kim Ades:
Okay. So you're wired to... please people, perhaps? It doesn't even matter, but you're wired to make sure that you show up for others. You make sure that you honor your commitments to the outside world, because you don't want to look bad, you don't want to make someone feel bad, you don't want to not show up when they're expecting you.  


And there's like, a whole bunch of reasons why that we don't have to dig into, that may or may not be healthy. That's not the point. But that's your hack. And the hack is to involve a third party in your appointment. The person you don't want to disappoint.  


[00:11:49] Agnes Vishnevkin:
So kind of commit to someone. Yeah.  


[00:11:50] Kim Ades:
Exactly. And I don't care who that person is. It could be a co-op student, it could be a VA from the Philippines. It doesn't really matter who that person is, but once you involve a third party in your appointment, you're not going to not show up because that's not who you are.  


[00:12:10] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah. Yeah, that's a fair point. So kind of promise, and sometimes it feels very, I think, difficult to say I struggled that with that sometimes like, "oh, when are you going to do this thing? Oh, like, I don't know. I'll put it on the list". It's like, "oh, I'll do it within three weeks". And then that's like, I'm mortified. I'm like, I have to do it in three weeks now. [Laughs] That's a reasonable hack. I mean, totally as uncomfortable as I am to admit it. [Chuckles]  


[00:12:34] Kim Ades:
It's a reasonable hack because in a way is low stress, low cost, but it keeps you to your word. And what we're really leveraging is how important your word is to you because you have a high degree of integrity. And so, when it's your husband, you know, he's part of your home. So just like it's easy not to live up to the promises you make to yourself, it's easy not to make, to live up to the promises you make to your husband sometimes.  


[00:13:01] Agnes Vishnevkin:
It's not as easy as you think sometimes. [Laughs]  


[00:13:03] Kim Ades:
It's not as easy, but it's easier than not living up to a promise that you're making to someone outside of your home, which you would never do. 


[00:13:12] Agnes Vishnevkin:
[Laughs]  


[00:13:13] Kim Ades:
Right? 


[00:13:13] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Maybe I should. 


[00:13:14] Kim Ades:
Well, we should talk, right? Like, that's a whole coaching conversation. But if you wanted a hack, what you really want to do is start to understand how you're wired and understand what your natural tendencies are. And any time you want to create a hack, you want to leverage your natural tendencies. You want to say "what would I never do?" And you want to build in your hack into that "what I would never do" factor.  


[00:13:42] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, yeah. I like that.  


[00:13:44] Kim Ades:
Yeah. There you go. Disaster recovery. Or disaster avoidance. 


[00:13:48] Agnes Vishnevkin:
I like that. Or disaster avoidance, because a disaster is what happens when it's like due tonight and I have like 10 hours of work to do... You know, college life [laughs] starting to speak for the day before and I'm hating myself, so, we don't want that.  


[00:14:03] Kim Ades:
I'll tell you an interesting story. I'm a serial entrepreneur, so when I started my last business many, many, many, many moons ago, I got co-op students to come and work for me from high schools. And because they would show up at my door at exactly one o'clock every day, guess what I was doing at exactly one o'clock every day? Doing the work that they were hired to do with me because I had to pay attention. I had to be present. I had to give them my time, right? 


[00:14:34] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah.  


[00:14:35] Kim Ades:
And so I created it in a system and if I didn't have anybody, then I was left to my own devices. And you know what happens at one o'clock in the afternoon? A nap, a snack, lunchtime, all the other things, right?  


[00:14:49] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, exactly.  


[00:14:51] Kim Ades:
And so if you can build it into your mindset, into the way you naturally operate, then it becomes a lot easier to execute and then it's not a habit you have to build.  


[00:15:04] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah. And it would be easier to build if it's already, I think I like this idea, scaffolding habits? Scaffold habits, I don't remember what's the right way, but kind of like, say if you have a morning routine or an evening routine that you're consistent with, it's easy to stick things on there because it's like scaffold that keeps everything–  


[00:15:22] Kim Ades:
Exactly.  


[00:15:23] Agnes Vishnevkin:
So I think I need to kind of look at where I can attach this.  


[00:15:26] Kim Ades:
Exactly. And for you, the attachment is in some ways to discomfort– a discomfort with
disappointing others, a discomfort with not following through. 


[00:15:39] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah.  


[00:15:41] Kim Ades:
Yeah.  


[00:15:42] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah, I'm very uncomfortable with that, but... 


[00:15:43] Kim Ades:
There you go. 


[00:15:44] Agnes Vishnevkin:
[Laughs] That means it's good advice.  


[00:15:46] Kim Ades:
That means that there's something easy for you to attach it to.  


[00:15:50] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Yeah.  


[00:15:51] Kim Ades:
For those of you who are listening, who have a hard time following through on those things that are important, but not urgent. I encourage you to look at how you are wired and look at what you can put in place that would allow you to naturally and easily follow through. 


For many of you who are listening, it means attaching it to a person that you never ever want to disappoint, knowing that with a hundred percent certainty, you will show up, because that person matters to you, because you don't want to disappoint them, because you don't want to look bad in their eyes. So think about that as an option. 


But beyond that, think about what are the things that are important and not urgent? And are they actually important? Or perhaps, maybe they're not as important as you think. Also think about whether or not someone else might be able to do those things and you can pass them off.  


And also take a look at why are you delaying? Is there a reason? Is this thing that's on your list of things to do actually not that important to you? Not aligned with you? Not something you even want to do? Think about it that way.  


But Agnes, thank you so much for being on the podcast, for sharing your time with me for sharing your challenge. I don't think you're unique, I think you're one among many, many people who struggle with this issue. But where do people reach you, if they want to learn more about what you do?  


[00:17:14] Agnes Vishnevkin:
Thanks Kim. My website is disasteravoidanceexperts.com and there's a big fat button at the top where you can subscribe to a free course and get lots of good free material to help you avoid decision disasters in the future.  


[00:17:27] Kim Ades:
Amazing. Thank you so much. And again, if you have a challenge that you want to share with me, please reach out to me. My email address is kim@frameofmindcoaching.com, we'd love to have you on the podcast.  


And if you have a challenge that you want to discuss, but maybe not so much on the podcast, a little more privately, please reach out to me as well. Again, my email address is kim@frameofmindcoaching.com.  


And if you're watching our podcast, listening to our podcast, please like, please share, please comment. We do want to spread the news and we need your help to do it.  

Until we see you next week. Have a great week!

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