Procrastination: Do You Stutter or Stammer?

I was recently at the annual conference of the New Zealand Hypnotherapy Federation, and one of the presentations was on stuttering. Thanks to the movie The King’s Speech, it’s a problem that has a high profile at the moment. The speaker, Evans Brown, has worked with stutterers for years, ever since he overcame his own stutter.

Although many people struggle with the actual speech problem, that’s not what I want to talk about today. Instead, I’m going to apply Evans’ technique to an even more common problem: procrastination.

Stuttering or stammering?

The distinction between stuttering and stammering is that stuttering is difficulty stopping, while stammering is difficulty starting (though “stuttering” is often used to mean both). We usually think of procrastination as difficulty starting – but have you ever started a project and put off finishing it?

Some people stammer, some people stutter, some people do both – and so it is with procrastination.

So, what’s Evans Brown’s advice that’s helped so many people stop stuttering and stammering, and how does it apply to procrastination?

Relax

Most advice on curing stuttering starts with learning to relax. Of course, this is harder than it sounds, when you are struggling to get your words – or your project – out, when you feel under pressure, when you’re aware of people becoming impatient with you. But part of the reason that you’re struggling may be that you’re putting too much effort into it and investing too much emotion into doing it right.

Learning to take some of the desperation out, and working (or speaking) in a relaxed state, is going to help things go more smoothly.

Slow down

Stutterers stutter because their brain is faster than their speech. They’re already thinking about the next word before they’ve got the first one out (partly because they want to try to avoid certain difficult sounds). I know what that’s like, because I have the same problem with typing. I type part of the word after next, because I can think faster than my fingers can move.

One reason you procrastinate may be that you’re thinking of the task after next – you’re getting distracted, maybe daunted, by something that you haven’t even reached yet (and never will reach if you don’t focus on the task you have right now).

Slow down. Pay attention to one thing at a time. Break the task down into smaller parts and focus on starting and finishing those. It’s easier.

Change it up

When Evans Brown was learning not to stutter, he found that he could shout without stuttering. He could sing without stuttering. He could whisper fluently. If he faced the wall and spoke, so that his voice bounced off the wall and sounded different, he could speak without difficulty. If he lowered his voice by an octave, it worked. If he changed his accent, it worked.

Evans only stuttered if he was speaking in his “normal” voice.

One of the things I often say in personal development is that if the process isn’t getting you the outcome you want, you need to change the process. My shorthand phrase is “work on the work”.

If you procrastinate when working at your desk, work on the couch. If you procrastinate when typing, write by hand, or dictate. Change something – anything – so that your context is different, and you have a fresh opportunity to work fluently and productively.

If there’s something specific that you know helps you procrastinate – like a website you waste time on – block it.

Listen differently

There were two other things that Evans found helpful. He could read aloud with someone else pacing him, and he could speak clearly if he was using a microphone and had loudspeakers behind him feeding him his own words.

Having someone else pace you is a great anti-procrastination technique. If putting things off is not only letting yourself down, but someone else, you have much greater motivation to keep going and hit your deadlines.

And being able to receive your own work as if it were someone else’s – like Evans listening to his voice through the speakers – helps to diminish the self-criticism that often leads to paralysing procrastination.

Overcome procrastination

I haven’t overcome stuttering like Evans. But I’ve learned to overcome procrastination, to get things both started and finished. I used to dream about projects and not start them, or make an enthusiastic start and then never finish. But lately, I’ve started to complete things consistently.

So I have a lot more to say about procrastination – 23,000 words more, in fact, since that’s the length of my ebook, Stop Procrastinating, Start Succeeding. Right now I have a special offer going of $10 off for Steven Aitchison’s readers – if you click through from Change Your Thoughts, you’ll be shown a discount code.

I hope it helps you to achieve amazing things.

 

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About Mike Reeves-McMillan

Mike Reeves-McMillan is an amazingness trainer. He's working on a book on how not to change your life.

Comments

  1. Ummm you do know that stammering and stuttering are interchangeable terms and have the same meaning yeah? Also that there is not known cure for either and the same.

  2. Heyya Mate/Sir/Madam
    I think i had started stammering since i was 4, My way of speaking had put limitations on my social life.
    The way of my stammering is bit confusing, coz the way i speak is (ssssssspeak) or sometimes i totally get stuck, (While in class teacher is taking attendance, when my turn is about to come i totally get blank).
    I somehow to reduce stammer, i speak something while my friends hardly understands :'( and they make fun of me, so i’ve decide not to speak anything stupid or utter a word, unless it required.
    Is my way of speaking is stammering..?? coz i one of my friend stammers too, but i can understand his each and single word.
    Like any other teenager even i like to see my crushes, tell them my feelings. But i can’t , and i mingle very less with gals . So i prefer txting and fb chat rather than, speaking in phone, i luv to stay home can’t go hang out or shopping mall , movies, U know when phone rings at my home, i’m afraid to keep up the phone coz i know i’ll fuc.king stammer. :'(
    M dammmmmm depressed often get suicidal feelings, i don’t thing i should exist here. coz ppl don’t accept me..!!

    Its always on d movies, or in the internet they only try to feel us a fake happiness..!!

  3. Hi Mike,

    I tend to be a very disciplined person, but I agree that changing it up is a very important component in successful execution of projects. It’s helpful not just in overcoming procrastination, but also in enhancing creativity.

  4. Hi and thank you for sharing this information. I have undertaken a personal mission over the past 6 months to analyse what made me procrastinate whilst creating the selfgrowthproject. What I discovered that there any many reasons why people procrastinate.

    There is no one solution to overcoming procrastination because it takes time, effort, dedication and the development of a strong self awareness to regularly identify the thought patterns, emotions and self inflicted reasons which support procrastination.

    Procrastination should not always be seen as a bad thing. In fact what has helped me become much more productive was sit back and reflect what is really going on in my mind when I procrastinated. So when procrastination became persistent I stopped for a moment and wrote down what was happening in my mind with the associated emotions. This helped me identify how I created self inflicted emotions leading procrastination and therefore, determine best methods to overcome (such as learning time management strategies to prevent the feeling of overwhelm)

    People normally procrastinate when the task in hand does relate to a their values and true passions. Procrastination comes in all sorts of forms and therefore, I think we should keep an open mind on how we deal with the habit and just focus own our own reasons for why we procrastinate. Thank you for sharing. This site rocks.

  5. Mike,
    I am a person who has stuttered since 4 years old. I stuttered severely from age 4 to about 25 years old.I have since changed my mindset about my stuttering, completely on my own. I have since been speaking about 90% fluent (my definition of fluent is speaking with little fear of my stuttering) and the 10% is the way I used to stutter. However I have learned that this 10% is not that bad because I know it will only last a short time, usually no more than a day.
    OK, now that you know my history, let’s discuss this article. I am very grateful that you as a non-stutter took such a strong interest in people who do. This is a rare thing to see, the only people I know of are the ones that have a close relationship with a person who stutters. So, thank you.
    You may not have gotten all of the details right with the comparisons, but I understand why, because you don’t understand the extreme nature of how stuttering, which I named mine “The Monster”, has a strong deep hold on us and influence every aspect of our lives, not just the act of speaking.
    Most of the time these tips that you suggest; relax, slow down, change it up and listen differently will only work for a short period time or they become “crutches” for people who stutter. What I did instead was take a look at the deeper root of my stuttering and changed my mindset on how I view and react to “The Monster” and this allowed me to have less fear at a deeper level.
    If any person would like to explore this concept with me, then look my article “Mindset Map for the Positive Stutterer” at my site http://www.bryanscottherr.com/mindset-map-for-the-positive-stutterer/.
    I would like to thank you again for not being afraid to put a different perspective on stuttering.

    Sincere Thanks,
    Bryan Scott Herr

    • Thanks, Bryan, that mindset map looks great. I guess my consistent message, and the message of Steven’s site, is that whatever challenges you’re dealing with in life, you can approach them adaptively by changing your thoughts about them. Your site looks as if it takes a similar line.

  6. I appreciate the dialogue on this post. As a person who stutters I think that it is important to consider one person’s experience as exactly that. I have not seen research to support the claims of the presenter y have seen. In fact the techniques you talk abut to “cure” stuttering are used by people to hide their stuttering and hide their voice. A real analogy would be how to hide your procrastination because that is what these techniques do for stuttering.

    It is problematic when someone appropriates examples from another culture, and yes stuttering is a culture! You risk this level of criticism. But it is also an opportunity to under those of us who have been marginalized in a deeper way.

    • Thanks, Nina. It’s interesting to discover that people who stutter see themselves as a culture, and feel that when they don’t stutter they are hiding their true voice and are still stutterers underneath. I was not aware of that before, and it certainly accounts for the strong reactions.

      Procrastination, on the other hand, is a pattern of behaviour, and I believe that it’s a pattern that can be replaced.

  7. O.K Sorry.
    We must show our disagreement in a civil way. Well, I apologize for my bad judgement in choosing the words I wrote above.

    I disagree with some of the points of this article and your thoughts and opinions are EXCELLENT to deal with Procrastination but maybe not when stammering is taken into consideration. It’s not anyone’s fault , it’s just that there is lack awareness about stammering all across the globe.
    It’s nothing personal and No hard feelings.
    Thank You.
    Apology and Regards to Mr. Mike Reeves-McMillan and Mr. Steven Aitchison.

    • Thanks, Aamir, and credit to you for coming back and posting that.

      Reflecting on this article and the response to it, it seems I made three mistakes:

      1. I used as a metaphor something that many people experience as a difficult reality, and that they have strong feelings about, without thinking about how they might feel about it.

      2. I drew on a presentation about something I’m not personally familiar with, by one person who has, it appears, a viewpoint that is not widely held, and didn’t check more deeply into it.

      3. I used the word “cure” inadvisedly.

      Thanks for all your comments, I’ve learned a lot more about stuttering from them, and it’s also given me material for another blog post on how to respond when you offend someone. Not that I think I’ve necessarily done a great job of that, but it’s given me cause to reflect.

  8. Susan Paskerian says:

    As another of the 1% I would like to respectfully question whether the author did any research into stuttering/stammering before writing his piece. I assume not as he would have discovered stuttering and stammering are synonomous. It is the difference between boot and trunk. Most stutters know they are fluent when singing (with a few exceptions: Mel Tillis the American county singer stuttered when he sang), and when speaking in unison. The writer may be amazing and enjoy teaching amazingness but he needs to take care that he not offend groups of people intentionally or unintentionally.I personally found his piece very hurtful.

    • Susan, there are different usages of the terms, and the definitions I used were those given by Evans, who, as I mentioned in the piece, has many years of experience (and research). He is South African, so his language usage may differ from yours.

      Again, I can only apologise for any offense.

  9. I can’t believe this article is being attacked for comparing stuttering and stammering with procrastination. He doesn’t.

    Mike clearly states “I’m going to apply Evans’ technique to an even more common problem: procrastination.”

    Good article Mike. I like the way you think and you have given some good advice here on procrastination. At no point did I think that you thought procrastination was equivalent to stuttering and stammering.

  10. Guys, I have to step in here and defend Mike.

    Mike is not saying that stuttering is like procrastination he is merely saying it is analogous to the work Evans Brown did with people who stutter.

    Whilst I understand your frustration here, I don’t think it’s polite to call it a ‘rubbish article’. It’s great if you disagree and put your point across in a courteous manner, but please be respectful when doing so.

    I appreciate you leaving your comments here but lets keep it civil :)

    • Totally agree that we need to keep things civil and respectfully disagree. But when something is written that is just plain inaccurate, we who struggle with “the issue” ARE going to react.
      For instance, Mike wrote: “Most advice on curing stuttering starts with learning to relax.” There is NO cure – if there was, most of us wouldn’t still be stuttering. We’d be selling our right arms for the cure.
      He also wrote: “Learning to take some of the desperation out, and working (or speaking) in a relaxed state, is going to help things go more smoothly.”
      Do you know how many times as an adult I’ve been told to relax, slow down, take a deep breath? It’s patronizing, and frustrating. If relaxing would do the trick, don’t you think we would do that?
      That’s why you see some “push-back” here. People who don’t stutter really don’t know what it’s like for us – and how easily misinformation can mess things up for us even more.
      Personally, I am happy to get opportunities like this to express myself and hopefully bust some myths. Awareness is power!

    • Thanks, Steven. I’ll repeat again, I was using a metaphor with a single point of comparison: difficulty starting or stopping, and suggesting that some of the same change-up techniques might help with procrastination. I didn’t mean to imply any other comparisons at all.

      If it helps, I also withdraw the word “cure”.

      By the way, I’m in a different timezone, which is why I haven’t replied earlier. Thanks to Steven for allowing these comments through, which I think was the right thing to do, and to the commentators for drawing my attention to the offence I unintentionally caused.

  11. I can not believe that you can compare procrastination to stuttering/stammering which as Pam & Aamir pointed out is the same thing depending where you live in the world.
    The 1% of us who stammer in the world do not need to be told that we are procratasting, we already have to deal with rude, ignorant people and it’s disappointing that someone who looking at your bio seems well educacated could be so insulting.

  12. Well that’s an absolutely rubbish article and the writer Mr. Mike does not know what he is talking about.
    Stammering and Procrastination have no relation and I have been stammering for last 15 years since I was four and I assure you that I have tried everything written above without procrastination and I certainly don’t procrastinate while speaking, whatever it means. So Mr. Mike should do more research or keep his mouth shut on things he doesn’t understand!

    And as for Mr. Evans’ way of ‘CURING ‘ his stammer, I congratulate him for his triumph over his stammer and am dying to know his secret. But still, I think he doesn’t know too much scientific knowledge about stammering and that it cannot be generalized or compared. Every stammerer has a UNIQUE stammer and everyone has to use different techniques and Stammering CANNOT BE CURED. If it was curable, then I assure you that we WON’T EVER CHOOSE to stammer.
    I got nothing else to say except-
    “When you start looking at a problem and it seems really simple; you don’t really understand the problem and your solutions are way too simplified and they do not work.”
    And by the way,

    • And by the way, Stuttering and Stammering are different words for the same thing and actually, that doesn’t matter because every person’s stammer is unique and cannot be characterized or classified.

  13. This is crazy. How can you associate procrastination with stuttering. Stuttering is a disability which effects 1% of the entire world population whose biological roots have been discovered. One can project himself as a non-stutterer which means hide his stutter by using few speech management techniques and approach-avoidance techniques but can never cure his stutter completely. I’ve been through that road.
    I’m an Indian person who stutters since roughly 4-5 years of age. And excuse me for saying this but i don’t agree with your analogy which you’ve drawn here at all, i find it very naive.

  14. I shan’t contribute to the theory behind stuttering and how studying their possible cures could help with procrastination. There seems to be quite a bit of negative perception directed against this post.

    What has helped me in this post is the change up formula that could tackle procrastination. Steven, what you have proposed here is really something unique that could help many people with procrastination problem. Best of all, it involves on a slight change of your working environment and you could be up for it.

  15. I doubt this will be posted but this is so wrong and the person who presented at your conference did not take into consideration the biological causes that contribute to stuttering. Procrastination is something that is not biological nor considered a disability under many laws where stuttering is. The solutions offered to “cure” stuttering are just tricks to hide the stutter but the stuttering is still there.

  16. What about those of us who really stutter? It’s not quite so simple unfortunately. I am a fast talker and a fast thinker – and I stutter. Have since I began talking. And I am an amazing communicator. I don’t procrastinate more than the average person, I don’t “stop” and “start” with my speech. I just happen to stutter sometimes, as do 1% of the adult population here in the United States (about 3 million of us) and 1% in the UK as well, and worldwide in fact. That’s a lot of people!
    We are not intellectually or emotionally impaired, nor are we nervous, anxious, shy or withdrawn. What we are is this: fed up with people who casually use the words “stuttering” or “stammering” conveys a negative connotation. Sports teams get off to “stuttering starts.” A nervous teenager on his first date “stammers” hello. Employees on interviews should take care not to “stutter or stammer” their way through the first question, or risk making an indelible negative first impression.
    I am all for people such as yourself selling books to help people manage their time better or figure out what obstacles exist that result in procrastination, which afflicts all of us at some point in our life.
    For those of us who stutter (as it is routinely referred to here in the U.S.) or stammer (as it is routinely referred to in Europe), it is not a routine fix. Many of us struggle every day against negative social consequences, educational and vocational discrimination and exclusion. I stutter and I am very successful! I stutter and am actively involved in Toastmasters! I stutter and help people every day! I stutter and work with youth and young adults! I stutter and live and work and play in the same world as everyone else! And it’s OK!

    • Again, my apologies for having given offence. I think you are reading more into my article than I intended. I’m not implying that stutterers procrastinate, that they’re less successful, that they’re “emotionally impaired, nervous, anxious, shy or withdrawn”. I’m using the metaphor of a speech difficulty, which can involve difficulty starting or stopping, to shed a different light on procrastination, which can also involve difficulty starting or stopping.

      It seems that my metaphor was ill-considered, and again I apologise.

  17. I stutter whether I am relaxed or not! It has nothing to do with being relaxed. I have stuttered since age 4 or 5. I am sorry, but I do not agree with this at all. I am sure a lot more stutterers will say the same thing. There is NO cure!

  18. This is a completely ridiculous article. As a person who stutters, the theories and parallels drawn here are bogus and just reinforce false stereotypes associated with stuttering. Keep your opinions to yourself, especially when they trivialize the struggles of a group of real people just trying to deal with the hand they’ve been dealt. Otherwise, do your research and do it well before you go waving your magic wand from atop your high horse.

    • All I can say to that is, my sincere apologies for having, clearly, given offence. I’m drawing here on a talk given by someone who stutters, has stuttered for many years and has helped hundreds if not thousands of people with speech difficulties. But I’m not drawing on personal experience, so clearly the metaphor was ill-considered.

  19. What an awesome post! I never heard those two words in association with starting and stopping projects but have experienced both… I have never had a problem starting projects except writing articles. When there is pressure to write something important it can take a long to write. So it’s the stress of it. To end something, well, that’s a loss of passion usually. Recapturing that passion takes several different tactics depending on the situation. :-)

    Thanks for the post!

    • Thanks, Marcelina. I agree with you about the loss of passion, I’ve definitely experienced that with some of my projects.

      One of the things that has helped me is having a day job in a project environment where stopping isn’t an option.

  20. Yeah, I have had a problem with stuttering before. Not all of the time of course, but it was caused by my body not being able to keep up with my mind and thoughts.

    Relaxation is the key to help this. Afterwards confidence In one’s own ability will shine through.

  21. Sometimes for procrastination in general, it helps to get others involved. These other people should be highly motivated in general already and are able to keep you accountable for your actions (or lack of action). Some goals, especially the really tough ones, are just easier to achieve with group efforts which reduce the chance of procrastination. It’s much like peer pressure in a way.

    • That’s true, Clint, although you do have to be careful with accountability. There’s some research to show that telling other people about your goal can be counter-productive, because it gives you the feeling of being closer to achieving it than you actually are.

      What you’re talking about, though, is more active accountability, and I think you are right that that is helpful. I know that joining a group or class always helps me to follow through.

      • You know, it really must depend on the type of person. I find that telling a few key people my goals makes me feel like if I don’t complete them I’m letting people down.

        I don’t think it sets me up to think I’m farther along than I am.

        But I suppose it can vary person to person.

  22. This is an awesome post, Steven. Procrastination is a thief and the sooner you learn how to put your foot on the throat of that sucker, the sooner you will start to see great things happen in your life. I love your suggestions of relaxing, slowing down and changing things up to help with stammering & stuttering. The same would apply to procrastination. I believe procrastination can be beaten when you plan your work and work your plan.

    Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading it.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Procrastination: Do You Stutter or Stammer? (stevenaitchison.co.uk) […]

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  3. […] Great post on procrastination by Mike Reeves-Mcmillan called Procrastination: Do You Stutter or Stammer? […]

  4. […] 24, 2011 by Bryan Scott Herr Print PDF I read this article on Steven Aitchison site called Procrastination: Do You Stutter or Stammer? written by Mike Reeves-McMillan and my first reaction was to bash the living daylights out of the […]

  5. […] “differently-abled” people, including people who stutter, found this blog post called Procrastination: Do You Stutter or Stammer? The author tries to correlate procrastination to stuttering or […]