The Chimp Paradox: the mind management programme for confidence, success and happiness

What has a chimp got to do with time management?

Quite a lot. Why?  Because lots of really great time management techniques fail, when we fail to control our “Inner Chimp”, is what I take from this book.

What on earth does that mean?

Let me give you an example.  You may already know that it makes sense to look at your email every couple of hours instead of every couple of minutes.  Why then do so many people keep pressing the receive emails buttons like its an addiction?

Have you got an answer to that?

Dr Steve Peter’s book gives some insight into this.  Your inner chimp is a part of your brain that is driven by emotions.  One very powerful driver is fear.  Many people let the voice of the inner chimp decide their actions when the emotions behind it are particularly strong.  So if we apply this concept to managing emails we can see it how it works.  If your inner chimp says to you “there might be a really important email coming in, so you better check now. Do it now.  If you don’t do it now you could be in real trouble.  It might need an urgent response.”  And says this to you every few minutes, you might be tempted to act on this, even though the logic is irrational.

So how do you resist temptation?

According to Dr Peters you have to manage your Inner Chimp.   So its important to reassure or persuade your chimp so it can let go of its fear and become calm again.  So with email you could say to your chimp “there is a far bigger danger from being distracted all day and not getting your important stuff done in time.  That if you were engaged in an important planning meeting with a colleague for a couple of hours,  you wouldn’t be able to get your emails.  So it will be fine.  If it’s that urgent the other person will ring you if they have any sense, and not rely on email.”   Then once your chimps fears have exposed at not really a threat at all, there is nothing to fear, you can do the rational, sensible thing.  Get on with what’s really important and urgent.

Does it work?

Yes.  And although his ideas are not new to me. I’ve come across similar stuff in NLP and hypno-therapy, the way that he presents them is novel and engaging.   And of course there’s a lot more in the book.   I’ve reduced it down to one simple example of my own with very little explanation of the concept of the inner chimp.  So it it might be worth taking a deeper look into Dr Peters’ ideas and most importantly, doing the exercises.

Why else would I choose this book?

If you want answers to the following questions, you’ll find some useful material for sure:

How do I become more organised and successful in what I do?
How do I become the person I would like to be?
Why do I worry so much?

 What will this do for me?

Dr Peters says that the book will “give you the skills to, for example, remove anxiety, have confidence and choose your emotions”.    I’m working my way through the book, so once I’ve tried out a few more of his suggestions, I’ll be right back here to update you.

And in the meantime?

There’s Radio 4 review of the book on the BBC iPlayer that you can hear at this link:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b018fzw8/Saturday_Review_24_12_2011/

 Putting the book to the test: 23rd May 2012

OK, here’s my first positive experience, and much sooner than I thought.  I just got an email that produced a screaming inner chimp!  So I decided to take the advice in the book and manage the chimp.  I said OK to the chimp “Yes OK this looks like an absolutely outrageous demand on my time by this person.  They want me to solve a problem they have caused through their lack of good time management.  So lets just go back and have a look at the facts first.”  Amazingly this calmed my chimp down allowing me think about how I might respond.  Best of all though, I had the sense to go back and re-read the email. I then discovered to me horror and embarrassment that I’d misread it completely. I wasn’t be asked to do what I’d thought. they wanted me to do.  Wow, that was close – I nearly took action with the chimps agenda and fired back an angry response.  So I’ve just saved myself a lot time, because I’d have had to repair a damaged relationship because I got it wrong.  This one result is well worth the cost of the book in itself.  More to come . . .