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The #1 ADHD podcast on iTunes, hosted by

Tasks Habits and Routines on Any Day of the Year with Shelpful Founder Sharon Pope

by Faster Than Normal

Welcome back and thanks so much for staying with us here in 2023! So today we’re catching up with our former guest, Sharon Pope. [her first interview focusing on Shelpful and Instant Human Accountability can be heard HERE].  Sharon is the co-founder and CEO of Shelpful, the instant accountability service that pairs you with a real-human buddy to help you build good habits (they nudge you and hold you to big habits like getting exercise, or small tasks like taking out the trash on time). Prior to starting shelpful, Sharon was a startup executive for 15 years, running marketing and product. She advised startups at the famous startup accelerator, Y Combinator, and was Chief Marketing Officer at ZeroDown, Green Dot (NYSE: GDOT), GoBank and Loopt. Prior to that she managed PR and content for a range of tech companies at leading San Francisco-based PR agencies. Today we welcome back to talk about how her super helpful company Shelpful has changed, if she’s still using exercise as medicine, and what new important things she has learned since our visit last year. Happy New Year! Enjoy! In this episode Peter and Sharon Pope discuss:  

00:40 – Thank you so much for listening and for subscribing!

00:50 – Intro and welcome back Sharon Pope!

01:48 – Since our last visit HERE, she has been up to a lot! Let’s talk about rituals- 

02:17 – On dealing with your tasks, habits, routines 

02:45 – About your ADHD brain and habit formation

03:41 – A note on keeping perspective and avoiding overwhelm

04:05 – On becoming a certified habit coach

05:43 – What can we do right away to begin feeling a sense of accomplishment of achieving a goal?

08:18 – What is it with people start/stopping on very specific dates? Does that even work?

09:15 – On bursts of motivation and will power

10:52 – What have you learned that might surprise people in regards to accountability and habits?

11:00 – ADHD and getting small things done, asking for help when you need to, and not feeling like a bad person

13:28 – How can people find more about you and Shelpful? 

Web:  Socials:  @shelpful on Twitter  INSTA  Facebook & TikTok

13:39 – A little more on how Shelpful works.  Ref: Oak Journal and method 

14:38 – Thank you for coming back to visit us Sharon!

Guys, as always thanks so much for subscribing! Faster Than Normal is for YOU! We want to know what you’d like to hear! Do you have a cool friend with a great story? We’d love to learn about, and from them. I’m and you can reach out anytime via email at [email protected] or @petershankman on all of the socials. You can also find us at @FasterNormal on all of the socials. It really helps when you drop us a review on iTunes and of course, subscribe to the podcast if you haven’t already! As you know, the more reviews we get, the more people we can reach. Help us to show the world that ADHD is a gift, not a curse! 

15:00 – Faster Than Normal Podcast info & credits.

TRANSCRIPT via Descript and then corrected.. somewhat:

[00:00:40] Peter: Hey everyone. Welcome back to Faster Than Normal. My name is Peter Shankman. I am thrilled that you’re here for another episode. We are talking again to a recurring visitor, Sharon Pope. Who was on about two or so years ago runs a company called Shelpful, and I love the concept. It’s the instant accountability service that pairs you with a real human buddy to help you build good habits, like big habits like getting exercise or small habits like taking out the trash on time. I could use one to remember to walk my dog, but actually we can do that too. the dog. The dog reminds me to do that. I could, I could use my other thing, but, um, awesome. You are, I mean, Sharon, Sharon has tons and tons of, of awesome background. We’ve had her on before. Um, she ran marketing products. She was a, she, she advised startups at Y Combinator. She worked at zero down Green dot GoBank Loops. She managed PR back in boom for a bunch of tech companies. So she’s, she’s been around the block quite a few times. So Sharon, welcome. At the beginning of the year here, 2023. Tell us what’s been going on in the world of she and, and, and what, what new and interesting things you’re doing and how, more importantly, how can our listeners take away some advice on building good habits, good rituals, forget about resolutions, let’s talk about rituals. 

[00:02:00] Sharon: Yeah. Resolutions, I feel like is the hot topic right now, but it’s really about those big goals that I think people try to set. Right. Um, and we at Shelpful a lot of that, right? So Shelpful obviously the place where people can go to get support on whatever they’re trying to get done. So tasks or habits, routines. Um, and so we often have people come in and say, I want to do X, Y, z. You know, like a giant list of things and a whole overhaul. And our, our response is always, you know, let’s start smaller. Um, and not just because. That helps in a text message conversation or in a workshop setting, which is often how we’re helping people. But it’s because the research proves it out, right? So you know, the actual habit formation that happens in your brain happens when you feel successful. And if you have these giant goals that you set that are almost unachievable, then after a few days you, your brain, literally, Push against the habit because it’s not feeling successful and doing it. So we like to have people really lower the bar, not because they’re lazy, but because in lowering the bar, you’re actually setting yourself up to feel successful, number one and number two to do the habit the next time. So whatever it is that you’re trying to do, whether it’s. You know, get movement in every morning. Wake up when your alarm goes off, do gratitude, take your dog for a longer walk, . Um, all these things are, are habits, and if you can work on wiring them in, you know, it, it can help, it can help you feel more successful the whole year instead of just, I don’t know, the first month of the year, for instance. 

[00:03:41] Peter: So, so basically what we’re looking at here really is the concept of eating the elephant one bite at a time.

[00:03:47] Sharon: Oh yeah. I think that’s a great analogy. I think, and it’s, it’s, I think people often get, stir that analogy up when you’re talking about tackling a big thing. because it’s, it’s what seems logical to get it done piece by piece. But what’s been really enlightening for me as I I, so I became an actual certified habit coach in this path after starting Shelpful to solve my own problem, which was feeling completely overwhelmed with everyday stuff, right? The little things would just follow from my list, like getting movement and getting fresh air. Yeah, like you mentioned, taking my dog for a very long walk instead of just like having go to the bathroom. All these things that were important to my self-care were just falling off the list. So completely geeked out on habits became a sort of a habit coach through Dr. BJ Fogg who wrote the book Tiny Habits, um, and is kind of one of the preeminent. Behavioral scientists in the field, his research backs this up, that if you shrink something down to tiny, tiny, tiny, not only are you making it harder to not do, but you, it’s that feeling of success from that small, small action is what wires the habit into your brain. So that’s something we spend a lot of time. We have kind of a workshop now that we try to teach people those skills of feeling successful for the smallest thing. Cause it actually is a skill. You kind of have to learn that and, and especially for an ADHD’er who’s very comfortable and a shame spiral situation. Yeah. I think that it, it’s, it’s hard to accept that the smallest version is okay, but that it’s not only the reality and something that would be helpful for self-compassion, but the research backs it up! 

[00:05:26] Peter: Yeah, no question about it. So tell us about, tell us a little more about that, because the, the premise of, you know, oh, it’s the new year, we lose 30 pounds in January. No, you’re freaking not. Right, right. You know, we, we, let’s, let’s be honest. No, you’re not. Um, so you have to sort of start at the beginning. Um, what can people do just off the top of their heads, you know, what can we do right, right away, um, to sort of give us a little confidence that we can achieve these goals.

[00:05:50] Sharon: Sure, and let’s, let’s play out your example, right? So if the big goal is to lose 30 pounds or, um, improve your health, then I think the first step would be, first of all, trying to think of an ongoing habit you can work on that you actually want to do. So if you love. Paddle boarding, then maybe pick a habit, like an exercise that you wanna do regularly that helps improve your balance, that would help you with that habit or that that activity that you really, really love, um, or that you’re cooking more. If you love to cook, then maybe we’re working on a habit that involves meal planning or um, meal prep on Sundays. Things that you genuinely want to do because like we, we talked about, we’re working on kind of hacking the brain and so we have to like the thing. That’s why bad habits are formed too, because cookies are delicious and and I love them, then I can form that habit. So picking something you really want to do, I think is key. And it might sound obvious, but you know, starting with box jumping, if that’s not your thing, is probably not the way to go. Right. Um, And then the second step is making it super, super small. So, um, instead of, I’m gonna work out for 20 minutes every morning, there’s, we can make it tiny. Like, after I walk outta the bathroom, I’m gonna put on one walking shoe. Or after I put my toothbrush back in the cup, I’m gonna turn on my Peloton. Right. Literally just, and that’s it. And that’s, and, and then we actually say the hack is to celebrate that small thing. Because on the craziest busy day, maybe sometimes you’ll try on the Peloton. and literally have to just walk away from it. But you can still say you did your habit. Yep. Um, and so that’s, I mean, those are the key things is, is making it smaller and attaching it to something you already do. So I mentioned like putting your toothbrush away. This is something that, um, is an existing habit so we can kind of hack the brain a little bit to, to stack those habits together. Right? So just like when I walk through the door as an adult, my hand goes behind me to pull it shut. That’s what we’re kind of trying to create is this habit, muscle memory. By making it small, by making it part of your existing routine. Right. That can help you form that. And th this is the type of thing that I would define as success, Peter, that if you told me that you turn your Peloton on every day after you put your toothbrush away, I would say that’s something to celebrate. I would have no follow up question that I, I assume that some days you would’ve gotten the workout in too.

[00:08:08] Peter: Right. Yeah, that makes sense. That makes a lot of sense. You know, it’s interesting I think that, that people tie and I, I’d be curious your, your opinion on this. People tend to tie. Whether it’s resolutions or rituals, to specific dates like, oh, dry January, or mm-hmm. , or, um, you know what, whatever, whatever those are, uh, the month before Memorial Day to get in shape. But why does it have to be tied to something? Why can’t you arbitrate? I mean, when I quit smoking back in 2015 mm-hmm. , I mean, I quit years and years before that, but every once in a while I’d bum one, but the last time I had an actual, honestly got cigarette was March, fif March 17th, 2015. I just, I. no tie to that date whatsoever, I’d say, you know what? Screw it. I’m done. 

[00:08:49] Sharon: Had a good, had a good St. Patrick’s Day, and you’re done. 

[00:08:52] Peter: Yeah. Why is it so hard to just go to that, to go say, you know what? I wanna do something and make that change today, but, oh, you know what? I’ll do it in February. I’ll do it March 1st. Why? Why are we so stuck on tying it to something?

[00:09:07] Sharon: Yeah, I, I think that, I mean, in smoking obviously has other addiction elements that I’m certainly not an expert on, but I think I can definitely relate to this Diet starts Monday mentality or, you know, big nears resolution, those things. And I think it, it’s related to our tendency to have these bursts of motivation and willpower, which don’t sustain, like you can kind of map it, right. You can see. Okay. Big burst of motivation and willpower, especially for an adhd, right? These things can’t be dependent upon. So we have these moments where we kind of, um, we put a lot of our kind of motivation eggs in one basket of, okay, this is gonna happen. I’m doing it big, go big, go home. Never say die, right? Keep up the streak. All these things. And our culture. Our culture stokes this, it it, it makes us feel like it has to be all or nothing, which is why I think we have to put a start date on it. But what we always, I mean, what we work with people on, and as you know, we have, we kind of have our habit coaching, but we also have these accountability buddies that you text with. And the big part of what. I’ve seen from our members is that, start today with something small. Celebrate your small successes, and that adds up to something big. And if, if it’s small enough, you can always start today. Usually, you know, like unless it’s something that depends on you getting some piece of equipment or something you have to get from your Amazon order. But generally you could start if it’s, if you make it small enough, you can start today. And if you can’t. It’s probably a sign that you’re not starting small enough. 

[00:10:43] Peter: Yeah, no, that’s a really, really good answer. That’s a really good answer. What else have you learned, um, as you’ve been going through? So, so you’ve been running the company now for a few years. What, what else have you learned? What would you, what would surprise people, um, about whether it’s habits or about whether it’s accountability? . 

[00:10:59] Sharon: Yeah. We started this company in early 2021 as a response to my own frustration. And I, I’ve obviously, through that journey, I’ve found out or was finally diagnosed with my own adhd, which explained why so many people with ADHD were signing up for our service. Um, and I think, I think the main thing, it’s, it’s been interesting. I have, I’ve had this parallel path of learning a lot about myself and learning a lot kind of what, what support needs to exist in the world? Um, on my own track, I think being able to instantly see when I launched this service that I wasn’t alone, that a lot of people felt a lack of support on the little things in life. Just felt like they were completely alone in these tasks of taking care of everyone in their life and taking care of work, but not taking care of themselves. It was, I wasn’t alone in that. Which for me was not only enlightening and exciting from a business perspective, but just made me feel this immediate sense of community and and gratitude to be able to help people just like me. Yeah, and I think the other thing I’ve really learned is, As I, I’ve had this parallel path of understanding about my ADHD as I’ve been helping people with adhd and I’ve found it transformative. So the advice I just spat out on starting small and not falling to the shame spiral, that was advice I would not have been taking two years ago. And so I’ve had this kind of personal journey of being able. to number one, name a specific thing as adhd, like, I didn’t pay that bill. I have adhd. I’m not a horrible person. , let me reach, let me, you know, I, I have a shelter. That’s our, that’s our name for an accountability buddy. So I, I literally texted her last night like, please, please, please make me cancel this fitness subscription that I haven’t used and I like, and they’re making me call, which is complete paralysis for me, of course. And so instead of blaming myself and being like, I suck as a person because I can’t pick up the phone and cancel subscription, I mean, you know, you, I’m sure you can completely relate to this and a lot of people can, someone making me call them is like, oh, the worst thing in the world, the literal, worst thing in the world. Like I, I’d rather start a company. I’d rather learn to fly a plane , like there’s a million things I’d rather do than c all a person to cancel something. Right. So I, I have, I’ve had this, I think, journey of self-compassion that I, I’m accepting support, that I know I need help on little things, and I’m not a bad person for that.

[00:13:23] Peter: Yeah. I love it. I love it. Very cool. How could people find you? 

[00:13:30] Sharon: Yeah, we are at S H E L P F U L. Rhymes with helpful. Um, and we have all sorts of services you can find there. Our most popular thing is that one-on-one work with your own real human buddy who will remind you of your crap , basically, and help support you on any habits or tasks you’re trying to get done. But we also have groups where you can be put in a group with four, with three other people and work on the same thing. So we have, we actually have folks with adhd. Um, we have groups, people working on all trying to get movement in, drink more water, anything under the sun, and we actually have some specialties. Um, in partnership, there’s a company called Oak Journal that we’re partnering with, and they have this kind of daily method where you do gratitude every day and set your top priorities every day. So groups are kind of going through that process together so they can stay on track and work toward bigger goals. So that’s been really fun to do as well. 

[00:14:26] Peter: Very cool. Well, Sharon, thank you as always for joining us at Faster Than Normal. I love it when you come by. It’s great to hear from you. Glad things are going well, and we’ll have you on again towards the end of the year. We’ll see how we’re doing with our, our, our, our rituals.

[00:14:37] Sharon: Thanks for having me Peter.

[00:14:38] Peter: All right, guys, as always, listening to Faster Than Normal. We love that you love us. Have any ideas for great guests like Sharon, let us know. Shoot me an email [email protected] we’d love to include, and we will see you with another episode next week. Stay safe, stay happy. Bye bye 🙂

Credits: You’ve been listening to the Faster Than Normal podcast. We’re available on iTunes, Stitcher and Google play and of course at I’m your host, Peter Shankman and you can find me at and @petershankman on all of the socials. If you like what you’ve heard, why not head over to your favorite podcast platform of choice and leave us a review, come more people who leave positive reviews, the more the podcast has shown, and the more people we can help understand that ADHD is a gift, not a curse. Opening and closing themes were composed and produced by Steven Byrom who also produces this podcast, and the opening introduction was recorded by Bernie Wagenblast. Thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week! 


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