Sunday, February 28, 2010

How to stop Procrastinating!

The video above has a pretty mind-blowing theory about the causes of procrastination and how to stop procrastinating.

Ever wondered why the harder we work at overcoming procrastination, the worse it gets? We've made lists, used reminders, timers, we've been nagged at, felt guilty, lousy, even depressed...yet we continue to procrastinate.

Now, this gets controversial but he says: "Fundamentally, we suffer from procrastination, because as children, we are treated as slaves."

He spends a good part of the video explaining the master-slave relationship. Master orders slave to do something. Slave has no capacity or ability to say No. Slave resents this but can't do anything cos he'll be punished. Slave uses passive-aggression to act out his resentment by simply doing things badly, make mistakes, postpone, break things, do things unproductively (similar situations with domestic maids yes?).

He's saying because as children, we are dictated to, ordered around, bullied even; every to-do now feels like an order that we want to passive-aggressively resist. Everything remotely unpleasant that we have to do puts us back in the phase of being ordered around, so we evade, postpone, watch a movie, surf the internet...anything but start on our task.

Hmmm...okay, I don't want to be one of those who blame all my adulthood failures/shortcomings on my upbringing. But I was definitely a kid who was ordered around, screamed at, caned, who could never even mutter a word back even if I was right. Now, I would say I had a happy childhood, but that was just how many of us were brought up. No reasoning, just DO what you're told OR ELSE!

So who knows, maybe this guy has something there. Cos I procrastinate even more if I know someone is watching or keeping time. If my mum asks me when I'm gonna start packing, that question alone will guarantee that even if I had intended to start packing that very moment, I would put it off till days later. I get a million percent more things done when Eddie's not home, when it's my own time, own target, so to speak. He's learnt to leave me be, that things will get done eventually, just on my own terms.

Of course, not all kids who had a strict and authoritarian (as opposed to authoritative) upbringing grow up to be procrastinators. This is just one theory.

Now what's the solution? What do we have to do? How do we stop procrastinating?

According to this guy, the secret is You don't HAVE TO do anything. There's no HAVE TO anywhere. Once you get that into your psyche, suddenly you realise there's no more Master, and you're no longer a slave, and there's no more resentment, and no procrastination.

You don't have to work, there'll be consequences, but you don't HAVE TO. You don't have to eat, you'll just be hungry. You don't have to be nice to your spouse. Stop internalising other people's expectations of you.

"If you want to stop procrastinating, stop being a slave. If you want to stop being a slave, stop ordering yourself around and recognise there's nothing you have to do. Anything that you do is your choice. There's no one ordering you around, there's nothing you have to do, make your own choices, based on what you actually want."

I've tried this technique the past couple of days, and I've gotten more stuff done than I have the past two weeks. Every time I feel immobilised in bed, I tell myself, YOU DON'T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING, you can stay in bed all day if you want, you don't have to! Suddenly, it's like a dark cloud is lifted off of me. I don't feel so burdened. I don't feel like I need to answer to anyone. It's quite liberating.

After I tell myself this, I find myself wanting to do stuff that's been left unattended to for a long time. When I pass the dining table, and I see mess left by the boys, I didn't get upset. I decided I don't have to clean up the mess. And then, I wanted to. And I did.

Of course I still procrastinate. But I think this is definitely something quite powerful not just in the matter of procrastinating but in how I treat people around me. Not to be so controlling, not to have to have things done my way. Cos I don't like being told what to do, I shouldn't expect others to like being told what to do either. This is teaching me to chill...a lot.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

How to spot a procrastinator

I work best when there's a deadline and am good at meeting deadlines BUT whether I'm given a day or ten days to complete something, I will use the entire time given. Any extra time I have is usually spent on procrastinating.

A classic sign of a procrastinator is that you will do anything and everything except the one thing you most need to do. So if I feel that I need to clean up the house, I'll be surfing the internet or baking a cake. But if I'm supposed to be doing something productive on the internet, suddenly, house-cleaning seems more attractive.

So now, I have a tonne of stuff waiting to be done (of course I've done some of it but...), including school applications (loads of documents to scan and submit), house-hunting, packing for the move (which is in less than a month), donating stuff to charity, fixing my slow computer...and yet I spent the last few days contemplating, researching and planning for a short holiday with the kids.

We have unused free air tickets from last year due to expire at the end of March. Eddie had said we'd go somewhere early this year but when news of our move came, these plans dissipated, not that they were all that concrete in the first place.

And since Eddie will be busy with work in Singapore the week before we move to Bangkok, I decided to take the boys to Tokyo (again yes). This is my first solo trip with them and it'll just be for 3 nights. The kids are thrilled of course, as this is really their holiday, since we're staying near Disneyland all 3 nights (great deal at Sheraton Grande, 16k yen a night for a room that sleeps 4).

Procrastination does have its benefits sometimes I what should I do next? :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Monster Within

I've been in a generally amiable mood for some time now. Nothing fazes me, nothing frustrates me, I'm just super chilled. And even when something irritates me, I'm able to brush it off after ranting a little.

And today, I realise just what can trigger the monster within me. I was going around thinking whoopee-doo, I'm so zen, so self-satisfied. And then suddenly, like a bolt of lightning, I went on a crazy verbal rampage, like a tempestuous tornado, sparing no one within my path. All because of this 'thing', this thing that didn't exist in my life for the most part of my 40 years, this thing that shouldn't mean so much to a sane person. (Then again, I never claimed to be fully sane.)

This stupid computer!!! When something goes wrong with my computer, I go nuts. If the internet konks out, my hands get slightly cold and I feel my nerves acting up. But this time it wasn't the internet. My computer has been lethargic for a couple of weeks and I decided to do a System Restore....I later realised a couple of programmes also disappeared. One of them was my Acrobat Reader which stopped working.

Tried downloading Acrobat Reader again and couldn't. Undid System Restore and my programmes came back, but Acrobat Reader still wasn't working. Somehow, this problem just magnified all the other non-computer-related problems around me that annoyed me but that I had managed to somehow laugh off before.

No more laughing. I was fuming when I found my measuring cup missing as I prepared to bake bread. Suddenly, the image of my helper just annoyed me to no end. Now I've been very patient with this helper since she started coming over about 2 months ago. I've had to hunt high and low for things cos she doesn't think or look first when she decides where to place them. She's left without telling me the clothes were still in the washing machine. There's more, but somehow, they didn't bother me that much.

But tonight, cos of my computer problem, I was soooo maddddd when I couldn't find the cup. I called her up and spoke to her in a very exasperated voice, going on and on about how she should realise that there are other measuring cups that match this one, so she should know where to put this one. After I was done with that, I suddenly looked around the kitchen and started shouting at the boys about not helping out at all, for leaving the plates on the dining table after eating, for not unloading the dishwasher.

So there Brian was unloading the dishwasher, and loading it with dirty dishes, and Sean clearing the dining table and then wiping it clean...and I was still nagging and grumbling.

And then I started remembering how annoying Brian has been recently for asking me where to put certain utensils when he's unloading the dishwasher. I said, C'mon, you have been doing this so often, you don't have to ask anymore, you should know by now where the things should be placed, open your eyes!!

He went, "Mummy, are you scolding me just because you're angry with the maid for misplacing your measuring cup?" I said, "No!, I'm also upset with you...I just didn't tell you earlier!" He said, "So you're scolding me for asking you where to put the things?"


I went back to the computer. Didn't want to talk to anyone anymore.


I desperately need help. Someone fix my Acrobat Reader.

Kidding...I know, I have an addiction....and it's driving me crazy!!!


By the way, Sean was very sweet. Unlike Brian who challenged me when I went on my rampage, Sean just did whatever he was told to do, and later while I was putting on his Ortho-K lens (grumbling about how no one else (aka Eddie) wants to learn to help him put the lens on and how I always end up doing this when other 7-year olds can handle the lens themselves...) he said, "Are you okay Mummy?" in the most caring way.

Haha...this fella really knows how to handle me when I'm raging...he keeps away and then comes and says the nicest things. Works like magic! I'm calm now...


UPDATE: Okay, now I'm really calm :) Managed to solve my problem, everything working fine now. Happy happy...

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mathcounts Mania

So for the past two days, Brian and his 11 schoolmates from AAS were competing in the CEESA (Central and Eastern European Schools Association) Mathcounts competition. Other schools participating were the International School of Cyprus, International School of Helsinki, Pechersk School International, International School of Prague, American International School of Vilnius, American International School of Budapest and Kiev International School.

The nationalities of the children were diverse, from the US, UK, India, China, Japanese, Russia, Ukraine, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Finland, Bulgaria, Japan, Poland, Austria, Greece, but the majority of kids were Koreans (40%).

This is what I got from googling. Mathcounts consists of three separate tests. The Sprint Round is a 40 minute individual test containing 30 questions. These questions stress accuracy and time management. The Target Round contains four sets of two questions. Six minutes is allotted to each pair of questions, which are intended to be more difficult and time-consuming than the Sprint Round. During the Team Round, groups of four students work on a set of 10 questions. Collaboration is encouraged on this 20 minute test.

Brian was in Team 1 of AAS which won the Team Round.

Now, the drama starts in the final Countdown Round which determines the Individual winner of Mathcounts. The top 10 students with the highest scores from the Sprint and Target Rounds compete in a fast-paced, oral head-to-head competition.

A problem is posted on a projector, and the two contestants race to finish the problem (with pencil and paper). Upon finishing the problem, a contestant is expected to press his/her buzzer. The first person to buzz in with the correct answer gains a point. 45 seconds are allocated per question. If you buzz with the wrong answer, the opponent has the rest of the time to work on the problem.

So No 10 competes with No 9, and the winner is the one who gets best of 3 questions right...he goes on to play No 8. And so on. From No 5 onwards, the format changes, the winner is the one who is first to get 3 questions right.

The top 10 contestants were announced. All 10 were Koreans except Brian :) He came in at No2, behind his Team Captain, who's also the Middle School Student Council President and an 8th grader. I wasn't there to watch this...but apparently, Team Captain's parents were. I'm glad I wasn't there. Too exciting, and the thing about me is, every time I watch a match on TV, the team/player I support always loses! I would probably have jinxed everything.

So, Countdown starts. Questions are projected on a projector for all to see. Emcee announces the question and the players face off. After the 8 players had played, it was time for the winner to play Brian who was No2. Brian wins. So he goes against No1, his team-mate JT (Captain's name). The emcee announces the question over the microphone and both scribble furiously (this one I'm imagining lah, I wasn't there!). At one point, JT buzzes and got the answer wrong, then Brian answers and also got it wrong! Aiyohhh...

Soon, the emcee asks the scorekeeper, "Could you tell us the score?" Scorekeeper says, "Brian, 2 points, JT, 2 points." This is what soccer players call Sudden Death.

Yikes, so darn gancheong. The emcee announces the last question, scribble scribble, and BUZZZ....the buzz is from Brian, who states his answer out loud. Emcee says,... It's CORRECT! Brian's the winner! Yayyyyy!!

And here are his medals, the bigger medal is for his Individual win and the smaller one for team. JT collected the trophy for the team win and kudos to him, cos he did get No 1 based on the Sprint and Target rounds...but the Individual Medal gets decided at the Countdown Round. Brian was really super lucky...I told him it's cos we prayed every morning before he went for the competition :)

Why wasn't I there to support Brian? Well, I didn't even know parents were allowed to go...and I didn't ask either lah. I asked him if it would have made a difference whether we were there or not (Eddie thinks it would have made it more stressful for him)...he said it didn't really matter to him...he was okay either way.

The kids went to Museum of Cosmonautics after the prize-giving ceremony and we only picked them up at 730pm. Went for dinner and after we reached home, the boys played xbox/computer games till 1am. Eddie drove them to school this morning at 9am and took this goodbye picture.

It's been a great experience for Brian, learning to keep a cool head under pressure. He said it was both stressful and fun. We're really happy for him, a 6th grader winning CEESA Mathcounts and on his debut appearance. Such a great way to leave the school :)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Korean guests from Prague

For the past few months now, Brian has been attending his school's Mathcounts training every Monday and Wednesday. It's not quite training, they just do lots of questions and these are then marked, tabulated, and 3 school teams (of 4 members each) are formed at the end of the selection process. The teams then compete against other teams from other countries in the CEESA (Central and Eastern European Schools Association) Mathcounts competition. (Mathcounts is a non-profit organization devoted to promoting math excellence among middle school math students.)

This is Brian's first time competing in Mathcounts as this is his first year in Middle School. I believe all 12 members of the school's Mathcount team this year are Koreans except for Brian and his best buddy Eric K.

Anyway, this year, AAS is hosting the competition. Brian was disappointed to say the least, because if it had been hosted by another school, he would have been able to travel overseas. Last year, the venue was Belgrade.

So the school asked parents to help host these kids coming from overseas. I thought it was only fair that we did our part, as another family would have taken care of Brian if he had gone overseas. We were allocated 2 korean boys, E and Hoon, from International School of Prague.

The two boys I got are lovely :) They are well-spoken, polite, and took very little time to bond with Brian. Xbox helped a lot! I really enjoyed talking to them and learning about their lives, both in Korea and in Prague. The entire contingent from Prague was made up of Koreans except for one Russian girl. Who'd have known there were so many Koreans in Prague! I asked, "Samsung?" haha, cos most of the Korean folks here work either in Samsung or LG...they replied, "No...Hyundai." Ahhh...

The first night, I prepared some Chinese dishes, soup and restaurant-bought kimchi. Here are the 3 Amigos, from left E a 6th grader, Hoon a 7th grader and Brian.

When Eddie met the two boys, he said to me, "Wah...they look so smart. How is Brian gonna compete?" any case, the boys weren't even in any competition mood, they spent all night playing xbox. I had to insist they slept at 10pm as they needed to be up by 630 am on Friday, the first day of competition.

Playing xbox all night.

Day 1 of competition lasted till after lunch, and the kids were taken on a tour to Red Square. Pick-up time from school was about 5pm. When they got back, the first thing they did was head for the room! Xbox again. Only stopped to have dinner, pizza this time, very yummy Ham & Mushroom and Carbonara Pizza...yes, Carbonara Pizza, very delicious. They alternated between xbox, going on the computer, then tinkering with the guitar and bonded really well. Refused to sleep till almost 11pm.

So today, Saturday, is the team event. With yesterday's scores combined with the team score, the top 10 participants then compete in a Countdown round, where you need to buzz to answer the questions. The boys then leave for Museum of Cosmonautics.

We pick them up at 730pm from school and plan to take them for burger at my favourite restaurant Goodman. I'm sure they'll be playing xbox all night again, and tomorrow we bid them farewell. I'm really glad to have hosted these boys, it's a good experience, I would do it again anytime.

Just hope they don't catch any bug from Sean...

Friday, February 05, 2010

Superstitions & Coincidences

Well, call it superstition if you want to, but Sean had to see a doctor today, a day after I had a Facebook chat with Monica saying my kids never visited the doctor the entire time we were overseas!

Now, since I had kids, I always noticed my mum being very pantang (superstitious) if anyone says something like, "Oh, so-and-so (ie Brian/Sean) never gets sick, he is very healthy." And sure enough, within days, the named kid will fall ill. Okay, maybe not every time, but about 90% of the time.

Eddie likes to say things like that, and my mum would get irked which in turn irked me and when I tell Eddie off, he gets irked cos he says we are so superstitious. Once, we were in Frankfurt, and Eddie said to some friends how Sean hardly falls sick and he's very strong. I hushed him up and he brushed me off. Next day, Sean was ill.

Well, although the boys have been sick on and off, the entire time we were overseas, I would self-medicate. The only time Sean went to see a doctor was when I accidentally sprained his arm. And maybe he did go to the GP another time in London, but London was different, everything was free. haha.

Now as I was saying, I was chatting with Monica about how gancheong some of our old folks get when our kids fall ill. And I said, you know, the kids have never seen a doctor all this time we are overseas. The chat was yesterday I think.

Last night, an hour after Sean went to sleep, he vomitted. Eddie had accompanied him to bed in our room (Brian had guests in his room), and Sean vomitted his dinner all over Eddie and on to our mattress. Note: Another phenomenon, kids always vomit right after we replace new sheets.

Cleaned Sean up, and he was feeling lousy. Changed bedsheet, cleaned up everything and managed to get him back to sleep (on another mattress) and in the middle of the night, he said he was thirsty. At 3am, I gave him sips of water in the kichen. About a minute later, he puked again, all over's like a projectile that cannot be stopped, he didn't even have time to think of going to the toilet. I actually asked him why he didn't run to the toilet the first time he had to vomit, and he said he couldn't cos it was the vomitting that had woken him up...poor baby :(

Cleaned him up again, hardly sleep lah all night...then managed to get him back to bed. At almost 10am, we woke up. Well, I actually woke up at 630am to prepare Brian and his guests for school. Anyway, gave Sean a bite of cracker, a few sips of barley water and then he watched some tv on the sofa. Within minutes, I hear him running to the toilet. Before he could reach it, he was vomitting everything out again.

He couldn't even keep down water! Oh he also had fever and tummy pain. I knew it was time to see the doctor. We went to European Medical Clinic and saw the paed. Very nice man, checked Sean and concluded it was probably a virus, maybe Rota Virus (anyone heard of this?). Sean kept saying he had a headache.

This consultation cost 150 Euro!! Bahhh....that's about S$300 right? Any wonder why I don't take the kids to the doctors overseas haha.

Well, the medicine was at least quite reasonable. 30 packets of Smecta (bought the big box cos it was in Orange flavour, new stuff!), Motilium (when needed after vomitting), a pack of suppositories for fever, and Ibuprophen, came to 1071 rubles, or about S$50.

We're back home and I made some watery porridge with salt, he had a couple of spoons of that, a couple of spoons of smecta solution and a couple of sips of barley water. That's about it for now.

He seems better already, and asked for paper to write a story.

Anyway, call me superstitious, but I'm not taking any more chances. No more saying things like that anymore!!! I'm so tired now! If my mum knew, she'd say "Serves you right!"

Monday, February 01, 2010

Land of Smiles, Here We Come!!

In about 48 days, we'll be leaving Moscow for good. By the time we leave, we would have been here exactly 2 years and 8 months. That's almost 3 years in Moscow! Imagine that.

And while anything can change between now and then, for now, it's "Next pitstop,...BANGKOK!"

Those who've been following this blog for half a year or more will know I LOVE BANGKOK! So yes, we're mighty happy about this move.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to maintain my daily blogging so if I'm quiet for a bit, it's cos I'm crazy busy!

I've already got some great tips on Bangkok living from blogger Eunice (THANKS so much!!) but if anyone else has stuff to fill me in, especially with regard to Schooling and Housing, just please leave your comments.