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.


Tsu Lin + + said...

It definitely touched a nerve, this one. I didn't watch the video posted but just read everything you "summarised" from his video (I trust that you're very good at that :P).

I too am a procrastinator and hopefully knowing this, will help me understand about me/this issue more. Thanks alot! I didn't know there is a THEORY about procrastination. And, yes I was brought up pretty strictly too. The typical very obedient child (everyone loves me).

A cousin of mine was a rebel when young and was known as kind of like the "black sheep" in the family - what, do well in schoool? No way. Don't hang around with naughty kids? Hey, he's one of them. Turns out, 20-odd years later, he's got his own company and working harder than all of the other cousins (and being very successful too). He is also a "do-er", ie not a procrastinator in most things in his life. So maybe this guy has a point, eh?

Lilian said...

Good to know about kids like your cousin! I also know of a few rebel boys, who had the most tumultuous relationships with their fathers, and they turned out way more successful than anyone would have thought.

A friend of mine is such a do-er, and although her upbringing was strict, she could always shout back at her parents! They could not control her. She had such a temper back then, I always marvelled that she dared say the things she did to her parents. Me? No way, grumble only, kena big-time!

Dunnolah, whether this theory is right or not. But it definitely touched a raw nerve in me, in my parenting style. I would like the boys to think for themselves more, decide that when they do a particular chore, it's not cos I made them do it, but cos they actually want to do it; be it because they want to be helpful, or they want to learn to be responsible, or they don't like seeing a mess. If they tell me they don't want to, I'll respect that. Either I'll do it for them IF I want to, or I'll just leave the mess for them to live with :)

So even if this isn't a cure for procrastination, I think the video is still helpful in a huge way. Remember, nobody likes to be controlled!

Bing said...

Hi! I stumbled into your blog from Butterfly Kisses, and I liked the very first post on it!

I must learn to procrastinate more! There's a good new year's resolution. Hahaha!

Lilian said...

Hi Bing, welcome! What a gorgeous family you guys are. Beautiful photography too. And you are a real cutie haha...

Syed Danial said...

love this! :)
i could see that you are leaving moscow soon?

Lilian said...

Yes Danial, very soon. How many more years do you have here?