Monday, August 30, 2010

Procrastination is Best Left Till Tomorrow


Do you procrastinate?

I have yet to meet someone whose answer is "No". Each of us suffers from it. You could be in fact doing it right now reading this article when you should actually be doing something else. No?

Let me ask you a straightforward question: "Why do you procrastinate?"

Your answer might be equally straightforward: "It can wait". Sometimes, you would even substantiate you answer by giving some reasons as to why that is so. However, the truthfulness of your reasons (or excuses) is best known to yourself.

Our problems with procrastination vary. From less bothersome ones such as not tidying up the backyard to more disturbing ones such as delaying medical treatment, we procrastinate on a wide range of things.

On a graver note, procrastination always rob us of the beauty of 'present'. We decide to postpone something we can do now and let something less important take its place:-

Tonight's workout at the gym can wait. That evening stroll with your loved one can wait. Your leisurely tea with a dear friend can wait. Spending a moment to reflect upon yourself can wait...


It seems fair that you would want to cure the disease of procrastination, except that it is not a disease. Procrastination is actually a symptom rather than a disease and there are underlying reasons why it manifest in you. If those reasons are not diagnosed, the problem would not go away.

Some people look at procrastination as a 'time management' issue and attempt to overcome it with various time management tools. They soon realize that they are not going anywhere.

Time management is doing stuff in such a way where you get the best out of your time. Whereas, procrastination management deals more with understanding what holds you back and getting the obstacles out of the way.


I have a few ideas for you to think about. Do not procrastinate. Read them and some might just work for you. Just like many other behaviors, procrastination is a habit which can be kicked:

1. You lack the right skill

This is the easiest one to handle. 

You naturally do not like to do something which you are not good at. For example, you dread doing electronic payment because you never know how to pay for something other than using cash. The thought of struggling with it on the computer puts you off.

The solution is really simple. You just have to ask someone who knows it and is willing to show you how. The good news is, if you bother to ask, many would bother to help.


2. You do not see the end point

Sometimes we procrastinate because we do not see the point of doing something.

For example, your desk is in a mess and you wonder how clearing it would help you complete your long list of outstanding tasks. So you put it off for as long as you can and tell yourself that you would do it when you have some time. The day never come and your desk just gets messier.

What you need to do is to shift your focus to the end result rather than the process of clearing the desk. The end result is not just a clean desk but a more relieved and relaxed you. In turn, your feel-good factor will help you sort through the real tasks which you have to conquer. 


3. You are not motivated

We are all machines fueled by motivation. Without it, we will drag our feet regardless of how much rest we get and how much food we eat.

The biggest problem with motivation is that most people believe it is owed to them. It is common to hear complaints about the lack of appreciation from parents, spouses, teachers, friends and bosses. People get upset because others are not coming forward to motivate them.

The sooner you get this in your head, the better off you will be: "Real motivation is self-motivation." The most effective way is to learn to constantly motivate yourself regardless of circumstances. See article "Get Your Daily Motivation".


4. You fear something

When you are afraid of something, you would not want to deal with it. Your fear may not necessarily be obvious to you and you may need sometime to sort it out.

You have to face this in a hard and rational way. Tell yourself that what you fear will not go away and what you choose not to do can come back and haunt you. Examine your task and break it into smaller pieces. Start with the easiest one and gain sufficient confidence to deal with the next piece. Gather strength along the way until you see the end of it.


There is no panacea to curing procrastination. The most practical way to deal with it is to face it. However, you can choose to start small and gradually scale it up.

Start thinking about the above pointers and face your procrastination problem. Deal with it and deal with it NOW.

Key Points:
  • Procrastination is a habit that you can kick
  • Ask for help and make your task less burdensome
  • Visualize the end point and focus on it
  • Motivation comes from you
  • Face your fear, not avoid it.

"Procrastination is something best put off until tomorrow."
~ Gerald Vaughan ~

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Monday, August 23, 2010

To Quit or Not to Quit?


This article guides you to decide if you should quit your job (I may have to do just that if my employer reads this).

In every workplace, there is always no lack of unhappy workers whose main job seems to be grumbling. Some even hate what they are doing and dread going to work.

If you find your work unbearable, here are some pointers for you to ponder on:
The right job

There is no such thing as the 'right job'. Rather, there is only the right way to do a job. However, you may not have what it takes to do the job right as you may lack certain skills.

You have choices: buck up or buckle.


The right boss

Bosses are the main cause for workplace misery. This is because workplace relationships are never neutral.

As a boss, he wants you to get your work done, cheap and good. As a worker, you want him to go easier on you, with more pay. It is always a tricky balancing act.

You have choices: Learn to work with your boss to achieve the right balance or let the tension build up and eventually snap on your face.
The right colleagues

Some co-workers can kill you by simply being who they are. From your perspective, they are the cause of your bad days and you wonder why your bosses continue to keep them. Perhaps not known to you, some of them feel likewise about you.

You have choices: Co-workers come in all shapes and sizes. You either train yourself to become 'one-size-fits-all' or you may reserve the right to constantly blame every other person and make yourself miserable.
The right office

Your desk is tiny. Your pantry is spartan. Your air-conditioner is not cold. Your list of dissatisfaction goes on.

In short, your office is not good enough. This is especially so when you compare it with those swanky downtown offices you have seen in the magazines.

You have choices: Help to improve your work environment where you can or continue to find fault in every other corner and bitch around.
Their jobs are better

You cannot resist comparing your job with another out there. Each time, you feel miserable because somehow, that job looks lovelier. You won't change your view even though you know that someone holding that job is about to throw in the towel.

Such is the irony of life, that is, the grass is often greener elsewhere. Little do you know that the greener pasture is equally littered with dungs.

The truth is, it is not wrong to label any job with adjectives such as lackluster, routine or predictable. Every job carries a shade of gray and its brightness is defined by you. 

You have choices: Be thankful that you have a job for there are many who don't. However, if you really cannot find any reason to be thankful for, plan your exit gracefully. The last thing you want to do is to bad-mouth your employer on your way out.
Life is full of choices and very often, it is a choice of attitude. Staying put and doing nothing is one of the choices. If you have made your choice, you should just live with it.

So, to quit or not to quit?

“When you have to make a choice and don't make it, that is in itself a choice."
~ William James ~

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Things You Can Do Better, Now


Sometimes, it does not take much to make a difference, immediately.

Admittedly, making a difference is not usually without effort. In fact, most people would imagine the effort to be huge and they are held back by their inertia.

If you are told that the effort would be so little, would you still hold back?

Actually, there are many little things in life which we can do easily and they can amazingly make some things better or some people happier.

Here are some examples to start you off. You can do one (or more) of these, now!

1. Feel grateful for one thing

One thing, just one thing. That can't be so hard. Pick just one thing a day and feel grateful for it. You will instantly gain some happiness.

Stop brooding on small matters. Many things won't matter 10 years from now.

2. Call someone up

Take out your mobile phone and scroll down your contact list. Look for a friend or a colleague whom you have not connected with for awhile. Press 'call'.

Relationship with another is built over time. One day, you will be glad that you did this.

3. Thank someone

There are always reasons to be thankful to someone. Find that someone and show your appreciation. It does not take long just to say "Thank You for..." but the effect of your gesture will linger long after your words fade off.

4. Help someone

Everyone needs help in one way or another but few will ask for it. Be there for just one person without being asked to. Your help will make his/her day and yours, better.

Don't forget to wear your smile.

5. Appreciate yourself

Ironically, we can get quite harsh on ourselves. Don't.

Find one thing you have done well and give yourself a pat on the shoulder. You are no different from anyone else. A positive stroke will always bring you a little extra mileage.

In case you are unaware, there are lots of good stuff you have done. When you get too critical with yourself, they evaporate.

6. Do something 'green'

Green is not a color but an attitude.

You can use a little less water and energy. You can walk more and eat less. You can reuse and recycle. You can do a long list of simple things and help the Earth. After all, it is the only one we have.

Do not dismiss the above gestures as insignificant or useless. Hold your judgment and start acting. Do it today and everyday and see your action turning into a habit.

Your new habit will propel you to do greater stuff and the rest, as they always say, will be history.

"Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well." 


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Monday, August 9, 2010

Picture Blog #13 : Extinction is Forever

Singapore Zoological Gardens by Vanilla

It was a usual trip to the zoo, or was it?

The Singapore Zoological Gardens is one of the world's famous zoos. Set in a rainforest environment, the 28-hectare (0.28 km²) open-concept zoo offers a 'close-up' experience with the wild animals.

The animals are displayed in naturalistic cage-free enclosures, with cleverly disguised barriers such as moats, vegetation and rock walls. As a learning zoo, the Singapore Zoo is known for its wildlife conservation effort and successful breeding programs.

I have visited the local zoo many times and I continue to be heartened by their conservation effort. Somehow, the visit last week set me in some sense of melancholy. In some ways, the sound and sight of the animals saddened me. While I know they are in good hands, I know better that they belong to the wild.

I have brought back some unhappy images (at least they are to me) and I will leave it to you to think about whether wildlife should be kept in captivities in the name of education. As far as zoos are concerned, it has always been a fine line between commercialization and conservation.

I am in no position to define it. Have your say.

See earlier article on white tigers, "An Unnatural Fate"

Bengal White tiger, are you rare and regal
or are you a mutant from inbreeding to satisfy curiosity?
(by Vanilla)

Little one, you are 'Wildlife' born and bred in captivity.
Are you still wild? (by Vanilla)

Meerkat, do you see a bleak future? (by Vanilla)

Contrary to belief, he does not bury his head in sand.
But I believe, in captivity, he is confused and sulky.
(by Vanilla)

Sad 'Tropical' Polar Bear (by Vanilla)

Cheetah, the fastest land animal, having nowhere to run. (by Vanilla)

Leaving behind their Savanna homes. (by Vanilla)

Komodo Dragon, the largest lizard in the world,
away from its nearby Indonesian Islands homeland.
(by Vanilla)

Life if captivity is far from being colorful. (by Vanilla)

Zebra, are you 'fading' from the Planet Earth? (by Vanilla)

Once upon a time, this was an Orang Utan palm. (by Vanilla)

Blind Emu, you belong to the Down-Under.
See original image - warning: disturbing visual.
(by Vanilla)

"There is a sufficiency in the world for man's need but not for man's greed." ~Mohandas K. Gandhi~

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Monday, August 2, 2010

Are Pen Pals Dead?

Photo by Vanilla

Pen pal, what an unfamiliar term.

I once asked a young chap if he has any pen pal. He clarified if I meant 'paypal'. The latter is a popular online application which enables payment via the Internet. It is definitely a more familiar term to people who grow up in the Internet era.

For the less informed, let me explain what a pen pal is. For those who knew but have long forgotten about it, let me bring you some nostalgia.

Photo by Vanilla

What is a pen pal?

Most dictionaries define 'pen pal' as a person whom you have not met but have maintained a friendship through regular exchange of letters. This person is often from another country.

Before the days of the Internet, having pen pals was a common thing. School kids were encouraged to have pen pals from other countries. They often sourced for their pen pals from magazines and they would then maintain communication via snail mails.

Nowadays, writing to a person from a foreign land via a snail mail is such a refreshing and retro idea. When was the last time you send a snail mail to someone abroad using real adhesive stamps? 

Photo by Vanilla

Why bother to have pen pals?

Why would anyone want a pen pal in the first place? Well, there are several incentives for keeping a pen pal, even though some of them are remotely relevant today:
  1. Make a friend
  2. Learn a foreign language
  3. Learn a foreign culture
  4. Collect postage stamps
I grew up during the days before the Internet and I used to have several pen pals. I can certainly testify to the above advantages, especially on the part of stamp collection since I was once an avid stamp collector.

Photo by Vanilla

Are pen pals dead?

Today, I do not know anyone who is having a pen pal. However, I do know that it has not totally gone extinct. In some instances, it is beneficial and appropriate to have a pen pal.

Many pen pals today do not correspond using snail mails. People would look for pen pals on the Internet and subsequently communicate via emails. However, in some instances, pen pals would resort to the good old snail mails as they attach some novelty to this form of communication. In that way, it is also possible to exchange little 'real' souvenirs such as stickers and small stationery items.

Photo by Vanilla

Moving on to new skill sets

For obvious reasons, the original idea of pen pal will not survive the crucifixion of fast-changing modern technologies. We need to move on to newer skill sets in order to survive this fast-pace era.

The death of snail mail

Writing to someone via a snail mail and waiting for a response a few days later is just too unbearable. With the Internet, one gets a faster response with the use of applications such as Instant Messaging, Skype and email. As I am writing this, I am reminded that even email is considered so yesterday now.

New skills needed: People are communicating at an accelerated rate now. We need to know how to manage the various modes of communication so that we do not get drown in the fast rapid of communication flow.

The meaning of 'friend'

It used to mean a person whom you know very well and feel attached to by some personal feelings. Today, it is not necessarily so.

In the context of social networking such as Facebook, a 'friend' is merely someone whom you can share information with. It is not uncommon to have a 'friend' whom you do not know in person. With the use of an avatar and a brief description, a total stranger can also become a 'friend'.

New skills needed: We are making friends in both real and virtual worlds. In a way, a new set of social skills are evolving and we need to know how to behave ourselves (differently) in both 'worlds'.

The way we learn

In the earlier days, we used to learn at a much slower pace. The main sources of knowledge would come from books, newspapers, magazines, TV, movies and anecdotal accounts. Having a pen pal was just one other way to learn about another country and culture. Generally, you would become more knowledgeable if you had more access to information. Heard of "Information is King" before?

Since the Internet became part of our lives, the way we learn changed too. Whenever we have a question, we would use search engines such as Google and Yahoo to fish for answers. Anything less than 'fast and accurate' would not be acceptable.

New skill needed: The amount of information found in the Internet is simply overwhelming. We no longer need to worry about access to information. Rather, we would need to learn how to get to them in the shortest possible time.

Photo by Vanilla

Change is here to stay

If you ask me what is the most important skill set today, I would say it is the ability to respond to changes and continue to stay relevant. Getting good grades in school can only get you so far. Your relevance would soon fade into nothingness if you are unable to keep up.

Many things have changed and they will continue to change at an uncomfortable rate. It requires very conscientious effort on our part to stay afloat. Many people have told me that they are having difficulties catching up and I can fully agree with that.

I do not know about you. I am panting.

"It is not necessary to change.  Survival is not mandatory."
~W. Edwards Deming~

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