Procrastinating and stressed out?

It’s usually something that we’d rather not do. Something that we dread getting started on. Because it’s difficult. And because we have no ready answer or solution. We probably don’t really know how to get started on it. And we can’t visualize what steps we need to take in order to getting the job done.

Overcoming procrastination

Procrastination is an art form that we’ve been trying to perfect over the years. According to a 2009 study in Psychological Science, we tend to procrastinate when we view the task in abstract terms. In contrast, we’ll get started on the task earlier when we can articulate “the how, when and where of doing the task”.

Strategies from Real Simple — the lifestyle guru for getting organized – include doing the more difficult thing first and breaking the task down into smaller chunks. Once you’re done that, you can get down to business:

1. Stay focused on your task
Self-control and Freedom are desktop applications which block your ability to surf the internet for the number of hours which you’ve set aside for work. But we often need to access the internet while we work. And for that, we have Anti-Social, an app stops you checking Facebook incessantly while you work on the important stuff.

2. Unplug from your mobile device
We can manage our smartphone addiction with Focus Lock and Pause which locks specific apps on your phone for 25 minutes at a time (or for a customized amount of time). Offtime is another Android app which allows important calls get through and essential apps to function while you work uninterrupted on that all important assignment.

3. Save your willpower for the task
Research suggests that our willpower is a limited resource. Using our willpower on one thing means that we have less of it for another thing. For example, resisting dessert at lunch could mean that we would subsequently have less willpower to get started on our dreaded task in the afternoon. That means you’ll procrastinate less if you’re not also trying to will yourself to the treadmill or trying not to eat the last piece of cake in the fridge.

4. Do something useful
Rather than helplessly agonizing over why you haven’t started on the dreaded task, you can get on with something else that needs your immediate attention. You can start with something easy. At least you’ll feel accomplished and productive when you finally shift your attention to the not-so-easy stuff. And while doing the easy task, you may have had time to think about how you can tackle the difficult task.

5. Gain some self-awareness
We often get carried away with checking off things on our to-do list, and forget to examine why we keep postponing some tasks until they can no longer be postponed. It may be helpful to list the tasks you procrastinate on, as well as why and how you procrastinate on these tasks. Recognizing that you are unsure how to complete the task could lead you to brainstorm for solutions and then make a plan of action.

6. Reward yourself
There are other occasions when you have the solution, and know exactly the steps involved. But you procrastinate all the same. Maybe because it’s a thankless, tedious, and time-consuming task; in which case, visualizing a reward that you’ll give yourself when the job gets done, could be all the motivation you need. You may benefit from installing the Procraster app, which combines block functions (you can’t play Candy Crush or check Facebook) with a reward system (you get a timely reminder to get coffee and cake).

7. Seek expert assistance
Perhaps you tend to procrastinate about everything. Find out if you’re a chronic procrastinator by taking this test. And if you are, seeking guidance through a counselling session can help you kick the habit.

Can’t stop playing candy crush — when does it become a problem?

Do you ever:

  • feel “high” while playing an online/smartphone/video/computer game?
  • feel the need to play for longer to get “high”?
  • feel irritable, cranky, or grumpy when you’re not playing the game?
  • find it difficult not to play the game?
  • find that playing the game is the most important thing in your day?
  • spend less time on (home)work or chores so that you can play for longer?
  • spend less time with friends/family so that you play for longer?
  • hide the amount of time you spend playing the game from friends/family?

Too much of a good thing?

How many questions above did you answer yes to?

According to a 2010 local study of 3,000 primary and secondary school children, 9 out of 100 children met the criteria for pathological gaming. This is somewhat higher than the 8% found to have 5 or more signs of a gaming addiction in a 2009 nationwide study of 1,178 American children aged 8 to 18 years. But as many as 10 and 11% of children meet the same criteria in South Korea and Germany respectively. While researchers are still investigating the extent of internet addiction among local children (a study is underway), it would appear that addiction to gaming is a real problem here.

A 2010 PBS documentary feature (e.g., One Game Too Many video) on children addicted to online gaming put the spotlight on South Korea, where children attend boot camps to achieve gaming rehabilitation. A 2013 CNN series on Gaming Reality illustrate that the problem has yet to go away. The 250-odd boot camps in China speak also to a bigger problem.

But restricting children from playing games is unrealistic to take. So what’s are parents to do?

1. Touch Cyber Wellness advocates selecting games which are age-appropriate and setting consistent boundaries to help children limit their gaming.

2. Parents can encourage their children and teenagers to take an interest in sports, exercise, hobbies, and other activities. Parents can practice what they preach by taking their children with them. Cyber Wellness counsellors take their charges rock-climbing or for a game of basketball. Cycling or roller-blading after roti prata and ice milo sounds like a Saturday morning well-spent to most!

3. Gaming can be a way to de-stress and it’s important for gaming not to be an escape outlet for teenagers who are experiencing signs and symptoms of depression and/or anxiety.

4. A 2014 study suggests that children of parents with a history of addictions are at risk for developing problem behaviours of their own. Parental controls could play an important role in pre-empting excessive gaming behaviours.

5. Those who perceived their parents to be not warm or caring towards them when they were children, were relatively more likely have an internet addiction, according to a 2014 study on young Greek adults. Keeping a channel of communication open between parents and children could therefore be important in preventing children from using gaming as strategy for managing family-related and homework stress.

6. A 2011 study on Dutch teenagers suggested that those with poorer social skills were among those who were likely to report problem gaming behaviours 6 months later. Parents can help by providing their teens with social and emotional support.

7. Teenagers who exhibit signs and symptoms of Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and those who display hostility can be vulnerable to internet addiction, according to a 2009 study of 2, 293 Taiwanese 7th-graders. Parents may need to uphold rules and boundaries to help their teenagers (and children) regulate their playtime.

8. Depression and social phobia are among the outcomes of pathological gaming, according to the local 2011 study mentioned earlier (this study also finds lower social competence and impulsivity to be risk factors – see points #6 and #7 above).

8. It’s important to remember that games are not all bad. It depends on the nature of the game. Games which reward players for helping others, have a positive effect on children: Players show empathy and prosocial helping behaviours in their daily lives. Parents can encourage their children to play games which reward and reinforce desirable behaviours.

10. Games can be beneficial when played to challenge our brains. But we do need to recognize unhealthy gaming when we see it.


Talking to your teen

Talking to your teen

It’s the start of a new year, and a chance to start afresh. Along with making new New Year resolutions to eat healthy, exercise more, work smart, sleep well, and party less, maybe one of your resolutions was to engage in better communications with your family, specifically your children.

One of the challenges facing parents in this day and age is that the unfashionable problems of substance and alcohol use issues persist today while newfangled problems of online gaming addictions have surfaced and are likely to stay for a while. But just as there are national hotlines to help grown-ups address their own problems, there are a number of resources to help children, as well as to help parents provide the right direction for their children:

1. Local resources

  • is a chat forum for youths
  • 1800 274 4788 Tinkle Friend Helpline for children | S’pore Children’s Society
  • 6346 9332 | Teen Challenge Youth Axis offers counselling services
  • 1800 377 2252 | Touchline offers advice on life issues
  • 6336 3434 | Youthline is a counselling hotline
  • A list of helplines for parents from NCSS (PDF)

2. Understanding addictions

3. Online gaming

4. Alcohol use

5. Substance use