The Fine Art of Procrastination

Even though I did my best to introduce my kids early, to the benefits of tackling and completing tasks early, it’s a habit we continue to avoid establishing and maintaining.

My husband and I refer to our 14 and 11-year-old kids as “master procrastinators” when they display a knack for neglecting inevitable tasks that are often interpreted as way less important than…well, way less important than just about anything else.

But, like anything else, before attempting to solve the problem, we first need to understand what the problem actually is, and in this case, the consequences, real or perceived, of plummeting into the deep dark abyss of lifelong procrastination.

If you live in the same house but belong to a different generation, it’s possible there may exist a disparity in perception of the importance of jobs and responsibilities. Though, occasionally – in a somewhat distorted way – we may perceive the importance as the same. This is the case when my kids practice, with remarkable skill and acuity, the fine art of “positive procrastination.”

When exercising positive procrastination, the kids’ creativity and resourcefulness often render me silent, which is different than exasperated and vocal…which I usually become when “in a minute” or “just a sec” are offered instead of compliance when I suggest a change of activity while they watch TV or play a video game.

As an enthusiastic and committed piano student, my 11-year-old daughter never has to be urged, cajoled or otherwise convinced to sit down and practice. She loves to play, and I am conscious of not usually suggesting she move on to something else while she plays. I don’t think she’s entirely aware how this works in her favour, especially when it’s past her bed time and she is overcome by the creative urge to compose what is certain to be the modern day answer to Mozart’s 5th…only longer.

With household chores and responsibilities looming, my 14-year-old son has been known to exhibit a keener-than-usual interest in training and playing with the dog. Whether it’s a cool new trick and the dog’s on a roll, or it’s a game of fetch outside, his enthusiasm to spend time with his new best friend is palpable.

But really, isn’t anything delectable compared to the gruelling activity that is being avoided?

Which brings me to another point. Most adults I know are neglecting something when choosing to do an activity that is enjoyable. Even though a task may not require urgent attention, it’s always there, taunting us in the background.

So, is it really procrastinating when you simply don’t have time to deal with that which seems un-doable, unappealing, or otherwise unworthy, or does it always suggest something favourable? Because when I “choose” to spend time dusting the furniture, in favour of say, vacuuming the floor, I fail to see where the illicit pleasure comes from!

Of course, some people produce their best work when under pressure with an imminent deadline, and thrive on, what others may consider a crushing sense of debilitating doom. Maybe it requires time spent in adulthood to realize the benefits of, and to learn to avoid experiencing this sense of doom.

For now, what childhood has taught my kids, is that there is one positive procrastination technique that enables them to get just about anything past me. When they actually get along, and settle in to play a game or do an activity together, enjoying each other’s company, I won’t often interrupt for anything.

Instead, I tell myself they are learning the benefits of not procrastinating getting along.

originally published in the Waterloo Region Record