Play as a cure for procrastination.
For the last week I have been listening to an audio book, The Now Habit, on my commute to and from work. First off I can’t recommend this book enough. I’m not finished listening but so far it has been very interesting. The general purpose of the book is to turn the reader (or listener in my case) from a procrastinator to a producer. Neil A. Fiore explains the reasons for procrastination (which is not laziness or ADHD!); then how to get to the root of the problem and transform your thinking and attitudes to become a producer.
There is some great information even for those who wouldn’t consider themselves a procrastinator. Fiore illustrates how important it is that we prioritize “guilt-free play” in our lives. This seems obvious: “work hard” and “play hard”. Here’s the sticking point: guilt-free means not saying, “I should be working on a report or doing XYZ, but I know I have to have fun too”. That is not guilt-free! According to Fiore, the “shoulds” and the “have-tos” are replaced with “I choose to start on this project for 30 mins,” or “I’m making time for a dance class.” The difference is that we are making the choice so there is no back-and-forth thinking we should do something when we want to do something else.
Guilt-Free Play for Your Child
Now here’s the key…this way of thinking is natural for a child! In the “terrible two’s” stage, children learn that they don’t have to do anything. They can say no! This stage is well known for being an important part of a child’s development of his or her autonomy.
The same natural attitude goes for work and play: children can play for hours in the sand, digging, piling, and toy-trucking sand from here to there. They can bake cookies next to their aunt or take delight in sweeping the floor just like Dad. They have chosen the task and it’s easy for them to focus on the task at hand and enjoy it! The problem is, it doesn’t last.
Fiore suggests that one of the reasons this attitude doesn’t last forever is that they eventually adopt the social norm: work is hard and a chore.
Supporting Guilt-Free Play
I can go on, but the real point I want to propose is how important play is for children. This is where they learn to focus, problem solve and prioritize their time. Their curiosity and love of learning is developed while they “play”.
So what is happening when we allow our children to watch hours of TV, play video games, and support education reforms that shorten or eliminate recess altogether? I’m not saying that TV and video games are bad and perhaps they have their place (I’ll leave that for another blog). Still, we need to recognize the importance of guilt-free play, and allow children time to explore and learn for themselves. We should encourage them to take on tasks that may challenge them. We should support their desire to help around the house even if it seems in the way or not really a help. They are learning to enjoy work!
I know I’m taking a lesson from the toddlers this week: I’m choosing to work and play and loving every minute of it!