Thursday, June 19, 2014

Procrastination for Whippersnappers

Since I am officially middle-aged, it is incumbent on me to find some way in which "kids today" are deficient. I've been struggling with this for some time, since for the most part kids today look fine to me; at least as in tune with their surroundings as I am, and no more incompetent than I was at their age. But yesterday, as I dug cat hair out of my keyboard, it hit me: Kids today don't know how to really knuckle down and procrastinate!

Oh, yes, they can waste time on the internet, but that doesn't take any skill! Just get a few social networking sites - Facebook is all the rage, but Tumbler, I find, is even better because it's more content-based than personal; people are fighting for causes and telling stories and sharing fanfic there in an in-depth and engaging way that doesn't require you to know or care about the people you follow as friends or professional associates. Either way, you join into a vast perpetual motion machine of distraction which is far too easy for a true procrastinator. A kind of Cliff's Notes version, if you will. But what happens to these social-media-addicted kids when they turn the internet off and get their games taken away? They will find themselves with their backs to the wall, helplessly completing projects and doing assigned chores, that's what!

Don't let this happen to your kids! Teach them the nitty-gritty rules of procrastination:

1) Have pets. Whether it's needing to go outside right now, clogging machinery with shed hair, or simply trying to participate in anything you're doing, pets are the No. 1 Procrastination Aid. After all, they are alive, they depend on you, they're adorable, and the cat hair really does need to be cleaned out of the keyboard if you want to be able to keep typing. What kind of monster puts homework ahead of the well-being of a living creature who loves you more than anything? "I don't want to disturb the cat" is an excuse any family member worth living with will sheepishly have to acknowledge as valid; because everyone in a pet-owning household will be using this procrastination technique and therefore has to allow it in everybody else.

(In fact, in my house "catlap syndrome" is a recognized disorder and a legitimate reason to ask other people to do things for you. Shortly after our housemate moved across the street, my husband, a friend, and I were all lined up on the couch, each catlapped, and realized that none of us could reach the remote control. Our friend suggested that we call across the street to tell M we were catlapped and needed him to come change the channel. We couldn't, because none of us could reach a phone; but we all agreed, he would have complied - and he confirmed this when asked.)

(We do not spoil our cats. Spoiled things are nasty and our cats are sweet.)

2) Always be on the lookout for ways to increase your efficiency! Trimming your nails while your computer is booting just makes sense! The fact that you then realize that you got egg under them while you were scraping the scorched breakfast out of the frying pan and then start cleaning them meticulously, which takes you into the bathroom, where you remember you haven't flossed recently and that it's past time to get the fluoride residue off your toothbrushes, is not your fault! And while your programs are loading, you can take the crusty soap dish down to the kitchen to put into the dishwasher while you grab a drink and make a fresh pitcher of tea and oh yeah you haven't taken out the compost this morning. Moreover, an organized and simple filing system is essential and can take all day to set up while the things on your to-do list wait their turn. For sheer time-sucking attention focus, social media has nothing on alphabetization, cross-referencing, labeling, and buying specialized containers for all your paperwork, art, tools, supplies, and whatnot; and it has the major advantage of looking exactly like work, so that you can fool yourself into thinking you're being productive in a way you can't possibly pull off when watching cat videos.

3) Be meticulous! The reality of the world is that dirt will always be present, so if you always clean up dirt as soon as you see it, you are bound to look around and see dirt the moment you begin to not want to do something you really need to do. (See Rule 1; pets are a big help with this.)

4) Be available! Other people's work is much more doable than your own, so make yourself available to anyone who needs help. Leave the door open. Set no boundaries. Always say yes.

5) Require perfection! Nothing postpones completion of old projects or the undertaking of new ones like insisting on a flawless result every time. You've always missed something - a typo, a grammatical error, a poor color choice, a sentence that is two words longer than the ideal.

I despair for the citizens of tomorrow if these simple principles are lost to time. Please, teach the basics, or the future will be dark indeed.

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