I am often confronted with the sight of my kid lying around doing nothing, and the desire to push him to do something, anything (except lying around), becomes the blinding thought.
Trained on a constant diet of efficiency and productivity “first mover advantage” at work, any wasting of time is treated like a cardinal sin. To top it, his peers are suffering from a lack of time availability as they run from one class or tuition to another. The pressure on me to force him to act becomes even more intense.
However, research has proven that lazing around might just enhance your creativity. Doing things at the last minute has its advantages.Adam Grant in his book “Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World.” has highlighted scores of research that supports this premise. When you are given a task and you get to it immediately, you tend to use your memory and training to create a structure. Usually, these structures are conventional or something you have used before. After you have detailed it out a little, you tend to become bound by it and this hampers creativity. A feeling of sunk costs comes into play and backing out or changing the structure becomes difficult. Therefore, procrastination has two major benefits: 1. providing time to generate new ideas, and 2. allowing the flexibility to improvise.
Strategy researchers Sucheta Nadkarni and Pol Herrmann studied a sample of 195 small and medium-sized firms from the Indian business process outsourcing industry and came to the conclusion that strategic flexibility was important for the success of the companies, and the CEOs who rated themselves low on efficiency were the most effective. Again, procrastination helped!
In my work with young adults applying for courses abroad, I have often wondered why I keep getting kids that have lots of certificates of merit, but very little merit per se. Scores of CVs look the same, with the kids excelling in a number of co-curricular and extra-curricular activities but having the crisis of confidence to not being able to write their own applications. As part of our process, we apply design thinking principles, and over a few iterations, it becomes clear that this happens as there was no thought given to the activities, only time filled up with what would look good for admissions or interviews. However, life finds its own path, and patterns start emerging and it becomes quite an Aha moment eventually. There have been instances when kids have identified the themes and gone back to some of the things they had given up earlier with a renewed desire.
Therefore, even though it sounds counter-intuitive, it is important that kids are given white spaces and allowed to procrastinate. While they might be sitting idle, the brains are not idling, but absorbing disparate things and trying to solve problems that are important in their view. Having not enough experience or knowledge allows them the luxury of challenging conventions and breaking existing structures and helps them remain creative. As parents, we should allow for such daydreaming periods for them, and I would go so far as to say, maybe even design some for them.
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