Procrastination & Momentum & Babies & Momentum

Yeah, awkward title.

Procrastination & Momentum

Anyway! I read this theory once about procrastination and momentum, and it was the first time that procrastination ever made sense to me (i.e. how to stop it). I can’t remember where I read it, so here’s my shabby summary:

When we’re procrastinating, we have a certain momentum in the direction that we’re going. We’ve set a certain pace, we’re stuck in a certain track. We’ve decided to browse YouTube movie trailers, so we’re dawdling, and once we see one, then we see another couple thumbnails for other ones that look interesting, so we decide that it won’t hurt to watch another couple, so we go on, and on, and on… and on… then we do something else, then something else, then before we know it, three hours have passed and we haven’t done what we set out to do.

To stop procrastinating, we have to kill that momentum. It’s not good enough to get up and make a cup of tea – we’re just ready to sit down again and continue what we were doing. We have to break the spell. After dinner, I might quickly fall down a procrastination/distraction hole, but at some stage I’ll need a toilet break, and then I force myself to also wash my face, clean my teeth – stuff that doesn’t need doing yet, but I know the longer I stay away from my computer, the more I break the spell.

Of course, this is easier said than done – often when you’re stuck in the momentum of procrastination, you don’t even realise it. BUT. Now that I’m more aware of what’s happening and how to stop it, I find I do stop it more often.

Babies & Momentum

The same thing happens with babies. (I say “babies,” but to be honest I mean “babies and toddlers.” But before I actually had a toddler, the word was kind of meaningless to me. Toddlers still seemed like babies.) Again, I’ve read this somewhere but I have no idea where:

Babies (and toddlers) get stuck in their own momentums. If they are doing one thing – like playing with all the toys in a room – they find it hard to switch to something else. For example, they find it hard to realise that they’re getting upset/frustrated because they’re hungry, and to communicate that they want food. They find it hard to realise that they’re tired, and to communicate that they want sleep. And if someone suddenly tells a baby, “OK, we’re going now,” and expects the baby to just stop what they’re doing and to walk out the door, the baby might angrily set the house on fire.

Many good parenting resources (like Raising Children) talk about this, and recommend giving babies lots of warning when they’re going to need to change what they’re doing. 10 minute warning, 5 minute warning, 2 minute warning, 1 minute warning. True dat.

Also – weirdly – sometimes you see the moment when you break the momentum spell for them, and you find that they’re actually relieved. They might have been doing something they no longer really wanted to be doing… but it’s like they’ve been stuck doing it!

Earlier today, I let my two year-old play on my phone, and by the time I’d done a bunch of things that needed doing, he had been playing on the phone longer than I’d anticipated. I said, “Hey buddy, time to give the phone back, okay, I have to go in the car now,” and I saw the spell break, and an expression of relief on his face; he practically threw the phone at me and started watching what his dad and his baby sister were doing, happy to be playing with them again!

2 comments

  1. @jamjar says:

    That’s really interesting Fox because time spent procrastinating – especially in front of a screen – does feel like a spell. My sister and I were joking the other day that we couldn’t do house work chores because we hadn’t watched all the “clean with me” videos on YouTube yet! I also see there’s a gap in the market so have started writing a How to Procrastinate book. As one might imagine, I started cleaning to avoid working on the book.

    • Fox says:

      I’ve read that’s an effective strategy – procrastinate on purpose, and do the thing you really should be doing as your “procrastination”!

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