Most of you have heard the term “procrastination” before. Perhaps you are even one of those people for whom procrastination, which is also known colloquially as “procrastination”, is a real curse: You chronically postpone unpleasant tasks and activities.
But it’s not just putting off your own to-do list that harms productivity. The urge to check off to-dos as quickly as possible can also prove to be a real productivity killer. The psychologist David Rosenbaum from the University of California gave this phenomenon a name: Precrastination.
Do as much as possible in as little time as possible
Imagine it’s Monday morning. You made a long to-do list for the day. Some of the tasks are particularly important. In order to check off as many points as possible on the list, you do not deal with them intensively, but only work on them cursory. The main thing is that everything is checked off quickly, isn’t it?
Not correct. “By productivity, we tend to think of doing as much as possible in as little time as possible,” writes author and productivity expert Chris Bailey in a feature for UK business and financial news broadcaster CNBC. But, according to Bailey, productivity means something completely different, namely putting your attention and focus on the most important tasks – and doing them carefully. If you don’t do this, new problems and tasks arise simply because you haven’t given yourself enough time to do them.
It is good to check off tasks as quickly as possible – but it does not lead to the goal
Rosenbaum, who gave the phenomenon its name, was able to prove in a study in 2014 that people are willing to put in a lot of physical exertion just to feel like they are doing a task.
In the experiment, subjects had to choose between two buckets and carry the selected bucket to the end of an avenue. One bucket was closer to the end line, the other near the start line. The researchers advised participants to choose the rear bucket as it made the task easier for them. Contrary to their expectations, however, most of them opted for the bucket that was on the start line – although they had to carry it on. The reason for their decision: The assigned task weighed on the participants. They wanted to get rid of this mental burden as quickly as possible.
So if we tidy our room or wash the dishes before moving on to more important tasks, it might be because it makes us feel like we are actually doing things without having to turn to important tasks.
Precrastination: This is how you can avoid it
In an interview with CNBC, Chris Bailey revealed a few productivity tactics you can use to avoid precrastination. The first is: stop and think about whether you should devote more time to a task. “Precrastination happens when you work in autopilot mode. Even if that sounds counterproductive on stressful days, you should pause and consider all the tasks that lie ahead. “
The next step, according to Bailey, is to be aware of what tasks you can actually do quickly. If they only last a few minutes, it can be helpful to do them right away so that you can focus your attention on more important things. Calendar and to-do lists are also helpful – they can help you figure out what’s distracting you and reorganize yourself.
It doesn’t always have to be quick. Approaching things more slowly does not necessarily mean losing time – it sometimes also means increasing productivity.