Most people have probably heard the term “procrastination” before. Perhaps you are even one of those people for whom procrastination, which is also colloquially known as “defermentitis”, is a real curse: they chronically postpone unpleasant tasks and activities.
But it’s not just postponing and suppressing your own to-do list that harms productivity. The urge to tick off the to-dos as quickly as possible can also prove to be a real productivity killer. The University of California psychologist David Rosenbaum 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 tick off as many items on the list as possible, do not deal with them intensively, but only edit them fleetingly. The main thing is that everything is ticked off quickly, isn’t it?
Not correct. “In terms of productivity, we usually imagine that we can do as much as possible in as little time as possible,” writes author and productivity expert Chris Bailey in an article for the British business and financial news channel CNBC. However, according to Bailey, productivity means something else, namely, paying attention and focus on the most important tasks – and doing them carefully. If you do not do this, new problems and tasks arise, simply because you have not taken enough time for them.
It is good to check off tasks as quickly as possible – but 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 effort 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 the participants to choose the rear bucket because this would make the task easier. Contrary to their expectations, most chose the bucket that was at the start line – even though they had to carry it on. The reason for their decision: The task assigned weighed on the soul of the participants. They wanted to get rid of this mental burden as soon as possible.
So if we tidy up our room or do the dishes before we do more important tasks, it may be because it makes us feel like we’re actually doing things without having to do the important things.
Precrastination: This is how you can avoid it
In conversation 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 after all. “Precrastination happens when you work in autopilot mode. Even if that sounds counterproductive on stressful days, you should stop and consider all the tasks that lie ahead. ”
In the next step, according to Bailey, you should be aware of which tasks you can actually do quickly. If they only last a few minutes, it can be helpful to get them done right away and then focus your attention on more important things. Calendars and to-do lists are also helpful – they can help you find out what’s distracting you and reorganize you.
Everything does not always have to be quick. Taking things slower doesn’t necessarily mean losing time – it sometimes means gaining productivity.