If you have a to-do list, be warned. A new study has revealed the curious behavior of pre-crastination.
New York Magazine defines it as the tendency to take on tasks as soon as possible even if it takes you more time and effort in the long run. Sound familiar?
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University observed the behavior by asking students to choose one of two buckets: One was closer to them and would have to be carried farther (requiring more physical effort). The other was farther away and would have to be carried a shorter distance. The New York Times reported that more students picked up the closer bucket even though this meant extra physical work with no benefit.
This brings to mind a number of books I’ve read on productivity, time management and stress behaviors. One of my favorites is Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy.
The title is a reference to a quote from Mark Twain, that says, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And, if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”
Tips for Avoiding Pre-crastination
Whether you are a pre- or procrastinator – or somewhere in between, the lessons I’ve learned from Tracy’s and other productivity guides may be of use to you. I’ve summarized them into the following four tips:
This one’s a no-brainer. Whether you use a list, a calendar or some other type of planning tool, know what you need to do day-to-day in advance. Know this before you wake up on any given day.
Look at your task list (in advance), prioritize it into tiers and tackle the top tier first.
- What is mandatory?
- What are the “nice to haves?”
- What can be delegated?
- What simply isn’t time sensitive?
While it can be tempting to want to check lots of items off the list to feel a sense of accomplishment, doing this takes time and resources away from priority tasks. Don’t distract yourself from the priorities with “business.”
Process your stress level.
My guess is that pre-crastinators dive into tasks prematurely because they’re making decisions out of stress. Be sure you’re tackling your action items based on the big picture priorities rather than stress behavior.
What are your favorite productivity tips?