When It Comes to Time Management, Are You a Procrastinator or a Precrastinator?
Almost everyone is familiar with procrastination. Fewer people know about its opposite, precrastination, which is the tendency to start and finish a task as soon as possible. Let’s consider each.
First, procrastination: You have a task you must do, but instead of facing up to it, you find something (or many somethings) that are more pleasurable to do or at least less onerous. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, circumstances change to eliminate the dreaded task or make it unnecessary. When that happens, you feel rewarded for having procrastinated.
In general, procrastination is viewed as a bad thing, and what matters is finding ways to overcome it. Among the recommended ways: Break the task into small mini-tasks. Eliminate distractions that divert your attention from the task. Tackle the easiest part of the task first. Take the first step that will create momentum to take the next step and the one after that. Create a to-do list with timeframes by which each task must be completed.
But putting things off needn’t be seen as all bad. Consider, for example, the view that if you’re going to procrastinate, do it by choice, do it without guilt, and do it 100 percent, no matter what you choose to do instead. In other words, you don’t have to replace the task you’re putting off with one that has some lofty purpose or beneficial end. It’s entirely up to you how you piddle away the time that you might otherwise spend on the task you’re procrastinating.
Then again, if you’re a precrastinator, you avoid having things constantly hanging over your head. Precrastination refers to the urge to start a task immediately and complete it as soon as possible, even if doing so entails extra expense or effort. Precrastination has a positive ring to it; after all, who can fault you for getting a quick start (except possibly the procrastinators in your midst)? Unlike procrastinators, who put things off aslong as possible, precrastinators start as soon as possible, and often sooner than is necessary. While procrastinators strive to delay progress, for precrastinators, postponement is agony.
Precrastination allows you to move forward on the task, allowing plenty of time to revise, rethink, edit, or scrap and do over. Possible pitfall? You may end up spending a lot more time on the task than if you’d started later. Procrastination, by contrast, entails that last-minute do-it-now-or-else approach, which saves time and often enhances creativity. Possible pitfall? That ever-looming deadline and the risk of missing it.
Some people are habitual procrastinators or relentless precrastinators. I suspect most of us, though, vary our approach, depending on the task. Are you willing to try the opposite of your preferred approach to see how it works for you?