A Study About “Pre-crastination”—as Bad as Procrastination?

A blog about business and economics.
June 4 2014 11:20 AM

Procrastination Is Bad, but “Pre-crastination” Is Too

83542193-production-staff-on-the-weekly-fashion-magazine-grazia
Do it now, or do it later?

Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images

This story originally appeared on Inc.

It would seem counterintuitive that the habit of attacking projects and to-do lists without a moment's hesitation is anything but ultra-productive.

Advertisement

Yet some researchers think that sometimes doing the opposite of procrastinating—or pre-crastinating—could cost you time and energy, too.

Psychologists from Pennsylvania State University recently conducted a series of experiments, which subtly gave participants the option of physically exerting themselves for either a long amount of time, or a shorter amount of time. 

Penn State psychology professor David Rosenbaum and his colleagues had college student participants complete the task of carrying a heavy bucket full of pennies down an alleyway. Rosenbaum marked a finish line at one end, and the students stood at the other. They were told to pick up just one bucket on the way to the finish line—either one that was closer to them, and farther from the finish line, or one that was farther from them and closer to the finish line. 

The researchers simply told the students to do whatever they felt was easier. Surprisingly, an overwhelming amount participants picked up the bucket that was closer to them and carried it down the alley, according to the Association for Psychological Science. As a result, they carted the heavy load for much longer than they would have if they had chosen the other bucket. 

When Rosenbaum asked the students why they chose the bucket they did, a common response was that they “wanted to get the task done as soon as they could.”

"By picking up the near bucket, they could check that task off their mental to-do lists more quickly than if they picked up the far bucket," Rosenbaum said. "Their desire to lighten their mental load was so strong that they were willing to expend quite a bit of extra physical effort to do so."

So can the world be divided into two categories—those who pre-crastinate and those who procrastinate? Well, Rosenbaum and his colleagues think it's more likely that there's a relationship between the two tendencies. They plan to examine that link in future experiments. 

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
Foreigners
Sept. 29 2014 10:00 PM “Everything Must Change in Italy” An interview with Italian Prime Minster Matteo Renzi.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 29 2014 3:10 PM The Lonely Teetotaler Prudie counsels a letter writer who doesn’t drink alcohol—and is constantly harassed by others for it.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 29 2014 1:52 PM Do Not Fear California’s New Affirmative Consent Law
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 29 2014 12:01 PM This Is Your MOM’s Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.