By Maddy Savage and Ginevra Boni
Putting off important jobs until the last moment, procrastination, is a well-known behaviour, but ‘precrastination’ can be just as dangerous.
Whether or not we care to admit it, we’re all familiar with procrastination: waiting until the last minute to catch up with pressing tasks, often leading to subpar or incomplete work. The antidote – while easier said than done – is simply to start on your assignments sooner, long before the cut-off time so that your work reflects your full potential. But in your quest to beat procrastination, is it possible to go too far?
David Rosenbaum, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, certainly thinks so. His research focuses on the perils of “precrastination”, the tendency to rush too quickly into tasks. It can result in an expenditure of unnecessary effort that could be avoided with a bit of planning – in other words, haste makes waste.
As opposed to a procrastinator, who might leave an inbox full of emails untouched until the next day, a precrastinator would read and respond to each of them first thing in the morning. Even if they know most of the emails are unimportant, they would choose to clear them off as soon as possible. In some cases, this can mean depleting the precious energy they might need for a more urgent task later on.
So why do people precrastinate? Rosenbaum says that for most, it’s tough to resist reaching for low-hanging fruit.If something is immediately available to you, you’re instinctively wired to go for it. Think about the sweet allure of free food samples at the market. Similarly, when you complete simple short-term tasks, you have one fewer thing to think about – “I can wrap this up in five minutes. Why not take care of it now?” Personality traits such as conscientiousness, eagerness to please and high energy can predict precrastination behaviours, Rosenbaum says, but the evolutionary impulse behind them is universal.
The real downside of precrastination comes when, in your rush to finish, you encounter the naturally higher chance of doing your work incompletely or inaccurately. In the case of emails, sometimes waiting to respond can show respect for careful thought over expediency, especially if the content of the message is emotional.
Of course, precrastination is not without its benefits, but it’s critical to do so only when it makes sense. Chronic precrastinators must also realise that it’s OK to set trivial things aside, because they will not require huge mental energy later in the day, Rosenbaum says.
He argues that the managers of today would be wise to acknowledge that it’s not always best to do everything as quickly as possible. “It should be agreed in our society that it’s okay to smell the flowers,” he says. “To be deliberate, mindful and to be allowed to slow down.”
Cultivating the practice of “Be Here Now” in each moment Ram Dass
As you study the way in which your mind works in each moment, the way in which a concentrated mind deals with the world, as opposed to a diffused mind, then you see the way in which this lack of being able to be at the office when you’re at the office, or at home when you’re at home, reduces your effectiveness in each of them.
I notice that there was a stage where I was always ‘time binding’- when I was here with you, I was anticipating the fact that Saturday I’ll be at the temple, Sunday I’ll be flying to California, Monday I’ll be with ‘Creating our Future,’ and then I’ll be in Europe… I mean, it was all real in the moment, and I constantly had to sequence the ‘where I came from’ with the ‘where I was going’ in my mind… so I was always planning and anticipating.
What’s changed now is that much more of the time, I mean I’m a long way from being cooked, but much more of the time, when I am ‘here,’ this is it, I am here, and when I’m not here, I’m not here. It’s interesting how when you give another human being, your family, or your business, the fullness of your being at any moment, a little is enough; while when you give them half of it, because you’re time binding with your mind, there’s never enough. You begin to hear the secret, that being fully in the present moment is the greatest gift you can give to each situation.
When I’m waking up, going to the bathroom, and I meet somebody on the path, and they say, “Have you got a minute?” I probably have a minute, so I say “Yeh.” I turn to them and in that moment and I’m no longer somebody going to the bathroom- I’m somebody listening to their question. I’m just right there, and that takes me less time to deal with that thing fully. I hear them fully and they hear me hearing them, and we do the communication. I don’t hold to, “Yeh, sure, but I’m always thinking about going to the bathroom, while I’m listening to the question.”
It’s taken me awhile to learn that if I’m gonna offer the gift of my being, it means offering the fullness of the moment we are in.
The feeling that you’re not doing enough at home while you’re at work turns into ‘you don’t do enough at work’ and ‘you don’t do enough at home,’ while if you work fully when you are in either place, then that is standing back enough in that awareness to see the the pieces of your life and see what you are really working on. I look at one of those little planners and I see that I have these things to do, that I’ve got my relationships, I’ve got retreats, I see that I have to rest, I see the sort of pattern of my life. Then I can look at it all and think, “Do they create a life, first of all, that is fulfilling my unique opportunities in the universe? Am I understanding each of them as part of my spiritual path? What do I want to phase out, what do I want to keep?”
I stand back and I get a feeling of the design of my life, and once I’m at peace with the design of my life, then when I’m at each thing, the other part of me that’s already stood back and seen the design of it is also at peace, and then I can fully be in the thing I’m in.– Ram Dass