Let’s Talk About Procrastination’s Evil Cousin: PREcrastination

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Let’s Talk About Procrastination’s Evil Cousin: PREcrastination

We all know about procrastination, but no one talks about its equally disruptive cousin, PREcrastination. Precrastination is about rushing to get things done quickly, even when your hastiness is unnecessary and may have negative consequences.

Do any of these situations feel familiar to you?

  • Responding to an email right away, even if it interrupts you from a more important activity.
  • Racing to complete a task before you have the information and tools needed to complete it properly.
  • Paying bills as soon as you get them, even if it leaves you cash strapped. 

If you were nodding your head while reading those bullet points, I’ve got bad news for you. You’re likely a precrastinator. No worries. Loads of brilliant folks (like me) suffer from this problem, so you’re in grand company.

Frankly, it’s easy to fall into the habit of precrastinating because it feels good – in the moment. 

Thinking about all the stuff you need to do is stressful. Doing something early relieves that stress.

You get a quick jolt of satisfaction. Plus, the time you spend scurrying through small tasks and making minor decisions postpones having to deal with more complicated, difficult things.

Precrastinating generally feels better than waiting or doing nothing. But there are significant downsides to habitual precrastination:

  • When you make decisions quickly, without taking the time to gather facts and explore options, there’s a greater risk of making bad decisions. 
  • When you rush to complete tasks, you skip things like reviewing details or getting feedback from others, so the end quality of your work may suffer.
  • And when you spend time and effort on unnecessary or unimportant work, you ultimately leave more valuable work undone.

So how do I stop precrastinating?

It’s a complicated question because we each have unique motivations, stresses, and work-life situations. And habits are clingy by nature. In the words of Mark Twain: 

A habit cannot be tossed out the window; it must be coaxed down the stairs a step at a time.

In keeping with Mr. Twain’s advice, here’s a step-by-step approach to conquering precrastination. FYI: It worked for me and I was an Olympic-calibre precrastinator.

Step 1: Take an honest look at your daily activities.

Emphasis on honest! For at least a week, record each instance of precrastination. Be diligent and don’t let anything slide.

Include a few details about each situation, like the time of day, your general mood, the task you felt compelled to do immediately, and the activity you stopped doing so you could complete that task.

Don’t judge yourself. Just annotate.

Step 2: Look for patterns and triggers.

When you’ve collected enough data, start looking for connections and commonalities. Ask yourself questions, like:

  • Are there certain types of tasks you feel most compelled to complete quickly?
  • Do you precrastinate more at certain times of day? 
  • How does stress factor into your choices? Hunger? Mood?

Step 3: Make small, easy changes.

Small changes can make a big difference. For example, if you precrastinate more when you’re hungry, start keeping a stash of almonds or a piece of fruit nearby. Or if precrastination becomes more of a THING as the day goes on, start going for a walk around noon. Get out of your workspace and take some deep breaths. 

Step 3: Compartmentalize those small tasks.

Schedule small blocks of time throughout your workday. For example, you might set aside 15 minutes at 10am, 1pm, and 4pm. 

When you feel the need to do something immediately, write that task into one of the available time blocks. Knowing exactly when you will do it – and knowing it will be done soon – can help.

Time blocking/compartmentalizing also helps you shift into the healthier habit of starting and ending each day by working on more important things.

⭐️ Bonus Tip: Use a timer to help develop self-discipline.

When you get that “just do it” feeling, set the timer on your phone for one minute. For those 60 seconds, don’t do anything. Just ride out the feeling. You’ll be amazed by how often the urge to do that one small thing simply passes – and you can get back to whatever you were doing before.

Do I still precrastinate? Yes. Sometimes. But I don’t do it as often as I used to.

The secret to breaking this habit is to become aware of what precrastination looks like – for you. And have strategies and tools in place to help you put the brakes on this behaviour quickly.

Eat your almonds. Walk around the block. Get your phone timer going. And breathe.

You’ve got this!

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