Each of us, at times, can be a procrastinator, putting off something that is hard to do or that we don’t want to do. But three researchers at Pennsylvania State University think we humans may also be precrastinators—hurrying to get something done so we can cross it off our mental to-do list, even if the rush ends up being wasteful. The researchers also claim to have coined the term “precrastination.”
Psychology professor David Rosenbaum and his two collaborators reached their conclusion after asking 257 students to complete a bucket challenge. Not the one in which you dump ice water on your head. Instead, they brought each student to a narrow alley in town. They placed two buckets in the alley—one on the left side and one on the right side—and told each individual to pick up one of the two buckets without stopping, in whatever way was easiest, and carry it to the other end. In most cases one bucket was closer to the end than the other bucket was.
Indeed, psychologist and procrastination expert Timothy Pychyl at Carlton University thinks any tendency to precrastinate, if it exists at all, would be limited to trivial tasks. When faced with a choice of simple and more challenging tasks—like answering email instead of starting a project—people who choose email do so out of procrastination, not precrastination.
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