A precrastinator is a person who has the urge to get everything done in advance. The term was coined by psychologists in 2014 to explain why some people do things sooner than they really need to be done, even if it costs them more time and energy.It all started with a Penn State research study about effort by David Rosenbaum, Lanyun Gong and Cory Adam Potts, which looked at how we spend and conserve our energy in our routine daily actions. They asked university students to carry either of two buckets of equal weight (they were filled with pennies) to the end of an alleyway, doing it whatever way seemed easiest. One bucket was positioned closer to the end of the alley then the other bucket was, but contrary to expectations participants chose the bucket that was closer to the start position, carrying it farther than the other bucket.
The study's authors were astonished by these results, and after asking the participants why they would deliberately waste energy, almost all of them said the same thing: "I wanted to get the task done as soon as I could. The job was less of a burden overall if they got the picking up part out of the way early and crossed it off their to-do list. In other words, conserving physical effort was not a priority for them, decreasing their mental workload and stress level was.
The following are some other signs that you may be a precrastinator:
- You park in the first empty spot you see, even if it means a longer walk back from the store later carrying groceries
- Replying immediately to email or voice mail messages
- Paying bills long before they are due
- You like to be early to an event, arriving in plenty of time to get a seat and settle in
- Packing days or weeks ahead for a trip
- When waiting in line to pay at a store, you get your money ready way ahead of time
- Taking on a joint task rather than leave it for someone else to do
- Buying your winter holiday presents over the summer
- You pull out your house keys 15 minutes before arriving home
- Thinking about and planning your retirement even though you are still young
- You start driving before their GPS calculates a route, and more often than not need to turn around
- Arriving almost everywhere early
- Making plans based on 10-day weather forecasts, even though they are unreliable
- Constantly clearing your desk
- You love to "check the box" next to items on the nice, neat to-do list
- You can't relax until you get everything out the way first
- You turn in homework or work assignments early
- You start things before getting the complete list of instructions
- When unloading the dishwasher, you quickly shove all the Tupperware into a random cabinet to get done fastger, but setting yourself up for an avalanche of containers and lids
- You mail in items for submission well before the cut-off date
- On a highway, merging into a lane too early
- Always running a few quick errands
- At night, you turn off my car headlights long before you get home
- You always finish projects way before others, much to their dismay
Some people may consider these choices irrational, but they are just trade-offs precrastinators make to keep from feeling overwhelmed.
Most precrastinators think what they are doing is a good thing, but as with most things in life, it is a mixed bag with both pros and cons:
The Pros of Precrastination:
- You can be counted on to get the job done - Friends, family members, bosses and coworkers can rely on you to put work before play. Doing things early makes you look responsible and is associated with being a good person in society.
- You put out fires before they are a problem - By being prepared ahead, you can solve smaller problems before they become big ones.
- You can better enjoy your downtime - By getting everything done, you have earned stress free time to play.
- The more you think about the future, the more likely you are to take actions now. This may for example improve your health, as it makes you more aware of potential problems when you are older, giving you a greater incentive to live healthier in the present. The same benefit also applies to your finances and thinking about your retirement.
- You don't have to stress over deadlines and their is less uncertainty in your life, allowing you to sleep better at night.
The Cons of Precrastination:
- Finishing early could lead you to mess up because you did not take the extra time to think things through completely. Getting the task over with is not the same as completing it correctly.
- A problem with precrastination, as compared to procrastination, is that it usually feels like you are doing a good thing. But, that may not always be the result. You might end up using up your energy on the wrong tasks (by checking things off your list), while postponing the most important things ones to when you have no energy left.
- All of the necessary information may not be available early. You then later may need to spend extra time correcting things.
- Sometimes things change at the last minute, causing you to need to redo some of what you already did.
- You clash with procrastinators and people who are late, and that causes stress. You also may even feel anxiety on their behalf, even if they don't.
- Some people who procrastinate (not precrastinate) do it subconsciously because it increases the chances that they won’t succeed at the task. They can then blame their failure on rushing or timing as opposed to the lack of ability on their part. Precrastinators aren't awarded this luxury.
- Rushing to complete the task could mean you’re losing out on ideas that would have occurred to you later if you had not finished early.
- Stressing out about getting work done ahead of time can cause just as much anxiety as getting it done on time.
- A precrastinator’s work is never done. There are always more things to do, so you never feel satisfied.
- Your need to control the future by getting stuff done ahead of time may temporarily reduce your anxiety, but it is impossible to predict everything that will happen, so you still need to learn to sometimes let things go.
- When you arrive to places or meetings early, there is a lot of wasted time, especially when other people are late.
- Always worrying about the future means you never feel the beauty of living in the moment.
Note: According to wordspy.com, the word "precarastinator" was first used when Roy Rivenburg of the Los Angeles Times asked readers to invent words that he could use in his newspaper column. College English professor Joe Price turned it into a class assignment, and one of the words sumbitted was "precrastination" (meaning to get work done ahead of time) by Amy Faucher.