“Do less,” our ancient ancestor bros once cried as they shotgunned their ancient Nattys. It’s a philosophy that many human sloths, like myself, live by. Up until recently, that lifestyle has come with a heaping helping of guilt. Shouldn’t I start that paper that was assigned today? Shouldn’t I color code my planner? Shouldn’t I just generally work harder than I do?
Well, human sloths, rejoice! A team of Penn State psychologists has proven that “pre-crastinating” is just as harmful as procrastinating.
Psychology professor David Rosenbaum and his team asked participants (Penn State students) to pick up and carry a bucket down an alley to a finish line. The students were given the choice between two buckets filled with pennies, one placed closer to the finish line than the other. Researchers made a point to insist that participants choose the easier task.
The experiment had a surprising result — a majority of participants chose to carry the bucket farther from the finish line. Rosenbaum’s team found this very interesting and somewhat irrational. After the experiment, participants explained that they chose the bucket they could pick up as soon as possible in order to finish the task more quickly.
The team dubbed this counterproductive tendency to choose to exert extra effort “pre-crastinating.” As Rosenbaum explained, “our findings suggest that the desire to relieve the stress of maintaining that information in working memory can cause us to over-exert ourselves physically or take extra risks.” In other words, your desire to check something off of your to-do list as quickly as possible is probably setting you back.
Rosenbaum’s team plans to further study this phenomenon and its links to procrastination. Obviously, though, they’ll take their time before starting their next experiment, as they wouldn’t want to pre-crastinate.