HR & Personal Development

Solving tasks too early can be just as bad as solving them too late

Even though your schoolteacher and your mother always said the opposite, there are actually advantages to waiting for the last minute to do your school assignment, the annual accounts or your next presentation.

People who postpone assignments until the last minute are called “procrastinators”. They are a well-known species.

But believe it or not, there are some that do directly the opposite. People who solve their tasks long before they are due. Those are called “precrastinators”.

Professor David Rosenbaum and Ph.D. student Cory Adam Potts conducted an experiment where the participants were offered the choice between lifting one of two buckets filled with coins down an alley. One bucket was placed near the participants and the starting line, while the other bucket stood closer to the finish line. Surprisingly, most of the contestants chose to move the bucket nearest to themselves, even though this meant carrying it longer. The researchers explain this with, “the desire to lighten their mental load was stronger than their determination to reduce their physical effort.” Or to put it in other words, it was more important for them to finish the task quickly, than it was to reduce the effort.

The downside of precrastination

While it may feel nice to solve tasks in long before deadline, it is far from certain that this provides the best quality in your work.

And according to Potts, who was part of the research team behind the experiment with the buckets, there are several reasons for this:

  • Precrastination can lead to unnecessary work, because you may work under false prerequisites due to lack of information, or because some tasks become unnecessary over time.
  • That you include too few details, because you work to fast.
  • You won't give yourself enough time to mentally process the task. There's a reason for the expression “to sleep on it”.