OK, I did not think precrastination was a real word. But it is fast becoming one. You know who you are, you who write your to-do list every night and start working on it before you go to bed. You who get an assignment and start working on it on the ride home. You are a precrastinator, the one who does things in a big hurry and then waits for others to catch up. And procrastinators? The ones who drag across the finish line an hour after everyone else? You can’t even imagine that torture.
The New York Times reports that we precrastinate to keep from feeling overwhelmed. If you worked in the business world for any length of time, you have undoubtedly met an efficiency guru or “time helper” who told you to empty your inbox first thing every day.
When I tell people not to look at their email until they have checked off an item on their own to-do list, they look at me as if I have spoken heresy. In a way, I have. When we open our emails first, we are opening the door to our office and saying, “Tell me what you need me to do; it’s certainly more important than what I had planned.”
When I tell writing students that the first draft is just that–a first try at communication, they look stunned. The idea that waiting and looking at the writing again later seems like a terrible waste of time.
I’ve also had client tell me that if I can’t get it “right the first time, I must be writing by the hour.” Well, if I thought the first draft was the last, I’d be writing by the pound. Most second drafts get more concise and to the point.
This hurry-up-and-get-it-over attitude has another result: we grab the first idea we have and run with it. The first idea is not always the best. And running with it doesn’t give us time to think it over, compare it to other ideas, talk to more people, and, gasp, give ourselves time to have a better idea.
Texting and messaging has made us believe that everything is equally important and deserves the same amount of attention. No wonder we feel overwhelmed. No wonder we feel out of control.
I’m not recommending dragging your feet or not answering a call. But I am suggesting that allowing yourself time to think will give you better answers.
––Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach who knows that creativity takes time to develop.