Precrastination, Procrastination and Nocrastination
There is no such thing as Nocrastination, I just made it up to indicate a habit of doing things the best possible way without being a slave to artificial deadlines whether self-imposed or imposed by others. This write-up is about how to achieve that by making use of the habits of procrastination and precrastination, and whatever else that can be helpful.
We all know what procrastination is – an act of unnecessarily postponing decision or actions. The word precrastination, which was coined by Rosenbaum in 2014, means doing jobs sooner than they really need to be done.
My proposition here is that we don’t need to look for the precise moment in time when a job needs to be initiated, executed or completed. We should see every task as an evolving process from their infancy to maturity and old age. We should be a bit of precrastinator, a bit of procrastinator, and also work on after-thoughts once the job is done and dusted.
Let us examine the pros and cons of each of these different options.
Procrastination is often seen as negative because the job is not done at the right time. But we need to ask ourselves – who has decided the right time and on what basis? With changed circumstances one might realize it was good that the job was not done in right time.
At times we make a decision to do the job at a particular time and when the time approaches we change our mind. This change of mind may be related to several factors such as lack of willpower, poor motivation, anxiety, fear of failure, indecision related to not knowing which option is right, task aversion etc. Procrastination may also result from our inability to calculate precisely the amount of time required for a particular task – generally underestimating the time that may be required to complete a task. It can also result when we have only looked at the needs of our present-self and have ignored that of our future-self.
However, there is a positive side to postponement as well. One may realize that when the plan was made the person deciding, self or someone else, was not fully aware of all the relevant information or it was just the conscious or cognitive mind that made that decision, and as the time approached the unconscious mind, which is the more intelligent side of us, realized what the right time was and also the importance of other tasks that were competing with the task in question.
Why people procrastinate
With procrastination we realize that the most important job remains undone and we have done dozens of jobs that were not so important – why?
It may be that procrastination is an outcome of more intelligent processing happening at our unconscious mind that negates the ill-thought out planning done only by our conscious mind which was not in full contact with the reality.
- It may be because we want to finish small jobs that can be done quickly without much effort and will give instant satisfaction. Scientific research also suggests that the reward centre in the brain – the nucleus accumbens – is activated more strongly when we complete less effortful task. Smaller the task quicker it finishes and gives boost to our wellbeing, focusing on one thing we know we can accomplish in a few minutes. Dopamine is released on completion of the tasks we are confident of completing – texting a friend, loading laundry, sending that email, paying that bill online etc. these little bursts of energy prepare us for the main job we have kept in abeyance.
- It may also be that our unconscious mind is telling us that this unplanned job is more important than the pre-planned activity.
It’s normally anxiety prone people who have a tendency to start early, worrying they won’t have enough time to do it later, they arrive early for meetings and can’t free their mind from the pending tasks. They try to tackle sub-goals at the earliest opportunity – even at the expense of extra effort. Precrastination also helps them to free up their working memory if small jobs are done well ahead. We tend to start with the task that can be done as soon as possible
- Start every job early like a precrastinator, prepare an outline in your mind, park the ideas for a while, keep coming back to it, finalise only at the last minute. For my presentations, I keep revising my power point slides until the morning of the presentation, as the best ideas come to my mind at the last minute only.
- during the incubation period your unconscious mind, which has a higher intelligence, starts working on it. The best ideas come to the mind at the last minute when one is emotionally and physiologically involved in preparing oneself for the job. Excellence demands a certain preoccupation with the problem and intensity which comes only at the last minute.
- The majority of our tasks are not a single click activity but a process that gradually evolves from zero to completion with lots of creative elements and bits of information contributing at different stages.
- Every action demands emotions, energy and motivation and it also demands clear-headedness (equanimity). The fuel comes from emotions and the direction comes from equanimity. These are two opposite attitudes and come at different times. When your mind is emotionally charged you do brain storming – and when your mind is equanimous and clear, you do short-listing and decision making. It is a rare ability to do both simultaneously – allowing a part of the mind to experience the emotions in their totality, and keeping the other part of the mind equanimous.
- After the job is done, you realize it can be done better, no harm contacting the person concerned and sharing your new ideas with them – they appreciated it and respect you for it.
So the mantra is Start Early and Finish Late, and go back to it to Follow-up.
© Kishore Chandiramani, Consultant Psychiatrist
Emotions Clinic, Education and Training Centre Cic, Staffordshire, England
Image courtesy: https://www.dreamstime.com/photos-images/procrastination.html