What is Precrastination And How Do You Overcome It?
by Lee Xin Hui, Rachel. |
Hailing from one of the most widely used words on the Internet, and with the creative intellect of the general public, here births another newly coined term, cleverly done by adopting the prefix-change method (I just made that up). Precrastination, according to the urban dictionary, is the act of completing a task way earlier than it should be completed, thus resulting in mediocre - if not under par - work. In other words, the opposite of procrastination.
Before we jump into overcoming the problem, let’s first understand why it is a problem. After all, isn’t it a good thing that showcases one’s efficiency and good time management skills?
No. Here are three major problems that precrastinating brings.
1. It causes unnecessary worries
In a society that puts so much focus on our ability to churn out work after work after work, we do not need to add fuel to fire by imposing tighter deadlines on ourselves. I believe your superior knows the relative importance of the task given to you, and if your superior gave you a 2-week duration to complete that task, trying to force yourself to finish it by 3 days (and for what?) will just panic you further and increase your stress levels.
Little did you know, these extra worries would accumulate into bigger problems such as anxiety attacks or even affect your interpersonal relationships with your outbursts of exasperation.
2. It undermines your competency
When you try to do everything in advance, you shorten your time to conduct a full, thorough research of the topic regarding your work. You don’t get to learn about the finer details of the discipline and you don’t get to have an in-depth understanding of it.
When it’s time for you to present it to your superiors, you might not be able to answer questions or refute doubts effectively; and worse come to worse, you might even be reprimanded for not doing a good enough job because “I gave you so much time! Surely you could’ve done better than this!”. Yeah, you could’ve, if you didn’t try to squeeze a 2-week project into 3 days.
3. It doesn’t bring additional benefits
Other than the initial ‘wow’ effect from your colleagues or managers for completing tasks so quickly, precrastinating does not benefit you much. Yes, maybe you’ll get to have the remaining 11 days for you to relax a bit, but what will you fill those days with? Let me guess - another project due next month that you’ll try to complete in a week.
Trust me, it’s better to have one good-quality, well-researched work that is produced on time than to have two hastily put together shambles done way before the deadline. The initial amazement would’ve been diluted once they found out the quality of the work anyway.
Now that I’ve gotten you to understand the issues of precrastination, here are 3 ways to overcome it.
1. Prioritize quality over quantity
I was a precrastinator once, even now every once in a while I’d find myself trying to rush things to completion 10 days before the deadline. However, whenever I catch myself in the act of doing that, I will constantly remind myself that this is not a competition. Even if it is, I am competing with the quality of my work, not the speed.
While the requirements vary from project to project, I believe there are a few universal aspects that constitute high-quality work: depth, clarity, and relevance.
Depth refers to how well-versed you are with regards to the topic at hand. This is important because you are supposed to be an expert in the field when it’s time for you to present it to your superiors or clients.
It assures your recipients that you have a firm understanding of the project’s structure and execution, thus reaffirming their confidence in your competency. To achieve that, dedicate a time (ideally the first few days when you’re given the task) to focus solely on researching. Read up on the relevant information, pose questions from what you’ve read, and try to search for the answers. The more understanding you have, the more it helps eliminate doubt.
Clarity, as the definition suggests, means a clear and concise presentation of your work. Your superiors and clients do not have all day, and to make sure they pay attention to what you’re saying, help them do so.
Give them an overview of the project so that they’ll know what to expect throughout the presentation, section your parts clearly (planning, execution, costs, risks, etc.) so that they can follow part by part, and make your message clear-cut. Set aside a day or two for review, and don’t just skim, review. That means to go over every detail carefully, tie up any loose ends, eliminate any redundant information, and make sure the information is not all over the place.
Relevance is important because it affects your audience, which is the company, your client, or both. As you work on your task, every now and then, ask yourself if this is relevant to the company: “Does it gain revenue? Does it impose more risks? Does it build a good PR for the company?” and the clients: “Does it benefit them? Does it help build rapport?”.
2. Find value in your work
Sometimes, when someone precrastinates, they would have an ‘I just want to get this over with’ mindset. This results in passionless work, and passionless work often results in mediocrity. To combat that, find value in what you do. Previously, we talked about relevance to the company and the clients; here, we focus on the relevance to the community and the general public. Seek for aspects of your work that will help, give back to, or enhance the lives of the community in any way possible. Ask yourself this question: “Profits aside, is there any good that will come out of this project?”
When you realize that this task you’re handling serves a purpose, you free yourself with begrudging, unhelpful mindsets like ‘I’m just doing this because my boss said so’, or ‘The credit goes to the company anyway, it’s not like I’m going to get a promotion from this project’. You start seeing the value of your work, you start putting your heart into it, and you won’t try to hasten the process just so you can get it done ASAP.
3. Have a detailed plan of the process
Precrastination is bad, but so is procrastination; but how do we find a balance, then? We’ve mentioned earlier that you should set aside time for researching and reviewing, and all these points you to planning. You know your working style best, so have a rough idea of how you’re going to spend the stipulated duration effectively, and break it down into further details.
For example, you’re given 3 weeks to complete the task before you pitch it to your bosses. You’re already very well-versed on the topic at hand so you don’t need much time to conduct research, but you’re not very good at organizing your ideas into presentable chunks of information so you will need more time to structure them. Ideally, you can spend 2 days sourcing for more data to improve the depth of your project, and a good 2 weeks to carefully construct the proposal, and 3 days of reviewing and refining it. You will then be left with one more day before the pitch, and you can use this day to rest yourself so that you will have the energy to present the message effectively.
The idea is simple: know your strengths and weaknesses, save time by leveraging on your existing strengths, and spend more time on refining your weaknesses, and don’t forget to rest.
So there you have it! 3 major problems of procrastinating and 3 easy steps to overcome them. If you’ve already tried everything, yet still find yourself handing in good-quality and comprehensive work a week in advance, you’re probably overqualified for your current position, time to ask for that raise, buddy.
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