Too little time to finish tasks? You’re typical.

by Bill Hendrick
Cox News Service
March 8, 2005

ATLANTA — Almost never finish everything on your
to-do list because you run out of time? Or mad at yourself that you
haven’t folded the clothes? Or taken the trash out to the curb?

But, nonetheless, you still agree to do things a
month from now that you’re already too busy to do today?

If that’s you, don’t despair. Most of us are like
that, and, according to a new study, scientists now think they know
why:

When people are in the midst of their daily living,
they’re pretty good at gauging how many chores or even
spur-of-the-moment invitations they can handle at the moment.

But give them more time to figure out their
constraints — say, a commitment made for next week or next month
— and their procrastination instinct kicks in, scientists Gal
Zauberman of the University of North Carolina and John Lynch Jr. of
Duke University report.

"Most of us are pretty lousy at predicting how much
spare time we’ll have in the future, but we are blissfully unaware
of this," said Lynch. The pair’s study is in this month’s
peer-reviewed Journal of Experimental Psychology.

"People are consistently surprised to be so busy
today. . . . They act as if new demands will not inevitably arise
that are as pressing as those faced today," Zauberman said.

But it’s different when it comes to money.

"We have a little undue optimism that we’ll have
more spare money in a month than we have today," he said. "But
basically, we are pretty good at realizing that if we can’t afford
something today, we shouldn’t commit to spending the money in a
month."

About 800 participants in the experiments thought
both time and money would be more available in a month than "right
now."

Can people learn to predict their future time
commitments better?

It doesn’t look good, both scientists assert.

"It is difficult to learn," they wrote, "that time
will not be more abundant in the future."

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One thought on “Too little time to finish tasks? You’re typical.

  1. That’s because:

    1. People (at least me) try to do too much.

    2. People (at least me) need more breaks than they think. The goal of life is to be happy not be be useful. Begin useful is a waste of time. I wasted today. It was great.

    My feeling is that we need more programs to let people feel good about wasting time and less effort at efficiency. Unleash the vegetable within.

    I’m going to watch some dead milkmen videos now and drink some pabst.

    Cheers.

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