The Opposite of Procrastination: An Antonym for the Term

We have all heard of procrastination, the annoying habit of waiting as long as possible to complete a task. In business, the procrastinators are always missing deadlines, never on-time to meetings, or even for work.

Many people see procrastinators as lazy or apathetic, but what is the opposite of procrastination?

The technical antonyms of procrastination include alacrity, readiness, and eagerness. Psychologists have also developed the term precrastination to describe persons who rush to accomplish tasks, never miss a deadline, put aside other important daily tasks, and are eager to please.

This article will explain the formal antonyms and near antonyms of procrastination. We’ll also cover the difference between procrastination and precrastination and ways to deal with both tendencies, so read on to see if you could be a precrastinator.

Procrastination

“Procrastination” is a noun that describes the act of putting something off due to a lack of interest or sloth.

The word “procrastinate” is a verb meaning to put off or delay, and procrastinators are individuals who intentionally put off performing any task habitually (source).

Here are a few common examples in sentence form:

  • I tend to procrastinate when it comes to my homework.
  • Mary was known for her tendency to procrastinate, but she always turned her work in on time.
  • I find it hard to prevent procrastination.

Common synonyms for “procrastinate” include delay, dally, loiter, and dawdle. While terms like “delay” are more neutral, “procrastinate” implies that the procrastinator is to blame, displaying either laziness or a lack of concern.

Compare the use of the synonyms “avoided” and “delayed” in the following sentences:

  • Missy avoided working on her project so she could play video games.
  • Howard delayed taking a walk while it rained.

The first sentence implies that Missy is irresponsible, while the second shows that Howard had a justifiable reason for putting off his walk.

Antonyms of Procrastination

Antonyms are words that express the opposite meaning of a particular word. Some of the most commonly-used antonyms for procrastination are alacrity, readiness, and eagerness.

Other near antonyms include certainty, certitude, confidence, decisiveness, determination, firmness, resoluteness, resolution, and sureness (source). 

Here are a few sentences to help you understand these words in their proper context.

AntonymDefinitionSentence Example
alacrityCheerful readiness or eagerness to do something.The girl responded with alacrity when the teacher called on her.
eagernessEnthusiastic, impatient The class had an eagerness to learn about the ocean.
readinessTo be prepared.The police officers were in a state of readiness.

Each of the above antonyms of procrastination also has synonyms. For instance, the synonyms of alacrity are:

SynonymDefinitionSentence Example
amenabilityThe desire to please.The child was amenable toward her mother.
gamenessPluckiness or having a fighting spirit.The terrier is known for its gameness.
goodwillKindly support, helpful attitude, or willing effort.The minister approached the hardships of his congregation with goodwill.
obligingnessThe cheerful readiness to do something.Howard is always obliging and helpful.
willingnessFavorably disposed to do something.Mark showed a willingness to bathe the dog.

Near antonyms are not close enough to be direct antonyms, but they still contrast sharply with the words for which they are near antonyms. Here are some of the near antonyms of procrastination.

Near AntonymDefinitionSentence Example
certaintyKnowing or believing in an outcome.The doctor began treatment with the certainty that the patient would recover.
certitudeThe state of being certain.I require a greater degree of certitude before I will invest my hard-earned money.
decisivenessThe ability to make a decision quickly.Frank was decisive when he chose what task to complete first.
firmnessNo wavering, not likely to change.Amy’s firmness in her answer surprised her friend.
confidenceThe state of being certain about something or an outcome.I am going to jump right in the pool with confidence that I won’t drown.
determinationMaking a decision firmly and with certainty.The man began the project with determination and confidence.
resolutenessFirm determinationHe had a resoluteness of character and would accomplish tasks in the face of great difficulty.
resolutionThe act of determinationTina made a resolution to exercise.
surenessNo doubt, absolute confidence.He drives his car with a sureness of his skill.

For similar expressions reflecting certitude, check out our article, “Most Definitely: Understanding the Different Possible Ways this Phrase is Correctly Used.”

Precrastination

Precrastination is a term coined by psychological research scientist David A. Rosenbaum and his colleagues as they studied the opposite of procrastination. They defined it as a person that rushes to get tasks finished even if extra effort is required (source). 

For instance, rather than take the time to make room in the freezer, you simply shove the food in any old way, and the next time you open the door, a good portion of it falls out.

You were eager to get the job done, but you made more work for yourself in the long run.

Dr. Rosenbaum came across the concept of precrastination during a 2014 study into how long a person would carry a heavy object and the distance one was willing to carry it.

In this study, students had instructions to walk down an alley and choose one of two buckets to carry to the alley’s end. One bucket was at the beginning and one near the end.

Surprisingly, the students chose the one closest to them regardless of weight difference. Their reasoning was that, by choosing the closest bucket to them, they would complete the task faster (source).

The Urgency Effect

There have been other studies conducted that led to the discovery of the effects procrastination can have on a person.

Dr. Christopher Hsee and behavior scientist Meng Zhu conducted a study that uncovered a phenomenon called the Urgency Effect.

The Urgency Effect shows that when a person senses they have a short amount of time to complete even the most trivial task, they focus on the dated task rather than other tasks that may be of higher importance or need.

Traits of a Precrastinator

Research by Kyle Sauerberger, a colleague of Dr. Rosenbaum, connects certain personality traits and precrastination. For instance, a precrastinator may possibly be extremely conscientious, eager, and highly agreeable.

A precrastinator tends to rush to get things done. They have an urge to finish a task even when knowing that waiting a bit may provide a better outcome. Precrastination also allows one’s mental load to be lighter, very much akin to the Urgency Effect. 

A precrastinator lives with a double-edged sword, and while they get things done, they are unable to let their creative juices get going, let alone flow. 

They tend to get sucked into things easily and sometimes end up doing someone else’s work because they are so eager to please others.

Although, coworkers may begin to resent you for being the overachiever. They may see you trying to get a leg up over them to get noticed by the boss.

Being the eager beaver and the one willing to do anything and everything with a fast and furious mentality is not always the way to get ahead.

The boss may instead see someone always rushing to look better than everyone else, performing under par, not invested in the company, and handing in shoddy work. You may believe you have the best work ethic ever, but others may not.

Cognitive Demand

Rosenbaum and other researchers posit that being a precrastinator allows you to reduce your cognitive demand. In the workplace, this is a strong motivator. 

To remember to have that monthly expense report finished by a certain time each month is cognitively taxing. If you complete it immediately, you no longer need to worry about it.

Dr. Rosenbaum also said that the stress, or tension that exists when you know you have a task to complete, is eliminated by doing it right away. In conjunction with Dr. Rosenbaum, Dr. Grant explained that diving right into a task keeps you from thinking — no anxiety and no stress.

Precrastination is just as serious a problem as procrastination. One may pose the question, “What is wrong with getting things done quickly and checked off the list? After all, doesn’t the early bird catch the worm?”

Image by fabe-lau via Pixabay

Catching the worm before anyone else seems like sound advice. Still, it may also have consequences stemming from a failure to plan properly. The reckless bird may get eaten by a savvy cat who knows that bird is early.

Precrastination, Is it Really Beneficial?

Most of the time, getting small tasks accomplished immediately may make you feel good, but were you able to complete that task, and have you thought it through? Jumping right on a task may not be as beneficial, no matter how gratifying it is to get it done.

By rushing in too quickly, Dr. Rosenbaum explains that you may expend unnecessary effort. If not done well or completely, you may need to do the task again. Had you done a bit of planning, you would not have wasted your time and effort. 

For example, you come into work and check your emails every morning before doing anything else. A precrastinator rushes to read and answer each and every one of those emails as soon as possible. 

To the precrastinator, this shows initiative, a get-down-to-business attitude, which should raise them above coworkers.

However, rushing may only show that you rushed through reading each email, which the sender may see as not caring. How fast or slow you send a reply matters. Suppose you hurry to reply to every email in the morning. In that case, the sender may not see efficiency but rather a lack of respect and judgment. 

Also, if you rush to answer an emotional email, you may not say what you mean, and they may take what you say out of context. There are times when taking the time will make a difference to you, a coworker, a boss, or a customer.

If you are a chronic precrastinator, it is important to let yourself take time to complete a task. This does not mean you will become a chronic procrastinator. However, there are many trivial tasks on your to-do list that can wait. 

If you rush to do them all, you are expending energy, both mental and physical, that you may need later in the day for something more important.

You must learn to pace yourself. The old wive’s saying, “Stop and smell the roses,” even for the early birds, is one everyone in society needs to adopt. There is nothing wrong with stopping, taking stock of what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what the best way to accomplish it may be (source).

Steps to Stop Precrastinating

Stairs, Gradually, Feet, Legs, Success, Gradual, Career
Image by geralt via Pixabay

No one wants to procrastinate. It is a habit that leads to unnecessary stress, and one people strive to improve upon.

Still, being a chronic precrastinator is also problematic. However, there are steps to follow that may help improve and stop the habit. The four steps outlined below are from Dr. Rosenbaum (source).

Wait before answering emails unless they are urgent. Give yourself time to think with a clear head. You may even notice the time you take leads you to smarter and better solutions to problems and, therefore, better answers.

Gather information before acting. For example, as a personal assistant, gathering vital information on every participant’s schedule before arranging the meeting and booking the conference room will avoid future headaches. 

Imagine the leg work it would take to coordinate 10 schedules after the fact. Work smarter, not harder.

Another old wive’s saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew,” might be old but is particularly relevant for precrastinators. Spread your work out rather than try to do it all in one morning. 

You could also use the example of trying to carry too many things at once. The intent is to make fewer trips, but you will end up with broken or smashed items in the end. A lazy man’s load is never worth it.

You should always get a second or even third opinion, especially if the situation is a serious one. There are times when jumping ahead without thought may lead to serious consequences. 

You would not consider surgery without more than one doctor’s opinion. Suppose you just jumped on the first doctor’s opinion. In that case, the surgery you have might be unnecessary, and you could have avoided the pain and suffering.

The Eisenhower Box

There is another strategy to decide on what task and when to do it called the “Eisenhower Box.” President Dwight D. Eisenhower was highly organized and able to prioritize his time in an exceptional manner.

President Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” He clearly distinguished between urgent and important, all through his life.

President Eisenhower defined tasks in this way. An urgent task was one that demanded immediate attention, such as daily deadlines, notes from the boss, or a staff meeting. Important tasks are long-term goals, being financially secure, healthy, and advancing in your career.

We now break down urgent tasks further into four more categories (source):

  1. Important and urgent
  2. Important but not urgent
  3. Not important but urgent
  4. Not important and not urgent 

Becoming ensnared by the immediacy of email and social media is easy; however, chances are it is keeping you from doing any important work. President Eisenhower used a chart the size of a napkin to help him decipher between urgent and important.  

Below is a version of an Eisenhower Box, and below it is a table showing what tasks can be put where.

Important but not urgentUrgent and important

When will you do it?

Needs to be done right away.
Not important and not urgentUrgent but not important

It can wait to be done.

Give to someone else to do.

This table illustrates how to break down each of the four categories in the Eisenhower Box:

Important and urgentA crying baby, work crisis, taxes, mortgage, bills
Important but not urgentEnough sleep, adequate exercise, saving for retirement or the roof
Not important but urgentBooking a flight, answering your phone when it rings, sharing an article relevant to a current project or discussion
Not important and not urgentWatching Jeopardy, checking your social media accounts, eating dessert.

The above chart is a springboard for your to-do list, and there is no right or wrong way to look at the categories. It is for you to use it as a guide to help you stop precrastinating — not an easy task. 

There are very few precrastinators who have successfully changed their ways. However, creating a schedule and sticking to it, like President Eisenhower, will potentially increase your productivity.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are a procrastinator or a precrastinator, you are in the long run causing yourself more harm than good. Intense stress is not good for your health, and it eventually affects every aspect of your life. 

While not yet an entry in your typical dictionary, precrastination is the exact opposite of procrastination, while formal antonyms include alacrity, decisiveness, and eagerness.

Either way, it is best to be mindful and think things through. Neither rush into something nor try to put it off, but try to compromise somewhere in the middle. It is best to remember that working fast is not always working better. 

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