Why People Overcommit
The idea that time is on your side may not always be true, according to a recent study by the American Psychological Association.
Research by two business-school professors reveals that people over-commit and overspend because they expect to have more time and resources in the future than they have at the present.
?All of us are busy, all of the time, but people continually think they will have more of a resource in the future and are willing to overbook and take on more future tasks, as long as it is not now,? says Gal Zauberman, PhD, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who conducted the study with John Lynch Jr., PhD, of Duke University.
He explained that if you asked someone if they would rather work an hour today or three hours, three weeks from now, they are more likely to say the latter.
?But if you asked them three weeks from now, they would say, gee, if it happened today they would never have said yes, because they are busy again,? Zauberman said.
They suspect that because every day is a little different: ?The nature of time fools us and we ?forget? about how things fill our days.?
New York University graduate student, Sarah Kaufman, 25, at the School of Public Policy agrees with the study. ?I make really long to-do lists that are usually not attainable for the week ahead," she admitted.
Rebecca Weissman, 22, a psychology senior, also at NYU, plans during her Spring Break to read the eight articles that she put off reading during the semester.
?Ideally, I?ll get more done because I won?t have classes,? she said. Like the study?s participants, she believes the future is nearly ?limitless.? But on reflection, she conceded ?That?s probably the problem.?
Zauberman says that although surveyed participants believed that both time and money would be more available to them in ?a month? than ?today,? they believed it more strongly for time than for money. He believes people are less optimistic when it comes to their finances and are more aware of their expenses because of planned payments like reoccurring monthly bills.
?Money is more planned, but time is less predictable? he says. ?You deal with expenditures of money more regularly but things come up that you never plan.?
Kaufman says she can plan her finances well, but admits that she tends to overbook social events not realizing that she will most likely be equally busy in the future too.
?You never really know how long something is going to take, and it usually takes longer than you expected,? she observed.
(This was an excerpt from my 3/8 spot assignement, the quotes were obtained through a phone interview)
The actual study appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol. 134, No. 1