Karen Fratti
July 08, 2017 12:55 pm
Nednapa Sopasuntorn/Shutterstock

Calling all procrastinators! There’s a new study that says having fun first and then working later will actually help you to be more productive. So if you wondering if you should finish doing your bills or go to the beach today — go to the beach! And then finish later.

It sort of goes against everything we’ve ever learned as human beings. Like, you have to finish your string beans before you get to have dessert. Or work your butt off until Friday before you can actually have fun. Work out at the gym before eating a plate of nachos.

Okay, in some of those cases it totally makes sense to finish the hard stuff first and then go have a blast. (Working out on a belly full of melted cheese is not recommended by anyone.) But for the new study, the Chicago Booth School of Business ran a bunch of experiments and found that we should be having fun first, and working later. It makes work easier, and we’re actually enjoying the fun part more, according to the report.

Taking breaks for fun while you’re working might not be as bad as it sounds.

The results of the experiments were published in the Harvard Business Review and a journal, Psychological Science. Ed O’Brien, a professor at the school and a co-author of the study, described one of the experiment facilities as a makeshift spa, which sounds just lovely.

The spa, complete with a massage chair, was open to students at the University of Chicago. They could choose to come on weeknights just after their midterm exams, or go the week before. The students would predict how much they would enjoy the experience before visiting, and then rate it afterwards. (For you science buffs, O’Brien says that they had the same amount of students with comparable gender and age ratios for the experiments.)

The team found that the students who visited before exams said that they wouldn’t enjoy the experience as much because they had looming finals. But when they came out of the spa, they rated their experience as just as enjoyable as those who went to the spa after the exams.

So what does this mean? Don’t deny yourself pleasure when you’re in the thick of things. O’Brien noted that there are “limitations” to the experiments. He wrote that “nobody is recommending having celebratory beers just before you run your 5K.” (Darn.)

But loosening up a little — like getting a pedicure on your lunch break or taking time out from studying for a huge exam to do something good for yourself — is not a bad idea. You won’t not enjoy it, according to these experiments. And you might just feel better about the stack of tasks in front you when you come back. Hey, it’s worth a shot!

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