People tolerate interruptions less when they are closer to completing a task or achieving a goal, a new research has found.
“We often decline or delay opportunities because we are just so close to finishing what we are doing right now,” said Ji Hoon Jhang from Oklahoma State University and John G Lynch Jr from the University of Colorado.
“Consumers often postpone a visit to a financial planner, skip going to the gym, or put off having a drink with a friend just because they are so close to completing what they are doing at the moment,” they said.
Across three studies, researchers found that consumers feel busier when they are close to finishing a task or reaching a goal.
In one study, consumers were interrupted and asked to take a one-minute survey while on their way to board a plane.
When asked to fill out the survey while waiting for the train to the terminal, more consumers declined and those who did the survey reported that they had less spare time than those who were interrupted after arriving at the gate.
Interestingly, those waiting for the train had more time to departure than those at the gate.
However, being closer to their immediate goal (boarding the train) made them impatient and more likely to turn down the survey.
When consumers are close to reaching a goal (even one that can easily be paused or delayed), they willingly incur costs (both time and money) to avoid interruptions that could actually benefit them.
Consumers should understand that they may be feeling really busy just because they are close to finishing a task and not because they are truly pressed for time, researchers said.
“It may not be harder today to fit in a visit to a financial planner or a trip to the gym than it will be a month from now,” researchers said in the Journal of Consumer Research.
“But we delay these valuable interruptions because we feel so busy with often trivial tasks that are almost finished.
“The irony, of course, is that tomorrow, next week, and next month will present just as many tasks and just as many excuses for putting off ‘interruptions’ that could improve our well-being,” the researchers concluded.