In our everyday lives we tend to minimize effort, by using automatic tools, for instance. But we also tend to avoid idleness by engaging in various activities. What happens when minimizing effort and avoiding idleness are concurrent? This article explores the influence of waiting time as compared with a fixed manual task completion on people’s preference for waiting or doing the task. In 2 experiments, participants were asked to choose performing a manual task or waiting while an automatic tool performed the task for them. The time required by the automatic tool to complete the task was manipulated and was equal to or shorter than the time needed for manual completion. Results indicated that the faster the automatic tool (i.e., the shorter the waiting time) the more participants used it instead of doing the task manually. However, participants favored the waiting option only when the waiting time was less than half as long as doing the task manually. These results suggest that people prefer to avoid idleness rather than to minimize effort.

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