Planning a bit more, and planning sanely, might be tricking me into getting things done early.
I plan the week ahead. I put later things in a separate text file. When I place tasks, I try to put plenty of breathing room into each day. I try to make sure and add any sneaky zero steps.
Then what happens is I finish the tasks for the day. I lean back and feel good about myself. I feel I have the rest of the day off to do whatever idle activity I like.
All of a sudden, I realize an eye has snuck over to the tasks for the rest of the week, or to the list of unplanned tasks. Picking another task becomes appealing, rewarding and also completely without pressure. I know I do not have to do this now, so anything I do get done is a bonus.
Is this front-loading of work as some sort of virtuous cycle? It seems at least as or perhaps even more true for step zero-type tasks, those I added because I was thinking about another task and realized it needed other things done before I could start it. With many of my step zeroes, finishing has lowered the bar to step one so much I would have to restrain myself not to start on it.
Written down, it all does sound a bit like competing with myself. But not being a competition is key: if I felt pressure to always outperform my plan I would have tired of it already. I think this will only work when it feels like a pleasure. If I expect it, plan for it, or try to somehow optimize for it, the magic will be broken.
(I am, indeed, writing this a few days before I intend to publish it.)