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Now or Later? A Procrastination Mind Hack

9 Aug. 2017 Posted by aadams

Gary Skaleski, FEI EAP Counselor

Were you ever in a class where, when confronted with a major assignment, certain students tended to start working on it immediately, and usually had it done well ahead of the due date—even if weeks away?

I was not one of those students.

Those of us who tended to struggle and pull all-nighters to finish a project or paper can often recall how we felt we had “all the time in the world” to get it done…until we suddenly didn’t. We then rushed, with a lot of sweat and anxiety, to completion.

One doesn’t always grow out of this tendency towards procrastination. Books promoting systems to “get things done now” and “end procrastination” tend to involve all kinds of planning and strategies to overcome the issue.

We would end up only partially reading those tomes, of course, or delay utilizing the techniques we learned to overcome our procrastinating habits. “I know how to do it, so I can do it anytime,” we’d say. But “anytime” soon turns into the last minute—or no time at all.

A couple years ago I read an article on using a simple, powerful technique to make the future more immediate and engage your mind to start working on whatever it is you need to prepare for, be it a big presentation or performance review. It’s a technique that can be used for anything or anyone; for work, home or family. You simply convert the time period (or deadline) given for a project or goal into a shorter one, one which your mind will react to with
more immediacy.

Which seems closer: Something to do two months from now, or 60 days from now? Sixty days from now, or in 86,400 minutes? Or in 5,184,000 seconds?

Take some time and do some comparisons between these pairings. Even though you know they all equal the same amount of time, which seem more immediate?

The smaller the unit of time—seconds vs. minutes, minutes vs. days, days vs. weeks, etc.—the more immediate and closer a project seems, even if the overall number is greater. The mind tends to focus on the unit. Seconds whiz by quickly, don’t they? Much faster than a month or
two does.

The closer a goal appears, the more the mind starts engaging pursuit of that goal. Whether it’s work-related, or getting yourself to do yardwork, or clean up the garage, or helping your child get going on a homework assignment, I would encourage you to try this mind hack while varying the unit of time and see how you react. Feeling more motivated to accomplish your goal now?

The example in the article states that retirement can feel a lifetime away, but thinking of it in terms of days—15,000 days, in this case—might help you understand the need to address retirement now, and help you start to save and plan. How many days left until you retire?

It’s all in the way you think about it.

 

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