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To Beat Procrastination, The Future Is Now

To Beat Procrastination, The Future Is Now

After a series of studies, University of Southern California researchers believe they have discovered a relatively simple method to help people avoid procrastination.

The technique is to merely think of the future as now.

“The simplified message that we learned in these studies is if the future doesn’t feel imminent, then, even if it’s important, people won’t start working on their goals,” said Daphna Oyserman, Ph.D., lead researcher.

Through a series of scenarios, Oyserman and co-author Dr. Neil Lewis Jr. of the University of Michigan found that study participants perceived that the future was much more imminent if they thought of their goals and deadlines in days, instead of months or years.

Oyserman believes accelerating the perception of time into the here and now will help motivate people to accomplish their goals.

“So when I think in a more granular way, when I use days rather than years, it makes me feel like the future is closer,” Oyserman said.

“If you see it as ‘today’ rather than on your calendar for sometime in the future, you’re not going to put it off.”

In an initial series of studies, 162 participants were asked to imagine themselves preparing for future events, such as a wedding or a work presentation, and then they were asked when this event would occur.

Participants were randomly assigned to think of the event in either days, or months, or years.

The researchers found participants who thought of the event in terms of days reported that the event would occur on average 29.6 days sooner than those who thought of the event as months away.

A second series of studies explored whether this sense of time affected plans to start long-term saving. More than 1,100 participants were asked when they would start to save money for college or retirement.

In the first case, participants were told college would start 18 years or 6,570 days in the future. In the second case, the participants were told retirement would begin 30 or 40 years in the future, or in 10,950 days or in 14,600 days.

Researchers found the participants planned to start saving four times sooner when they thought of the event in days instead of years.

Follow-up studies found that participants felt long-term saving was important, but those who were assigned to think of college or retirement starting in days rather than years felt more connected to their future selves and were more willing to save.

Oyserman said this could prompt them to set aside spending on present-day rewards in favor of long-term saving.

The study has been published in the journal Psychological Science.

Source: University of California

To Beat Procrastination, The Future Is Now

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2015). To Beat Procrastination, The Future Is Now. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 14, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2015/05/04/to-beat-procrastination-the-future-is-now/84225.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 6 Oct 2015
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Oct 2015
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.