Ending Procrastination Right Now!

By: Timothy Pychyl

1) Time travel: How to counteract the irrationality of human nature.

  • "Time travel" can help here. That is, we need to use concrete mental images of the future more often and more accurately, to represent the future as though it were happening in the present.
  • Planning shouldn't be an abstract notion of "doing it tomorrow."

2) Don't give in to feeling food: Short-term gain, long-term pain.

  • A task at hand makes us feel anxious or overwhelmed, so we "give in to feel good," seeking immediate emotional relief, and we walk away, leaving the task for tomorrow.
  • Learn to recognize that we can have negative emotions without acting on them.
  • Acknowledge the negative emotions, but get started anyway.
  • Just get started; the negative emotions will pass.

3) Reduce uncertainty and distractions.

  • The less meaningful the goal, the less likely we'll want to do the task.
  • It's important to reduce the uncertainty about how to proceed--and, when it's time to act, to reduce available distractions as well.
  • Make sure the environment around you is working to strengthen your willpower and focus, not to undermine your efforts.

4) Willpower: How to make the most of the willpower muscle.

  • You can exhaust it more quickly than you might imagine and, when you do, you lose your ability to regulate your behavior.
  • Remind yourself of your values.
  • Mindfulness meditation.
  • Learning to keep focused attention will help you procrastinate less by strengthening self-regulation.


Source: Kotler, Steven, and Timothy Pychyl. "Escape: Ending Procrastination Right Now!" Psychology Today September/October (2009). Print.