“By the streets of by and by, one arrives at the house of never.”
Our tendency to do it can waste away hours. In fact, there’s a good chance that you’re doing it right now.
Facebook, Twitter, Reddit… even Joshsauer.com. The list of websites we can spend our time on is endless, and despite the seemingly trivial nature of these sites, we often find ourselves spending hours on end browsing through them the night before a big test or essay is due.
We’ve all been there before, but why?
As it turns out, human motivation is highly influenced by how imminent a reward is perceived to be. The further away a reward is, the more we discount its value. (Similarly, when dealing with the time value of money, a dollar today is worth more than a dollar in the future.) This process is known as Hyperbolic Discounting, or more commonly as Present Bias.
Our tendency to place a higher value on short-term events makes surfing the web, talking with friends, or just about any mindless activity more important than studying for that big exam.
As your 8 a.m. test approaches, you begin to place a higher value on getting a good grade (studying). When this reward is greater than the one presented by checking Facebook, you have defeated procrastination. This phenomenon is known as Temporal Proximity. Unfortunately, for most of us this process takes place around three in the morning, which leaves us little time to adequately prepare ourselves.
So, now that you know why procrastination happens, you probably want to know how you can beat it. Ultimately, it comes down to willpower. Nevertheless, here are 4 strategies that can help you defeat procrastination:
Ditch the distractions. Turn off the music, close your browser and get focused.
The Pomodoro Technique
I know this sounds like it was invented by a famous bull fighter, but it’s just a fancy way of saying work in intervals.
Set a timer for a set period of time and stay concentrated on your work until the timer goes off. When it does, reward yourself. A food break, 5 minutes of internet- something that is short, yet rewarding. Gradually increase the time in-between breaks and you’ll become disciplined in no time
Studies show that the greatest barrier to productivity is actually starting a task. A phenomenon known as the Zeigarnik Effect suggests that humans are compelled to finish a task once they’ve started it.
These techniques will work for some, but everyone functions differently. Now that you understand how procrastination works and acknowledge that you do it, you can develop your own personal techniques to overcome it.