4) Reduce the effort involved
You need to make it as easy as possible to get started. The concept of choice architecture is well-known now, with some work canteens putting fruit near the tills instead of chocolate to tempt staff to eat more healthily. We can do this for ourselves too. If you’re hoping to go running mid-morning, get dressed in your running clothes. Or lay out your work on your desk the night before so that the first thing you see if that task you need to get on with. Remove any distractions.
Disable alerts on your screen, mute your phone, and if you can’t resist social media, stop it from automatically logging you on. Just having to put your password in, especially if you pick a nice, long, complicated one, might be enough to nudge you in the right direction.
6) Promote a more realistic view of your future self
Most of us tend to believe that in the future we’ll have more time. We optimistically think that we’ll be more organised, energetic versions of ourselves living a life where nothing ever goes wrong. This won’t happen of course. And this is why we often underestimate how long a task will take. It’s known as the planning fallacy.
My favourite example of the planning fallacy is the first ever edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. In 1860 it was announced that it would take two years to complete. Even when it was finally begun in 1879, five years later they had only reached the word “ant”. In 1928 it was finally finished, but by then it was considered out of date and revisions began at once.
We need to avoid creating this unrealistic version of our future selves. Otherwise we can set ourselves up for disappointment and even more procrastination. Fuschia Sirois’ research confirms this.
Sirois says: “We make our future self into a superhero. All of a sudden that person, which is really us projected into the future, is now something that seems so unattainable and so unreal and so abstract that we don’t identify with it anymore.”