Blame procrastination on our perception of time, say researchers

Researchers in the US have found that how likely we are to complete a task is to do with our perception of time. If we see it as part of our present, we’ll snap to it, but if it seems like something that needs to happen at some point in the future, we’ll be all about the procrastination.

According to Psych Central, Yanping Tu, from at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and Dr Dilip Soman, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto, conducted a series of studies that showed this was the case. Notably, they gave 100 students five days to do a four-hour data entry job. Those who were given the job on 25 April and had to finish by the end of the month were more likely to get to work than those who were assigned a few days later and asked to finish in the first week of May.

The researchers concluded that the change of month made it seem like the job was part of the future, rather than the present, making people much more comfortable about procrastinating. Urgency is a big key to motivation, but what we decide is urgent seems to depend more on whether we see it as part of our present reality rather than how important it actually is. In other words, if you really want to get something done, put it in this week’s diary.

Tu said, ‘We have shown how goals are perceived in time is clearly linked to people’s views of when and whether to begin work.’ They now want to investigate whether people’s perception of time affects the quality of the work they do, too.

 Image via Rennett Stowe’s Flickr.

Diane Shipley