Comstock's magazine 0219 - February 2019 - Page 43

“Procrastinators are good at self- deception. We can use that to our advantage.” -Tim Pychyl, associate professor of psychology, Carleton University 1. THE MENTAL HACKS: REFRAME HOW YOU APPROACH THE WORK • Think about your future self. When you know that delaying a task will give you headaches down the road, it’s helpful to envision your future self. In a 2011 study, Hershfield asked volunteers how they’d spend $1,000. One group was shown a digitally aged photograph of themselves, triggering thoughts of future self. That group was more likely to plunk the $1,000 toward retirement plans over shopping and vacations. • Use the carrot and the stick. Reward yourself for finishing unpleasant tasks. A client of McLaren’s, for example, dreaded pa- perwork. “But the same client told me that if she sits on the couch with a glass of wine, she can do her billing,” says McLaren. “So why not?” • Use reverse psychology. “Procrastinators are good at self-deception. We can use that to our advantage,” Pychyl says. He tells himself, I’m not going to do this task. But if I was, theoretically, what would the very next tiny action be? “That’s just to keep us calm,” he says. By making the exercise theoretical, it cre- ates an emotional safe space, and then we can see that the next step isn’t so daunting. 2. THE SCHEDULING TRICKS: START WITH DOING LESS (YOU’LL END UP DOING MORE) • Chunk it. “Take the project and chunk it into smaller tasks,” says McLaren. The tasks should be con- crete, simple and short. “Write a new book” feels impossible. “Spend 30 minutes brain- storming an outline” feels doable. • Reverse calendarize. McLaren coaches clients to slot these chunks onto their calendar, working backward. (Such as “double-check for typos” the day before it’s due, “quick brainstorming session” tomorrow.) “This way your brain can let go of it,” she says. “It frees up your mental energy to deal with oth- er things.” • Eat the frog. Mark Twain once said, “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” This quote has spawned an entire philosophy of pro- February 2019 | 43