Beat Procrastination: Think in Days, Not Years

Quiz: are you going to start working towards your financial goal of doubling your RRSP by 2020 sooner if you think of it as taking four and a half years or 1,700 days? It doesn’t matter that it’s the same amount of time—if you think in days, you’ll start sooner.

A study published in Psychological Science has found that people think of the future as more imminent when they think in days instead of months or years, and by thinking this way, people can beat procrastination.

More than 1,100 participants participated in an experiment where they imagined saving for retirement. Half were told that retirement began in thirty to forty years, and the other half were told it began in 10,950 or 14,600 days. There were then told to hypothetically plan for retirement. The participants who were told the number in days instead of years planned to start saving four times sooner than those told the number in years.

Researchers repeated the experiment, this time asking participants to imagine saving for a kid’s college in eighteen years or 6,570 days. Again, those told the number of days planned to start saving sooner. Other studies have reported a similar effect.

So here’s our take-away. Go look at your savings plan, convert the number of years to days, and just feel your heart rate start to increase.



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