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Helpful Tips to Decrease Procrastination

Helpful Tips to Decrease Procrastination

Research has consistently shown that our own thought patterns can have a profound impact on our behavior. A study by Dr. Erik Peper and colleagues looked at the way in which many people tend to respond to their own habits of procrastination: by beating themselves up.

They found something interesting: while it is common for those who procrastinate to chastise themselves for their lack of productivity, usually assuming this will help them to correct the behavior in the future, the research shows that this actually makes the issue worse. As the researchers state in the article, “When we procrastinate or blame ourselves, we increase our chances of repeating that same behavior…. The more you mentally rehearse/imagine yourself performing the desired (or undesired!) behavior, the more likely you will actually perform that behavior.”

With this in mind, using research-backed ways to correct habitual behaviors by reprogramming the brain can help you to stop procrastinating before it starts. The researchers describe the process in this way:

Each time you observe an action which upon hindsight could have been improved, mentally rewrite how you would like to have behaved. Use the following five-step process:

  1. Think of a past conflict or area of behavior with which you are dissatisfied.
  2. Accept that it was the only way you could have done what you did under the circumstances.
  3. Ask, “Given the wisdom I have now, how could I have done this differently?”
  4. See yourself in that same situation but behaving differently, using the wisdom you now have (rehearse this step a number of times). When rehearsing, it is important to see and feel yourself completely immersed in the situation. Be very specific, and engage as many of the senses as you can.
  5. Smile and congratulate yourself for taking charge of programming your own future.

Researchers note that “mentally rehearsing” a behavior, whether one’s own assessment of that behavior is positive or negative, programs the brain in a way that makes one more likely to repeat the behavior. Thus, by focusing less on the “failure” of a given action, and more on the lessons learned from the experience and potential for future change, the brain actually rewires itself over time and becomes better able to choose the more positive option the first time.

With more and more research touting the benefits of positive reinforcement in a variety of situations, perhaps incorporating some of these science-backed tips can help you get more done and also make your own self-talk a little kinder.

To read more, click here. (And why not do it now rather than later?)