June 27th, 2015| Topic: RaMbLeS | 0


Procrastination, someone once said, has its good side. You have something to do tomorrow.

I kinda like that. Why fill today doing stuff, when I can fill tomorrow (and the day after, and the day after that, and …) doing the same stuff.

In any case, it isn’t kindly looked upon by mothers and managers and ministers. It is proclaimed an evil to be avoided or, at least, conquered.

And beating procrastination may be easier to conquer than you thought, whether it be for sermon preparation, DIY projects, “honey-do” lists, mowing your lawn, or tackling your inbox. All your good intentions go to waste, when procrastination hits. Sometimes what you put off, never gets done: your plan to learn Mandarin, or the guitar, or to travel to Bora Bora, or to cook Turkish kebabs, or to lose 30 lbs, or to keep that New Year’s resolution. Whatever. Permanently procrastinated out of your life. And it soon becomes too late.

Yup, there is a cure, apparently.

In “When Does the Future Begin? Time Metrics Matter, Connecting Present and Future Selves,” Neil Lewis and Daphna Oyserman (University of Michigan and University of S. California), pondered in Psychological Science the question:

Why do we have these imagined futures? Why is it there’s so much gap between imagining and doing?”

Triumphing over this terrorizing thief of time may simply be a matter of how the time you have to complete a task is measured.

Test subjects that thought about deadlines in terms of days left, rather than months or years left till those points, perceived the event as happening sooner.

And when we perceive events as happening sooner, we are apparently motivated to act. (As I am even as I write this: this blog needs to be posted in a matter of minutes!)

Candidates were mole likely to start saving money sooner if they were told their retirement was 10,950 days away rather than 30 years away. Said Oyserman:

Even when it’s a lot of days—6,000, 9,000, 14,000 days away—people focus on the unit, not the number.”

So bottom line: convert far-off deadlines into “fine-grained time metrics” (“days”) rather than “gross-grained metrics” (“years”). This, apparently makes one feel connected to one’s future self. Oyserman again:

Thinking in days makes you feel more connected to your future self. It makes it not feel like it’s this weird other person. It feels like it is you.”

The Bible had it right all along:

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Life is short.

You turn man back into dust
And say, “Return, O children of men.”
Psalm 90:3

Deadlines loom.

You have swept them away like a flood, they fall asleep;
In the morning they are like grass which sprouts anew.
In the morning it flourishes and sprouts anew;
Toward evening it fades and withers away.
Psalm 90:5–6

The transience of life, like a vapor, a breath …

For all our days have declined in Your fury;
We have finished our years like a sigh.
Psalm 90:9

Short indeed.

As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years,
Or if due to strength, eighty years,
Yet their pride is but labor and sorrow;
For soon it is gone and we fly away.
Psalm 90:10

So don’t procrastinate.

So teach us to number our days,
That we may present to You a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

And be happy!

O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness,
That we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.
Psalm 90:14

OK, I’m gonna stop procrastinating tomorrow.

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