We’ve all experienced procrastination…

It’s a dream stealer. And far too often we justify it by saying “It’s just not the right time.” The end result is that we never get started on the goals we’d LOVE to see accomplished in our life.

That ends today!

I’ve come across an interesting little study that seems to explain WHY we procrastinate… and sheds some light on what we can do to stop waiting and start achieving once and for all.

An international team of psychologists teamed up with the University of Konstanz in Germany to find out if there is any link between how we think of achieving a task or goal and our tendency to postpone it for “another “ time.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Science, recruited a group of students to complete a questionnaire that dealt with mundane tasks like opening a bank account.  The students were told to fill out the questionnaire and email it back within three weeks. The students would also receive payment once they’d completed the questionnaire.

What the students did not know is that some of them were given questions that required “nuts and bolts” types of answers, while others were given questions that required more abstract thinking.

For the “nuts and bolts” group, the questions required straightforward answers. So for example, the question could be on how to open a bank account. The answer, of course would involve driving to a bank, talking to a teller, making an opening deposit, etc.

The abstract questionnaire asked the students to think about implied personality traits. For example, what kind of person opens a bank account, or what are the traits of a person who keeps a diary?

The psychologists recorded the response times of both groups to see if there would be any significant difference. There was. Those that had to answer the questions abstractly procrastinated. Those who had to answer the questions concretely sent in the completed task much sooner.

“Merely thinking about the task in more concrete, specific terms makes it feel like it should be completed sooner and thus reducing procrastination.,” said the study’s authors.

So how can this help you achieve your goals now and forever?! 

Simple. Break your goals down into highly-specific action steps, so you don’t put off getting started.

So if your goal is to lose 10 lbs, make a specific list of actions you can do.

For example, the first item could be to walk around your neighborhood every day for 15 minutes. Another step could be to call the gym and find out pricing. The next step could be to drive to the gym, pay the fee and sign up. In terms of nutrition, it could be to eat 4 pieces of fruit everyday and to drink 8 glasses of water. You get the idea.

Remember, if you are doing something everyday to move towards your goals and resolutions, eventually you WILL get there. The important thing though, is that you get started. There will NEVER be a perfect time. The perfect time is NOW.




Michael Budensiek


McCrea et al. Construal Level and Procrastination. Psychological Science, 2008; 19 (12): 1308