A Better Way to Set Goals to Prevent Procrastination

Setting goals is important for ensuring that the things that are priorities in your life get accomplished. Those with ADHD typically procrastinate getting started on tasks that will go a long way toward accomplishing those goals, but research has found one good way to ensure that you will be successful

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Setting goals is important for ensuring that the things that are priorities in your life get accomplished. Those with ADHD typically procrastinate getting started on tasks that will go a long way toward accomplishing those goals, but research has found one good way to ensure that you will be successful.

“I don’t know anyone with ADHD where procrastination is not an issue,” says Roberto Olivardia PhD, a clinical psychologist and instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. One reason is that the ADHD brain puts off activities it doesn’t find “interesting” or “pressing.”

One obvious tip is to set a goal with a definitive deadline. But you may not be aware that the date you set for that deadline is a crucial component of ultimately being successful in accomplishing the goal.

Yanping Tu of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and Dilip Soman of the University of Toronto have found that instead of setting your deadline, say, for six months from now, think exactly about where that date will fall as it relates to the calendar.

For example, today is September 2. Instead of setting a long-term goal for January 1, which will fall in 2015, you are more likely to be successful if your goal is set for this same calendar year – for example, setting the deadline for December 31st instead.

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The team found that consumers were more likely to think of a deadline of December (this year) as being a present and pressing issue, whereas setting a deadline for January 2015 is thought of as less urgent.

"While time elapses continuously, it appears that consumers think of time categorically. When thinking of a deadline as being in the same category as the present, consumers are more likely to start working toward their goals sooner," the authors conclude.

ADHD Experts also offer these tips on preventing procrastination:

• Use technology – Use computer calendars or smartphone apps to help manage your tasks and set deadlines.
• Focus on the end result – Although the task may not be enjoyable, think about how much worse you will feel if it doesn’t get done. Just do it, as they say.
• Work in short bursts – set a timer for 15 minutes and then do as much as you can in that block of time. More times than not, it will provide you will a sense of momentum, but if it doesn’t, at least you got something accomplished.
• Set your tasks for when you are at your most productive. I just cannot accomplish anything of importance in the morning, no matter how hard I try. My most productive time is typically around 10am to about 2pm.
• Get support. A friend can help you stay on task by following up and motivating you to keep going.

Journal Reference:
Yanping Tu, Dilip Soman. The Categorization of Time and Its Impact on Task Initiation. Journal of Consumer Research, 2014; 810 DOI: 10.1086/677840

Additional Resource:
PsychCentral: ADHD Experts Reveal their Favorite Ways to Manage Procrastination

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