The findings, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, were very clear.
Even though all of the students were being paid upon completion, those who thought about the questions abstractly were much more likely to procrastinate--and in fact some never got around to the assignment at all.
By contrast, those who were focused on the how, when and where of doing the task e-mailed their responses much sooner, suggesting that they hopped right on the assignment rather than delaying it.
The authors note that "merely thinking about the task in more concrete, specific terms makes it feel like it should be completed sooner and thus reducing procrastination."
They conclude that these results have important implications for teachers and managers who may want their students and employees starting on projects sooner. In addition, these findings are also relevant for those of us resolving to have better time management skills in the New Year!
This idea of focusing on the real and specific rather than the abstract and general is similar to the ideas of productivity guru David Allen, detailed in this profile in Wired:
Items on next-action lists should be described as concretely as possible. Breaking down stuff into physical actions, Allen says, is the key to getting things done.I've certainly found Allen's ideas useful in getting things done. I now keep a diary and focus on doing things now rather than later.
[via Paul Raven]