Let’s face it: Why is it often so hard to get started on a task? Why is procrastination such a thing? Is there a way to improve how to get started on a task?
We often have more desires than we can pursue. Hence, a choice between desires
is to be made. Most likely, the most important and most feasible desires are the ones that
guide us to getting started. Research shows that once we transform a desire into a goal, it creates a feeling of determination to act toward the new goal – so we are getting started! (Gollwitzer & Heckhausen, 1990).
Specifying when, where and how to perform a certain action in an “if-then” format
transforms a wish into a goal by creating an “implementation intention”. For example,“If I have to attend a meeting at 3 pm today, then I will stop what I will be doing at 2:50pm and will go to the
conference room” is such an implementation intention. An implementation intention focuses your willpower on initiating goal-focused behavior like a post-it-note reminder to your brain: An implementation intention links the features of the situation specified (a meeting at 3 p.m.) in the “if then” format to your reality (it is 2:50 p.m. and you need to get up to go to the conference room). The implementation intention activates you to start
the specific behavior. Voila: procrastination overcome!
Existing studies show that of people who had to start a difficult task within a limited period of time, two thirds of those who made an “implementation intention” started the project. In contrast, only one quarter of people without implementation intentions started the task (Gollwitzer & Brandstätter, 1997). Even on highly unpleasant tasks (e.g., the performance of cancer self examination), 100% of participants with implementation intentions achieved the desired goal in comparison to only 53% without implementation intentions (Orbell, Hodgkins & Sheeran, 1997): When participants specified in “if-then” statements what they would do when facing obstacles that impeded the realization of their goals, they were more successful overcoming those obstacles than participants that did not use “if-then” statements.
To summarize, by specifying when, where and how to perform an intended action in an “if-then” format, we can beat procrastination and enhance our ability to set out what we want to pursue.
Assess your ability to get started on what you want to pursue. You are worth it!