Have you ever been guilty of making a decision to benefit “present you” instead of “future you?” Like, perhaps, staying up until 3 a.m. to binge-watch the new season of “Orange Is the New Black,” rather than prepping for an important meeting? Or buying the that outrageously-priced new bag you desperately want now, instead of saving up for your own apartment? Of course you have, it’s human nature–but it’s also totally self-destructive. Thankfully though, scientists have finally worked out a simple trick to stop procrastinating.
Apparently, “instead of delaying gratification,” people tend to “act as if they prefer their current self’s needs and desires to those of their future self,” psychologists Neil Lewis and Daphna Oyserman wrote in the new study, published by Psychological Science. So basically, you’re more likely to do what pleases you now, and ignore that niggling feeling that you’ll pay for this short-sighted decision down the track. Sound familiar?
There is hope for your savings account yet, though–the study found that if we look at a far-off event (like, say, the holiday you’re saving for) in terms of days, instead of months or years, they seemed like they would happen sooner.
Participants in the study were given a classic case of saving for a newborn child’s college education. They were told to imagine that this child will need to go to college in either 18 years or 6,570 days–and the researchers revealed that those thinking in “days” planned to start saving an impressive four times sooner than those in the “years” category.
So next time you’re thinking about flashy new shoes or a house deposit, think about the number of days–not years–until you want to reach your savings goals.