Think in Days to Quell Procrastination


Most of us procrastinate from time to time, if not frequently. I just took a 30-minute break in the middle of writing this article, for example. Procrastination simply means putting something you’d rather not do now off until later. Interestingly, a new study shows that manipulating how you think about time can make you less likely to procrastinate.

The Study:

The study asked participants when they planned to start saving money for college or retirement. The participants were told that college would start in either 18 years or 6,570 days in the future. They were told that retirement would begin in either 30 years or 10,950 days or 40 years or 14,600 days in the future. The researchers found that participants planned to start saving 4x sooner when they thought about the events in days rather than years! This is interesting, it seems that people are less worried when they have years to plan. Even though retirement is a long way off for a lot of us, we still need to think about ways of saving whilst we’re all working and bringing in money. Whether it is saving for an education or a house, an early start to the process always benefits in the long run. With the latter, people may choose to take up an apartment on rent until they have saved enough to make the down-payment on a new home. Here, online resources like this AAOA homepage can help tenants understand the importance of good credit history and how it can have a favorable effect when looking for an apartment on lease. In much the same way, some people plan ahead for retirement by looking to set up an ETF savings plan (or einen ETF Sparplan einrichten as some other people might say). ETFs are often recommended for beginner investors as they help people to diversify their investments and bring in good returns. Many people are also trying their hand at investing in Bitcoins these days, as it is one of the newest ways to gain money. However, understanding how these digital currencies work may necessitate a significant amount of reading. You could check this exchange or other similar ones in your country if you are thinking of buying a Bitcoin. Others may not be very comfortable with this choice, and choose to take outside help for sorting out their finances, by taking consultations from finance firms similar to The Kelley Financial Group. That could be another way for people to save for retirement.

Procrastination chart

The results can be explained by two main mechanisms. First, the researchers found that more proximal events like weddings seemed 29.7 days closer when considered in days instead of months and 8.7 months sooner when considered in months instead of years. So, thinking in days helps make the future seem closer and thereby creates a greater sense of urgency. Second, thinking in smaller units links the present self to the future self to a greater degree, making you more likely to take action to benefit your future self.


Procrastination can have serious consequences. As the researchers noted, “people fail to save enough for retirement, fail to sufficiently engage in preventive health behaviors, and fail to invest enough time studying for school.” Studies have shown that people aren’t procrastinating because they view these things as unimportant, instead it’s the time element that’s causing the procrastination. This study shows that thinking in smaller units can help limit procrastination. So start thinking in days (or even minutes) to help quell procrastination!


Lewis, Neil A., and Daphna Oyserman. “When Does the Future Begin? Time Metrics Matter, Connecting Present and Future Selves.” Psychological science(2015): 0956797615572231.