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Time Perception Triggers Procrastination

Update Date: Sep 05, 2014 12:37 AM EDT

Procrastination happens because of our perception of time. Researchers from the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business found that we're more likely to start a task when we view it as part of the present. However, we're also less likely to start tasks when we associate them with being part of the future.

"The key step in getting things done is getting started. If you never get started, you can't possibly finish," researcher Yanping Tu, a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business said in a news release. "But that urgency, that need to actually work on a task, happens when that task is seen as part of a person's present."

The latest study involved 100 college students who were told that they had five days to complete a four-hour data entry assignment. Researchers said that the assignment was made at either April 24th or April 25th or at April 28th. Participants assigned the task on April 24th or 25th and had to finish by the 29th or 30th and those assigned to the 28th were asked to finish in the first few days of May.

The findings revealed that the participants assigned to the task earlier were more likely to finish than those who started later.

Researchers said that the findings suggested that the change from April to May made the students think that the task should be finished in the future rather than in the present.

"We have shown how goals are perceived in time is clearly linked to people's views of when and whether to begin work," Tu added. "It would be interesting to look at how these temporal views affect other aspects of success, such persistence in completing jobs and the quality of a job done."

The study, "The Categorization of Time and Its Impact on Task Initiation," was published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

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