17 Count the Days, Minutes and Hours

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.”

William Penn

Why is it so hard to keep New Year's resolutions?

It's not to do with our goals being unachievable, it's because we call them “New Year resolutions”. If we called them “New Day resolutions” or even “New Month resolutions”, we'd be far more likely to keep to them.

The reason for this is that the smaller the unit of time a task is expressed in, the closer it seems and so the more likely you are to start working on it.

For instance, if you have a project deadline of three months, it's better to express it as ninety days. Or if you have something you need to complete in three days, think of your deadline as 72 hours away.

This was discovered in a study by the University of Southern California, lead by Dr Daphna Oyserman.

“People focus most of their attention on the present, which is for sure, rather than on the future, which is possible and may need our attention later,” Dr Oyserman said. “The present takes precedence.”

In one experiment, 162 study participants were asked to imagine themselves preparing for a future event, such as a wedding or work presentation, and then told to consider the event in either days, months or years away. Those who thought about the time until the event in terms of days imagined that it would occur an average of 30 days earlier ...

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