Kill Procrastination with this Scientifically Based Hack

Procrastination | Hari Kalymnios


Do you ever procrastinate? Sure you do. We all do. Me included. But…. there are ways to beat procrastination. And here’s one of them.

Take advantage of what’s called the ‘Zeigarnik Effect’. What this says (and has been studied by Greist-Bousquet and Schiffman (1992)) is that us humans have a need to finish what we start. Ever open a packet of biscuits, ice-cream or Pringles and eat the whole packet and I know you know what I mean.

We can use this human tendency for our advantage though. When you have a task to complete. Making 10 phone calls, writing a long report or even tidying the house – just tell yourself you’re only going to do 5 minutes of the activity. Or make just one phone call, or write just 1 page of the report.

Once you get started you’ll get caught up in the process and have a need to see it through to completion.

If it’s a really big project. Then I recommend using the ‘Pomodoro Technique’. A pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato as Francesco Cirillo (who came up with the technique in the 1980’s) used a tomato shaped kitchen timer for this technique. What you do is set a timer (traditionally it’s been 25 minutes but in reality can be any length, although I’d not recommend more than 45 minutes) and promise to work only for that time before taking a break.

The break can be a walk, 5 press ups, a stretch, grabbing a glass of water. Anything really as long as the break activity then doesn’t become time consuming – like checking Facebook, the news or YouTube! Ideally 3 – 5 minutes long. The idea behind the pomodoro technique is that it aids mental agility and promotes frequent mental renewal. After four pomodori (i.e. (25 min work + 5 min break) x 4), take a longer break of 15 – 30 minutes.

Interestingly enough, I used this technique (without being aware of it), over 20 years ago when I was studying for my GCSE’s. And I can say I did pretty well in them. It was the best process of studying I ever managed – that includes my A-levels and degree!

So there you have two powerful ways to kill procrastination. The Zeigarnik Effect and the Pomodoro Technique.

What do you think?