Everyone is always telling us to live in the moment — to "carpe diem!" — but what about our goals for the future? Is there a way to be present while still tending to the needs of our future selves?
Yes, says Daphna Oyserman, a psychological scientist at the University of Southern California. There is, in fact, a way. All we have to do is frame time in days instead of years.
When people did this, according to her findings, published in Psychological Science, they perceived future events to be closer and thus more urgent.
"This is a new way to think about reaching goals that does not require willpower and is not about having character or caring," explains Oyserman in a press release.
In a series of studies, the researchers asked 162 participants to think about planning for events in units of days, months, or years. They found that the smaller the unit, the closer the event seemed to participants.
Oyserman thinks that this could be a handy trick people could use to quit procrastinating. Breaking up time into more digestible bites makes "investing in the future" seem less like a sacrifice.
So whether you want to start planning for retirement, saving up for your kid's college tuition, or even something smaller-scale like a term paper, break out the calculator and figure out how many days (or, to take it a step further: hours, minutes, and seconds) you have left to complete the task. That'll get a fire going under you.
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