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"I got so much procrastinating done today!"
Researchers from the University of Southern California say that they've come up with a sure-fire way for people to overcome procrastination and get to work on accomplishing their goals.

The trick, they explain in the journal Psychological Science, is to change the way that you think about the future. Future goals have to feel as though they're important now.

"The simplified message that we learned in these studies is if the future doesn't feel imminent, then, even if it's important, people won't start working on their goals," said Oyserman, who was assisted on the research by co-author Neil Lewis Jr. of the University of Michigan.

In a series of experiments, the duo presented study participants with different scenarios and found that those individuals looked at the future as something that was far more imminent when they evaluated goals and deadlines in terms of days rather than months or years.

Events appear closer when viewed in days

Oysterman and Lewis recruited 162 men and women and asked them to imagine that they were preparing for future events, such as a wedding or a presentation at work, and were randomly told to think of the event in days, months, or years. The authors found that participants viewing the event in terms of days said that it would occur an average of 29.6 days sooner.

A second set of studies investigated if this sense of time altered a person's plans to begin saving money for the long-term. The authors recruited more than 1,100 participants, asking them when they planned to begin saving for college or retirement. In one case, they were either told college would start in 18 years or 6,570 days, while in the second, they were told retirement would start either 30-40 years or 10,950-14,600 days in the future.

Oysterman and Lewis found that participants planned to start saving four times sooner when they viewed the upcoming event in terms of days instead of years, and follow-up studies revealed that while participants believed that long-term saving was important, those assigned to count down to college or retirement in days instead of years felt more connected to their future selves.

The researchers believe that this technique could be used by people to motive themselves to accomplish goals. "So when I think in a more granular way - when I use days rather than years - it makes me feel like the future is closer," they explained. "If you see it as 'today' rather than on your calendar for sometime in the future, you're not going to put it off."