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Simple Mind Tricks Can Help You Get Things Done

A new article in the Journal of Consumer Research finds that certain outside cues can jump-start us toward reaching our goals. Such cues, which manipulate our perception of time, are simple yet effective.

c41e7b1f3a082e05f00f5af1_150_calendarThe New York Times reports that in one 2010 study the researchers “asked two groups of farmers in India to set up a bank account and accumulate a certain amount of money by a deadline, offering extra money as an incentive. One group was approached in June, with a deadline of December that year. The second group was approached in July with a deadline of January the next year. The farmers in the first group were more likely to set up an account immediately, even though both groups had the same amount of time. That’s because the deadline was in the same year as the assignment and therefore seemed more like the present.”

“In a separate study, the researchers also found that people were ‘more likely to start working on a task whose deadline is in the current month than in the next month,’ even though the number of days to finish the task was the same.”

“Color can also influence the perception of time… simply by coding a stretch of calendar days in the same color — say, blue — with an assignment occurring on the first ‘blue’ day and the deadline set for the last ‘blue’ day, people were more likely to complete the tasks. Once again, this serves to make the future deadline seem more like the present. (Managers, are you listening? Get out your crayons.)”