Tag Archives: temporal discounting

Change Future Time Perspective to Reduce Procrastination

Neil Lewis

Neil Lewis

Future events seemed more “proximal” or occurring sooner when volunteers considered in days rather than months or years.

This shift in perspective made the Future Self and the future event seem more tangible and connected to the Present Self, enabling participants to begin progress toward distant goals, according to University of Michigan’s Neil Lewis and Daphna Oyserman of the University of Southern California.

Daphna Oyserman

Daphna Oyserman

Many people know the dilemma between purchasing expensive clothes now instead of putting the money into retirement savings or between enjoying dessert now when “swimsuit season” is just weeks away.
This pull between current rewards and costs vs future events and required efforts was labeled temporal discounting by Stanford’s Kacey Ballard and Brian Knutson.

Kacey Ballard

Kacey Ballard

People may not act when considering future events like retirement because they focus more on whether to take action in the present.
In contrast, people tend to concentrate how to act when faced with imminent situations requiring attention, according to temporal construal theory, described by NYU’s Yaacov Trope and Nira Liberman.

Yaacov Trope

Yaacov Trope

Further, people may not act when an anticipated Future Self seems incongruous or disconnected with the Present Self, found Williams College’s Kris Kirby with Nancy Petry of University of Vermont and Virginia Tech’s Warren Bickel.

Nancy Petry

Nancy Petry

When volunteers have begun preparing for the future, such as a work presentation, saving for a home, retirement, or children’s education, they saw metrics implying when a future event will occur.

More than 160 volunteers considered six scenarios — three with time metrics and three without.
For the time-metric situations, participants imagined that they were shopping, studying, or carrying out other tasks in preparation for future events — a birthday party, presentation, wedding, exam — and were asked to report how long it would be until those events occurred.

Warren Bickel

Warren Bickel

When participants considered time in the smaller of two possible units, the event seemed closer – an average of 29.7 days sooner when considered in days instead of months and an average of 8.7 months sooner when considered in months instead of years.

In other Lewis and Oyserman studies, more than 1100 participants in the U.S. indicated when they should start saving for a future scenario such as a child’s college education, measured either as 18 years or 6,570 days.

Nira Liberman

Nira Liberman

People who realized that this event would arrive within days planned to start saving four times sooner than those who thought that educational expenditures were years away, even when controlling for income, age, and self-control.

In contrast, when participants hadn’t begun preparing for an expected future event, they considered metrics as implying when they should start preparing.

This difference in time perspective can affect whether people achieve future goals that require consistent, long-term investments of time, effort, and money.
In fact, Oyserman argues that changing time perspective is  “… a new way to think about reaching goals that does not require willpower and is not about having character or caring.

Brian Knutson

Brian Knutson

Since the majority of people do not save save sufficient financial resources for required future expenditures, changing time metrics to more granular measures can make both future goals and one’s Future Self more aligned with the Present Self.

-*How do you align Future Self with Present Self when working toward future goals?

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Perceived Personal Power Can Modify Time Perception, Perceived Stress

Alice Moon

Alice Moon

People’s subjective experience of time differ based on individual characteristics, which can influence feelings of control over time and coping with time demands.

Serena Chen

Serena Chen

University of California Berkeley’s Alice Moon and Serena Chen evaluated more than 550 volunteers’ ratings of their perceived personal power and their perspectives on available time to accomplish goals.

Moon and Chen asked more than 100 participants to assume the role of a “manager” while sitting in a “high-power chair,” or the role of an “employee” while both groups rated their perceived personal resources of time and power.
Participants who played the more powerful role of “manager” reported that they had more time than “employee.”

Moon and Chen also primed more than 100 American adults to think of themselves in high-power or low-power positions, and asked them to rate statements about availability of time to achieve goals.

Even when participants did not actually have more available time, those who felt most powerful perceived greater control over their time, and greater time availability.
This is another example of the power of expectation exceeding the importance of an actual resource, competency, or experience.

Mario Weick

Mario Weick

These findings support other reports that managers experience less stress than subordinates in organizations, attributable to their “position power.”

Ana Guinote

Ana Guinote

People who feel powerful tend to hold a significantly optimistic bias when predicting time required to complete task, reported University of Kent’s Mario Weick and Ana Guinote of University College London.

They attributed this unrealistic optimism to
confident belief in personal self-efficacy accompanying subjective feelings of power in their evaluation of:

  • Actual power and time perception,
  • Induced feelings of power through priming,
  • Pre-existing personal self-perceptions.
Priyanka D. Joshi

Priyanka D. Joshi

This “planning fallacy” of underestimating task completion time often results from a narrow focus on the goal, coupled with the optimism bias that obscures potential obstacles and risks.

Nathanael Fast

Nathanael Fast

Likewise, people who feel powerful also tend to feel more confident about the future, more aware of their “future self,” and more willing to wait for longer-term rewards, found University of Southern California ’s Priyanka D. Joshi and Nathanael J. Fast.

Specifically, participants assigned to high-power roles and to power priming instructions were less likely to display temporal discounting, or choosing smaller short-term rewards over larger goals that require a longer waiting period.

This suggests that people who feel powerful have a sense of abundance in other domains, including time and money.
As a result, feeling powerful enables people to forego current rewards, “delay gratification,” and make present investments to achieve potentially larger longer-term pay-offs.

-*How do you increase your personal experience of power and time perspective?

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