There is no clear deadline, with no real hard consequences for procrastinating...
- Externally imposed mile-stones / deadlines. If there is no real deadline (e.g., if you are trying to lose weight), then you may have to create one. Research by Dan Ariely and colleagues showed that setting our own deadlines is OK, but it is nowhere as good as having somebody else set meaningful deadlines for us. But you don't have to ask your Mum to nag you if you don't do something by a particular date. Maybe there is a real and meaningful deadline out there. Trying to lose weight? Do you have a wedding or a big birthday coming up? Trying to launch a business? Is there an industry event on the horizon that you can aim to launch in time for? If the event is too close to be achievable (see SMART goals), then think of it as more of a milestone that you can complete a smaller chunk of the task for. Look around. You might just find a deadline that if meaningful to you.
- 30 day challenges are just one example of how you might be able to introduce a mile-stone or deadline in a meaningful way. Signing up to a structured challenge, ideally with a program that you can follow and a peer group for mutual support, can commit you to progress and help you stay accountable. There are peer support and 'challenge' groups all over the internet for things like study, weight loss, creative arts, and entrepreneural activities.
- External obligators are minor annoyances that won't go away until you do the task. For example, set a quiet alarm that won't bother others but will get your attention. Then set the rule that you can not turn that alrm off until you have finished the task. You can snooze the alarm, you can't turn it off. This can be particularly hepful for those with ADHD that struggle to regulate their own prioritisation.
- Create a timeline, and work your way backwards. We often procrastinate because we thing we have plenty of time, but we don’t really know how long things will take (this is often referred to the planning fallacy). If you map it out on a timeline, and work your way backwards based on when you need to have done by when, then you will have a much better handle of what can be done with the amount of time you have left (i.e., 'delay' in the language of TMT). We don't necessarily perceive time accurately, but this process can help us be more realistic. It might sound simplistic, but time-management strategies like this are effective.
Externally imposed deadlines help with giving you some objective deadline to reduce the concept of delay, but in doing so they also reduce the influence of your impulsivity. We become less impulsive (i.e., easily distracted by things that will give us short term gratification) as the remaining time to do something dwindles (TMT refers to this as Delay Sensitivity). Having a deadline will also tap into your sense of value ifmissing the deadline would mean letting down someone you care about, or harming your reputation. Just because I have listed a strategy under one of the four domains, doesn't mean it will only work for that domain.