Business Today

Kill Procastination With Rewards

Putting it off. The very bane of our existence.You can choose to carry on living with it, or battle. Both paths are difficult, but the first only cascades into more trouble.
Mala Bhargava   New Delhi     Print Edition: November 19, 2017
Kill Procastination With Rewards
Illustration by Raj Verma

James Clear, writer, photographer and weightlifter has made it his business to study the forces that shape our successes and our failures. He intends to help us become architects of our own habits rather than letting them just happen to us.

And procrastination, Clear says, is timeless. One theory about why procrastination happens, he writes, is that doing something else is rewarding more immediately. You may have a presentation to put together for a talk next week and you really want to work on it and make it brilliant - but diving into the last few chapters of that thriller you were reading is so much more rewarding right now.

And when it comes to distant future goals like writing a book or losing weight, there's a long wait for the rewards. So one of Clear's many suggestions is bring rewards - and consequences - into the more immediate sphere. If one were to do the math, a solution to habitual procrastination is to do a little fiddling and create rewards and consequences that are in the here and now. Psychologists have long used this technique and it is in fact an entire field known as 'Behavioural Modification'.

You can follow someone else's system, or create your own tailored one to break down a task and reward yourself with something that makes sense to you on completion of each chunk. In the same way, you can withdraw something as a sort of punishment for yourself if you find yourself putting something off.

Of course, it has long been said that the very act of procrastinating is more painful than actually getting the job done and once one begins, the focus and work is its own reward. Another interesting strategy is to try 'temptation bundling' which is clubbing something you're putting off with something you love doing.

Not always possible if a high degree of concentration is needed, but get creative and find the closest undle you can.

Compiled by Mala Bhargava


Whether music helps you work or distracts you from it, is a matter of debate. Not only does it perhaps depend on the individual but also the type of work being done. One school of thought however firmly believes that one's brain can go through entrainment when certain kinds of music is used to coax specific states of mind using pulsing light, sound or electromagnetic field. The theory is that the brain waves align to the frequency used by the stimulant. is an application, available on the web and as an app on both iOS and Android, though the Android app is still a work in progress. What it presents you with is a set of mental states:

Focus, Meditate, Sleep, Nap, Relax. Tap one and get into headphones. The pulsing music you'll hear is meant to induce the chosen state. It certainly works for some people.


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