The Power of Visualisation to Beat Procrastination

Do you sometimes feel so daunted by an important work project that you procrastinate? Are you overwhelmed by thoughts and images that represent the complexity of life both at and away from work – the spreadsheets, presentations, emails, phone calls, and meetings; the gardening, DIY, or booking a weekend away? Have you ever considered flipping negative images? Instead of worrying about the complexities of a task that needs to be done, it could be worth visualising things in a positive manner. How does the mental picture look where you have successfully completed the task?

Research has shown that visualising yourself in the future can be a powerful way to counter procrastination (BBC Capital, 2017). Many of us are not very good at reminding ourselves of how our immediate work will benefit us in the long-term, we become so absorbed in the various tasks that we lose sight of the bigger picture. Psychologist and associate professor at UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, Hal Hershfield, supports this theory through his studies on how perception of time can alter decision-making. Hershfield found that when people more deeply consider their future selves, it increases the tendency to act in ways that are more future-oriented. It helps us link our current actions with our deeper purpose.

Future-focused visualisation is regularly used in sports, and it can be applied to any aspect of life where you are paralysed by procrastination. A study by Blouin-Hudon (2016) revealed that participants, who practiced ‘future-focused mental imagery’ meditation, procrastinated less than those who did ‘present-focused’ meditation. The reason behind this is complex, but in a nutshell people who procrastinate feel disconnected from their future self, and the link between present actions and future results is less apparent.

Next time you are procrastinating, practice visualising yourself successfully carrying out all the necessary steps – all the way to the finish line where your completion of the task is in alignment your values.