Our brain can fool us into not being as productive as we should. To counter that, you should trick your brain. So, when you have a long-term project, set a deadline for any task that has to be done in the "now".
Forbes writer Amy Morin explains that it's the definition of "now" that's the key in making sure you tackle these goals. She cites a study in the Journal of Consumer Research, which found that people have different triggers for what they consider "now" and "future", even if the objective time might be similar. For example:
- A task given in June with a December deadline was considered "now" but a task in July with a January deadline was considered "future." The calendar shift was enough for people to delay starting the latter task.
- A task given on Tuesday with a deadline the following Tuesday was considered "now" but a task given on Tuesday with a deadline the following "Wednesday" was considered "future." The latter fell out of the seven-day weekly mindset.
Basically, our mind tells us it's OK to procrastinate on a task when the time for the deadline doesn't fit into a chunk of time that we are used to calculating.
So, for any long-term project, Morin suggests breaking it down into smaller chunks, which is nothing new. But the deadline for those chunks is where the trick comes in. You have to set a "now" deadline, which needs you to figure out what amount of time would make you think it's a to-do list item that needs to be tackled now, not in the future. Morin's idea is to use the seven-day method:
Create target dates to reach your objectives. Find something you can do this week to begin taking some type of action now. For example, decide "I will create a budget by Thursday," or "I will lose two pounds in seven days."
You could also couple this with other scientific methods to crush procrastination and tackle those long-term projects.