I’ve found this easily-digested (100 pages!) book very helpful in working with my own clients around habit change and goal-setting, and find many practical applications for my own life.*
In one of his often-referenced blog entries, Just Get Started, Dr. Pychyl describes their findings using pagers to track procrastination over time:
More surprisingly, we found a change in the participants' perceptions of their tasks. On Monday, the dreaded, avoided task was perceived as very stressful, difficult, and unpleasant. On Thursday (or make that in the wee hours of Friday morning), once they had actually engaged in the task they had avoided all week, their perceptions changed. The ratings of task stressfulness, difficulty and unpleasantness decreased significantly.
What did we learn? Once we start a task, it's rarely as bad as we think. In fact, many participants made comments when we paged them during their last-minute efforts that they wished they had started earlier - the task was actually interesting, and they thought they could do a better job with a little more time.
Like many instant gratification techniques, however, the long-term consequences eventually become greater than the immediate rewards. My clients have reported that applying the simple insight of "I don't actually have to be in the mood in order to get started on something," has been helpful in shifting their long-standing patterns of work avoidance, and thus reducing the costs of that avoidance.
Check out Dr. Pychyl's blog and his book for more great insights and tips, and please feel free to share your own!
* Just kidding! Therapists never procrastinate :)