Most office workers today have seamless access to the Internet during work hours—and often it is just too easy to click over to Facebook. Even people who are actively trying to stay on task can find themselves checking social media out of habit. A new study has found a counterintuitive way to reduce procrastination: Rather than trying to avoid distractions completely, commit to a reasonable time limit of web browsing, and then allow yourself to surf guilt-free during that time.
A Cornell study experimented with a suite of anti-procrastination tools specifically aimed at students taking online courses. Richard W. Patterson, author of the study, found that one tool, which asked students every morning to pre-commit to a daily limit for time spent on distracting websites, was far and away the most effective. The results were impressive: The students spent 24% more time on the course and were 40% more likely to finish it than students who did not use anti-procrastination tools.
Setting intentions and committing to work are crucial steps toward staying aware of how your time is spent. Letting go of the urge to multitask is another important anti-procrastination skill, as we visit distracting websites under the delusion that we can keep working while frenetically skipping around entertaining websites. Ultimately, letting go of the comfort of distracting websites is important–difficult work may be uncomfortable, but meeting your goals is ultimately more satisfying than an afternoon spent aimlessly browsing the Internet.