No willpower? Try this!

I’m currently lacking the willpower to (a) drag my tuckus out of bed at 5:30am to exercise and (b) draft an article about dealing with my mom’s clutter.

In an effort to procrastinate the latter yesterday evening, I came across an article in Psychology Today by author Heidi Grand Havlorson. It highlighted the potential magic pill for my procrastination-itis.

Simply using an IF X, THEN Y statement dramatically increases your odds of succeeding.

Shifting your semantics from “I want to do/achieve X,Y,Z” to “If X happens, I will do Y” will make you two to three times more likely to succeed at doing what you’ve been putting off or dreaming about getting to someday.

So, rather than saying to myself “I need to exercise more,” I should be saying “when my alarm goes off at 5:30am I will not hit the snooze button on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.”

It might even be stronger if I changed the if/then statement to “If it’s Monday/Wednesday or Friday and my alarm goes off at 5:30am, I will bound out of bed with enthusiasm!”

The author referenced a study in which 91% of people who used an if-then plan stuck to an exercise program, versus 39% of non-planners. She went on to explain that our brains are exceedingly good at creating links between situations and the actions that should follow them.

It works on two levels:
1. The “if” statement puts your brain on alert. Simply having an “if” to look for, it will relentlessly scan the environment for such an event or cue.
2. Because the “then” statement is hard-wired to the “if” statement, when an “if” statement happens, the “then” follows automatically. That means your brain doesn’t have to think about what happens next, it does it on autopilot.

The results alone make it a trick worth trying in my mind. I’ll let you know how I do tomorrow when the alarm goes off at 5:30am.

What about you? Do you have something you know you should do but are putting off? Do you think changing your language from should to IF/THEN would work for you?