Behavior Change: Ending Procrastination

I recently read a blog post by fellow behavioral scientist Frank Martela with great interest because it resonates with my behavioral science training at Stanford (which I’m humbled to say, included research by Al Bandura and Mark Lepper, two of the godfathers of social psychology), and the application of my education at Alchemus Prime.

In the post, Martela speaks about barrier analysis and barrier removal. In behavioral science speak, a barrier is anything that stops you from doing what you want. For example, not being able to find your gym shoes might prevent you from going to your work out. To overcome the barrier, you might find your shoes the day before and place them next to your front door.

Similarly, research by the famous Brian Wansink and others suggests that small and seemingly insignificant factors can radically change our behavior, in particular with relation to our eating habits. One of the more well-known changes we can make is simply stocking our kitchen with smaller plates and bowls: we automatically eat less!

Similarly, we can hack our current negative habits by reframing the first 20 seconds of the behavior. As Shawn Anchor discusses in his book, The Happiness Advantage, removing the batteries from his remote and placing them in another room, and placing books he wanted to read on the coffee table enabled him to stop watching so much TV and start reading more. From a behavioral standpoint, we are overcoming barriers to the desired behavior (books are too far away, so we place them closer) and creating barriers for the undesired behavior (remote is too readily accessible, so we place it far away), in order to make the desired behavior (read more than watch TV) easier to accomplish.

So, the next time you’re making a new year’s resolution or simply wanting to start a new habit or stop procrastinating, take into account the steps that will make your desired behavior easier to achieve, and put those 20-second rules into action!

Seemingly insignificant factors in our social and physical environment can strongly influence our behavior, such as the size of our plates and bowls, which have been proven to determine how much we eat.

Seemingly insignificant factors in our social and physical environment can strongly influence our behavior, such as the size of our plates and bowls, which have been proven to determine how much we eat.

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