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How About a Little Later? Would a Little Later Work?

Strategies and goals

Breaking habits isn’t easy: it takes a lot of disruption to make a behavior we’re used to stop coming out automatically. Changing a behavior means coming up with many ways over time to stop ourselves from doing what comes naturally, by habit. For this purpose, the more tactics we have available to disrupt those undesired habits, the better–and one of those tactics, strangely enough, is a bit like procrastination. You could also call it “delayed gratification,” but regardless, the technique is to push things off a little further in time. For instance, if a person is hard at work at a home business and is tempted to stop working for a while to check Facebook, something they’re trying not to do doing working hours, one option is to say “How about I check Facebook a little later?” Chances are the idea of checking Facebook came up during a particularly boring or unappealing moment in work, and if things get more interesting as the work progresses, then not checking Facebook might be easier when the promised time comes than it was when it was first put off.

And if it isn’t easier to avoid when the delayed time comes, it can often be put off again. Enough delaying, and it might not happen at all, or else be saved to an appropriate moment–just as with someone who’s trying to stick to a healthier eating pattern putting off a snack until it’s meal time, when the snack is no longer necessary.

This is not a very sophisticated or especially powerful technique, but like the Just Don’t It technique, it can be pulled out at odd moments to interfere with a bad habit a person is trying to break. Even if ultimately the delays don’t prevent the undesired behavior, at least there has been some interruption of the normal state of things, which is an accomplishment and a bit of progress. And at their best, delaying tactics can be one of a set of tools that together can be employed to completely extinguish an undesired habit over time.

Photo by Stuart`Dootson

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