Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) have found that by thinking in terms of days instead of years, we are more likely to achieve our goals.

The simple trick is to think of the future as now. The researchers found participants who thought of their future goal events in terms of days ahead rather than months ahead, reported that the event would occur on average nearly 30 days sooner than those who thought of the event as months away.

“The simplified message that we learned in these studies is if the future doesn’t feel imminent, then, even if it’s important, people won’t start working on their goals,” said Daphna Oyserman, lead researcher and co-director of the Dornsife Mind and Society Center at USC.

The impact on long term financial planning was even more dramatic. A second series of studies found that participants planned to start saving four times sooner when they thought of the event in days instead of years.
Follow-up studies found that participants felt long-term saving was important, but those who were assigned to think of college or retirement starting in days rather than years felt more connected to their future selves and were more willing to save.

Oyserman said this could prompt the participants to set aside spending on present-day rewards in favour of long-term saving.

Even if it’s not now, the future is clearly best seen as only days away…