Getting things done: How does changing the way you think about deadlines help you reach your goals?

August 26, 2014

From doing yard work to finishing up the last few classes required for a college degree, consumers struggle to get things done. According to a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research, the way consumers think about deadlines can determine whether or not they start tasks and accomplish their goals.

"Our research shows that the way consumers think about the future influences whether they get started on tasks. In particular, if the deadline for a task is categorized as being similar to the present, they are more likely to initiate the task," write authors Yanping Tu (University of Chicago Booth School of Business) and Dilip Soman (University of Toronto).

In one study, consumers were given an opportunity to open a savings account and told they would receive an incentive if they opened the account within the next six months. One group of consumers was approached in June and given a deadline in December of the same year. The second group was approached in July and given a deadline in January of the next year. Even though both groups had the same amount of time to open the account, more consumers chose to open their account immediately if their deadline was in December of the same year.

This occurred because consumers used the end of the calendar year to categorize the deadlines. Consumers think of a December deadline as being in the same category as the present while a January deadline is not. Since consumers tend to treat tasks in the present with a view to getting them done, a task with a deadline this year is treated with more urgency and the task is started sooner.

This research helps us understand how consumers perceive time and offers important considerations for consumers, as well as researchers studying goal pursuit and companies that provide help to consumers in getting things done. "While time elapses continuously, it appears that consumers think of time categorically. When thinking of a deadline as being in the same category as the present, consumers are more likely to start working toward their goals sooner," the authors conclude.
-end-
Yanping Tu and Dilip Soman. "The Categorization of Time and Its Impact on Task Initiation." Journal of Consumer Research: October 2014. For more information, contact Yanping Tu (Yanping.Tu@chicagobooth.edu) or visit http://ejcr.org/.

University of Chicago Press Journals

Related Consumers Articles from Brightsurf:

When consumers trust AI recommendations--or resist them
The key factor in deciding how to incorporate AI recommenders is whether consumers are focused on the functional and practical aspects of a product (its utilitarian value) or on the experiential and sensory aspects of a product (its hedonic value).

Do consumers enjoy events more when commenting on them?
Generating content increases people's enjoyment of positive experiences.

Why consumers think pretty food is healthier
People tend to think that pretty-looking food is healthier (e.g., more nutrients, less fat) and more natural (e.g., purer, less processed) than ugly-looking versions of the same food.

How consumers responded to COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has been a catalyst for laying out the different threats that consumers face, and that consumers must prepare themselves for a constantly shifting landscape moving forward.

Is less more? How consumers view sustainability claims
Communicating a product's reduced negative attribute might have unintended consequences if consumers approach it with the wrong mindset.

In the sharing economy, consumers see themselves as helpers
Whether you use a taxi or a rideshare app like Uber, you're still going to get a driver who will take you to your destination.

Helping consumers in a crisis
A new study shows that the central bank tool known as quantitative easing helped consumers substantially during the last big economic downturn -- a finding with clear relevance for today's pandemic-hit economy.

'Locally grown' broccoli looks, tastes better to consumers
In tests, consumers in upstate New York were willing to pay more for broccoli grown in New York when they knew where it came from, Cornell University researchers found.

Should patients be considered consumers?
No, and doing so can undermine efforts to promote patient-centered health care, write three Hastings Center scholars in the March issue of Health Affairs.

Consumers choose smartphones mostly because of their appearance
The more attractive the image and design of the telephone, the stronger the emotional relationship that consumers are going to have with the product, which is a clear influence on their purchasing decision.

Read More: Consumers News and Consumers Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.