Recently I read a book called “Rethinking Positive Thinking“ by Gabriele Oettingen.
The book describes some of the latest research in personal motivation and goal-achievement. Oftentimes such research is highly interesting, but unlikely to be very practical.
Not in this case.
During her 20+ years of research, Gabriele Oettingen has created a tool that reliably creates unwavering motivation and increases the chances of achieving one’s goal significantly.
That tool is called WOOP – and it’s a beast at overcoming procrastination quickly.
What on earth is WOOP?
WOOP is a 4-step process created by Gabriele Oettingen and her colleagues to spur our motivation and increase our chances of attaining a certain goal.
We’ll look at exactly how it works in a sec, but first let me show you some studies that illustrate just how effective this tool is.
One compelling study was done on maintaining healthy lifestyles. 256 participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups:
Group 1: Performed WOOP and received detailed information about the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Group 2: Only received detailed information about the importance of regular exercise and a healthy diet.
The first group was taught how to perform WOOP over the course of one session. They were then asked to use it on their own to the wish of exercising and eating healthier whenever they could.
The participants in the WOOP group exercised almost twice as much as the other group, starting at one week after the intervention and continuing out to four months.
The WOOPers also consumed more fruits and vegetables, an effect that became even more pronounced as time went on. After two years, they were still eating more fruits and vegetables, even though they were not contacted by the researchers between the 4-month and 2-year period.
Participants in the information-only group were eating roughly the same amount of fruits and vegetables as they had been before the study.
There is one small caveat though: the WOOPers did not differ in exercise levels from members of the other group after two years. The researchers speculate it’s because exercise is more difficult to change over a long period of time than diet. Gabriele Oettingen explains:
“A single, one-hour session of WOOP will help people exercise more for a few months, but achieving a lasting benefit would require you to perform WOOP repeatedly.”
Nonetheless it’s clear that WOOP is a motivational power tool.
(If you want to see all the research behind why this tool works so well, I recommend checking out the book. It’s truly fascinating stuff.)
How does it work?
WOOP stands for Wish, Outcome, Obstacle, and Plan.
Here’s the step by step process:
- Wish: Choose any goal you would like to accomplish. It should be challenging, compelling, and realistic*.
2.Outcome: What’s the best possible outcome that would result from accomplishing your goal? How would you feel? Visualize this outcome in your mind.
- Obstacle: What are the personal obstacles that prevent you from achieving your goal? What’s standing in the way between you and your goal? Visualize this obstacle in your mind.
- Plan: Make a plan for overcoming your obstacle. What action would help you when your obstacle shows up? Create an if/then plan and visualize it in your mind.
If / When _________ (obstacle), then I will __________ (action to overcome obstacle).
Simple as that.
Now let’s see how you can use it to overcome procrastination.
(*The goal should be feasible. If you choose an unrealistic goal, you might end up less motivated and less likely to achieve that goal. Honestly though, I always end up more motivated, so don’t sweat over this.)
How to use WOOP as your 2-minute ‘overcoming procrastination’ cure
Let’s say it’s 2pm on a Saturday afternoon and you would like to work on a whitepaper that is due on Sunday evening. You want to finish this thing today so that you can go out and enjoy guilt-free partying.
You just don’t feel like doing it at all. You’ve been trying to get started all week, but you just can’t get yourself to do it. You’re procrastinating. And you’re already starting to get self-critical, put yourself down, and worst of all… you’re about to cancel tonight’s party.
That scenario is familiar to any procrastinator, so let’s see how we could use WOOP to cure that problem in 2 minutes straight.
Here’s how I would do it:
- Wish: I want to finish that whitepaper and go partying tonight.
- Outcome: I feel proud for finishing it before deadline day. I’m relieved. I feel good about myself. I feel a sense of accomplishment. I look forward to an awesome party tonight.
- Obstacle: I keep procrastinating. I don’t get started. I let my mind come up with all kinds of excuses to delay finishing the whitepaper. I distract myself with Facebook, eating snacks, or by watching another episode of Breaking Bad.
- Plan: If I feel like procrastinating on finishing the whitepaper, then I just get started and do it anyway.
I would just lie down in my bed, visualize the outcome, and then visualize the obstacles. I don’t even create a plan in most cases because I feel already motivated enough. Right after doing this process, which literally takes me about 2 minutes, I feel an urge to get started with whatever I was procrastinating on.
Now, does using WOOP completely eliminate my procrastination issues?
Of. Course. Not.
However, it’s definitely been one of the most useful tools. And that’s what it is: One of many tools to minimize the effects of procrastination.
So next time you’re putting something off, try this WOOP method.
Identify your wish, visualize your best possible outcome, visualize the obstacles impeding you from attaining your wish, and create a plan to overcome these obstacles.
This was a true game-changer for me, so give it a try!