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Giving Ourselves A Little Nudge Before The Deadline Strikes

If you also find yourself without the usual kick of adrenaline to rely on, here are 5 self-nudges from the brains behind behavioural science to get us through.

Nothing like the stress of a deadline to clear a foggy brain and suddenly see your Netflix vacant of interesting suggestions. That being said, with 24hours to go until my next project presentation and only a heading written down, I’m licking the BBQ flavouring off rice crackers and stacking them into little towers on my desk.

So, perhaps a love of food is finally merging with my childhood dreams of being an architect, or with all that has been 2020, stress fatigue has set in and our fight, flight or freeze response has succeeded at something no one else can do and taken a holiday. 




1# Re-frame and instantly gratify
Work into your study plan some instant gratification. Our brain likes to make easy and fun decisions that feel good. Exercise clears the mind, but is a big leap from the couch. So next time you need a snack while studying, plan to buy it later from the corner store 1km down the road, pin $5 to your joggers and reward yourself with a run after reading a few chapters.

2# Distract yourself for 15min before you give up for the day
Using our System-2 ‘Thinking brain’ takes a lot of energy, recharge your batteries and do something your System 1 brain will enjoy. Cook your favourite meal, take up painting or play some kitchen table ping pong. A new activity slightly out of your comfort zone is even better as will push your creative thinking once you return to the task.




3# Make it difficult
Get distracted easily? Delete your social apps until end of term. Terrifying? Ask a housemate instead to change your phone password until the end of the day or task. The effort required to login onto your laptop and check social media or the public shaming of watching YouTube in the living room, will make it easier to get focused. 

4# Have a sense of purpose
Apply your learnings from college to the market and volunteer your expertise. Start a blog, help start-ups on portals like or and get involved with shared interest groups on Linked-in. Having a meaningful way to apply your knowledge will motivate you to learn more and improve your real-world experience.

5# Ramp up the social pressure
Hold yourself accountable by using your friends. Create intermittent false deadlines for each stage of your workload that friends or family will hold you too. Not enough? Give a friend your last pay check, if you make the deadline great you get it back, miss it…and they donate your salary to charity.




If these still don’t work for you, it might be a comfort to know according to Adam Grant, a professor at Wharton School, when it comes to innovation, procrastination is a great thing for divergent thinking. Experiments suggesting up to 28% improvement in the creativity of ideas when we give ourselves time for inspiration rather than rushing to the finish line and completing our to-do lists early. So if like me, it is 9pm and you have just begun your presentation, the good news is, it might be the most creative one in the class.

Written by Nicole Battram, lecturer at Macleay College in Behavioural Science and Brand Experience.


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