Have you ever thought, "Oh, I should call so-and-so," but never seem to get around to it? I have. Before I know it, months have gone by and I'm kicking myself for letting things drop. Recently, I tried an exercise called anticipatory joy to get over this delay and start connecting more frequently with my friends.
Tim Pychyl, a procrastination researcher and author of Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, identifies several reasons why we put tasks off. One is that sometimes these tasks lack personal meaning to us. Imagine you need to fix a door in your home that you rarely use. Since that door doesn’t impact your life on a regular basis, it doesn’t have a lot of personal meaning for you, and ignoring it is easy.
So how can you use this to stay in touch with your friends? Focus on the personal meaning that connecting with others makes for you.Try writing a list of friends and family you want to stay in touch with. For each person, spend a few minutes writing sentences imagining how those people impact your future. An example might be, “When I get promoted at work, I’m going to tell John because he’s been really supportive of my career and I know sharing with him will make me happy.” Or maybe you have an event coming up. “I’m really excited to go home for the holidays and see Anna and her daughter.”
These moments of joyful anticipation not only increase your happiness in the moment, but also enhance the personal meaning you feel with these people. Anticipatory joy may be the best kind; researchers found that vacationers feel more happiness planning for a trip than they do remembering it after they get back.
When I tried this exercise, I found that calling or texting the people on my list felt like more of a priority as I created my daily to-do list. It was magically easier to find time for a quick check-in and all the other errands I thought were important seemed to take care of themselves. Give this quick exercise a try and see if you find yourself prioritizing connecting with people on your list.