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Two Harvard Professors Reveal Why We Procrastinate

https://jamesclear.com/time-inconsistency

jamesclear.com

Two Harvard Professors Reveal Why We Procrastinate
Sometime around 2006, two Harvard professors began to study why we procrastinate. Why do we avoid doing the things we know we should do, even when it's clear that they are good for us?

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Time inconsistency

When we think about the future we want to make choices that lead to long-term benefits (“Yes, I'll save more!”), but when we think about today, we want to make choices that lead to short-term. immediate benefits (“I'll spend it right now.”).

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The answer to inconsistency

To beat procrastination and make better long-term choices, find a way to make your present self act in the best interest of your future self. You have 3 primary options:

  1. Make the rewards of long-term behavior more immediate.
  2. Make the costs of procrastination more immediate.
  3. Remove procrastination triggers from your environment.

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Changing your environment=the most powerful way to change your behavior

In a normal situation, you might choose to eat a cookie rather than eat vegetables. What if the cookie wasn’t there to begin with? It is much easier to make the right choice if you’re surrounded by better choices. Remove the distractions from your environment and create a space with better choice architecture. - James Clear

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“We'll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.”
-Paul Graham

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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Procrastination is a lifestyle

20% of people identify themselves as chronic procrastinators. For them, procrastination is a lifestyle, albeit a maladaptive one. 

It cuts across all domains of their lives...

Not taking procrastination seriously

Procrastination represents a profound problem of self-regulation. 

There may be more of it in the U.S. than in other countries because we are so nice; we don't call people on their excuses ("my grandmother died last week") even when we don't believe them.

Not a planning problem

Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time, although they are more optimistic than others.

Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.

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Why you procrastinate

Procrastination is fundamentally an emotional reaction to what you have to do. The more aversive a task is to you, the more you’ll resist it, and the more likely you are to procrastinate.

Make a task less aversive

When you notice yourself procrastinating, use your procrastination as a trigger to examine a task’s characteristics and think about what you should change.

By breaking down exactly which attributes an aversive task has (boring, frustrating, difficult, meaningless, ambiguous, unstructured), you can take those qualities and turn them around to make the task more appealing to you.

Unproductive responses

... people have when they procrastinate:

  • Distracting yourself, and thinking about other things
  • Forgetting what you have to do, either actively or passively
  • Downplaying the importance of what you have to do
  • Focusing on your other values and qualities that will solidify your sense of self
  • Denying responsibility to distance yourself from what you have to do
  • Seeking out new information that supports your procrastination.

Procrastination and subjective value

Procrastination and subjective value

Our choice to work on a project is guided by how much we value finishing that project in that moment. Psychologists call this "subjective value."

Procrastination,...

A trick to defeat procrastination

Find a way to increase the subjective value of working in this moment, related to the value of other things.

You can boost the value of the project you should be working on, decrease the value of the thing that is distracting you, or try combinations of these two.

Delay discounting

Our tendency to devalue money and other goods based on time is called delay discounting.

This is an important aspect in procrastination because the completion of the project happens in the future. Finishing a project is a delayed reward, so its value in the present is reduced: the further away a deadline is, the less attractive it seems to work on the project right now.