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The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don't Follow Through on Things

“On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating.”

Eliezer Yudkowsky

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The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don't Follow Through on Things

The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don't Follow Through on Things

https://jamesclear.com/akrasia

jamesclear.com

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Key Ideas

The Akrasia Effect

Akrasia happens when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else.

It's what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do. It could be translated into procrastination or a lack of self-control.

Time Inconsistency

It refers to our tendency to choose immediate rewards over future rewards. It's why we make plans, but don't take action.

When we make plans, we are actually making plans for our future selves. But when the time comes to make a decision, we are in the moment and our brain is thinking about the present self.

Delayed Gratification and Success

The ability to delay gratification is a great predictor of success in life.

If you really understand how to resist the attraction of instant gratification, you'll be able to bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Beating Procrastination

  • Design your future actions, using a commitment device (a choice you make in the present that controls your actions in the future). 
  • Reduce the friction of starting. Once you begin, it's often less painful to do the work. Make the beginning easy.
  • Utilize implementation intentions: State your intention to implement a particular behavior at a specific time in the future (with date, place and time).

“On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating.”

“On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating.”

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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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Procrastinating and emotions

According to traditional thinking, procrastinators have a time-management problem. They are unable to understand how long a task will take and need to learn how to schedule their time better.

Short-term mood lifters

Studies show low mood only increases procrastination if enjoyable activities are available as a distraction. In other words, we're drawn to other activities to avoid the discomfort of applying ourselves.

Adverse consequences

Procrastination leads to two primary consequences.

  1. It's stressful to keep putting off important tasks and failing to meet your goals.
  2. Procrastination often involves delaying important health behaviors, such as taking up exercise or visiting a doctor.

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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. imme...

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.
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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