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Why We Procrastinate - Issue 9: Time - Nautilus

Our perception of ourselves

Derek Parkfit describes personal identity as a chain of successive selves, all linked, but each different from the previous or subsequent self. Our approach to our future self is like our attitude to other people: we see our future selves as strangers.

This interferes with our ability to make good choices. Think of when you have a good New Year's resolution that you break soon after.

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Why We Procrastinate - Issue 9: Time - Nautilus

Why We Procrastinate - Issue 9: Time - Nautilus

http://nautil.us/issue/9/time/why-we-procrastinate

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Key Ideas

Our perception of ourselves

Derek Parkfit describes personal identity as a chain of successive selves, all linked, but each different from the previous or subsequent self. Our approach to our future self is like our attitude to other people: we see our future selves as strangers.

This interferes with our ability to make good choices. Think of when you have a good New Year's resolution that you break soon after.

The implications of the disconnect

Thinking of your future self as if it is another person has serious implications: We might choose to procrastinate and let the "other" person deal with the future consequences or problems on today's choices.

Strengthen your connection to yourself

  • Psychologist Anne Wilson has manipulated people's perception of time. By using a longer timeline, such as a due date that is far off, people feel more connected to their future selves.
  • Hal Hershfield, an assistant professor, used a virtual reality room to show subjects a digitally older version of themselves. The result is that participants were more likely to make responsible choices for their future selves.

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How to overcome your procrastination habit

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Make getting started ridiculously easy

Often starting a task is the biggest hurdle. Research shows that progress—no matter how small—can be a huge motivator to help us keep going.

Set the timer for just 5 or 10 minutes. While the timer’s running, you don’t have to work, but you can’t do anything else. You have to sit with your work, even if you don’t get started.

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