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Why We Procrastinate - Issue 9: Time - Nautilus

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.

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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

nautil.us

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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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Why we procrastinate

Procrastination is more about our emotions than our tendencies for laziness or just being “bad at deadlines”. At its core, we procrastinate to keep ourselves happy in the moment.

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How to overcome your procrastination habit

We have two ways of dealing with our procrastination:

  1. Make whatever we’re procrastinating on feel less uncomfortable, and
  2. Convince our present selves into caring about our future selves.

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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False memories are common

We all misremember things. However, false memories are not so much mistakes but can be very detailed fantasies. Some people remember precise details of an event they attended, only to later real...

False memories have benefits

False memories are not useless. It seems that they're able to improve our mental processing.

Memories are our reality. Remembering isn't just looking up fact's from our mental files. It's more like telling stories. If we forget, we reconstruct the details, even if the details are false.

Memory conformity

When we remember what something 'should' look like, we will often construct a memory to fit the mould. 

False memories can also happen to groups and could lead to mass delusions. People were shown a fake CCTV footage of a shop robbery and discussed what they’d seen. One of the participants introduced false ideas: the thief had a gun, right? Three in four people later recounted these fabricated ‘facts’ when questioned.

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Procrastination as a coping mechanism

People tend to procrastinate to avoid emotionally unpleasant tasks - so they choose to focus on something that provides a temporary mood boost. 

This creates a vicious cycle: proc...

The science behind getting started

Progress on our goals feeds our well-being. So the most important thing to do is bootstrap a little progress: get a little progress, and that’s going to fuel your well-being and your motivation.

Implementation intentions for better focus

This is a self-regulatory strategy in the form of an "if-then plan": "If the phone rings, then I’m not going to answer it." "If my friends call me to say we’re going out, I’m going to say no.So you’ve already made these pre-commitments.