Delay discounting - Deepstash

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The psychological origins of procrastination – and how we can stop putting things off

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.

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Self-Efficacy

A person’s belief and expectation that they are capable of completing a task. 

When we don't trust the fact that we'll be able to complete a task (with good results), we're mor...

Value

The more enjoyable a task, the less we procrastinate on it. 

Boring tasks are more likely to lead to procrastination than difficult ones, that's why we keep postponing all the busywork (work that keeps us busy but has little value in itself.)

Impulsiveness

Difficulty maintaining focus in the face of immediate and more appealing distractions.

If we work in an environment where we're bombarded with distractions and we are not capable of resisting them, we're more likely to procrastinate.

Procrastination: The How And Why

We usually procrastinate instead of being productive due to various reasons like having fun being distracted (like playing video games) or just lounging around as the task is too easy (or too diffi...

Procrastination And The Fear Of Failure

Recent studies on procrastination seems to suggest that the fear of failure could be a core reason for postponing tasks, as it is hard to:

  1. Amend mistakes.
  2. Lack of expected progress even with the effort being put.
  3. A wasted day having a spillover effect on the next day.
  4. Lack of practice.
  5. Lack of trying again.

We need to detect patterns in our behaviour and recognize the cause of any hidden or camouflaged fear.

Procrastination And Making Excuses

There is a denial of procrastination, where we are telling ourselves that we are working as we should and there is no problem at all. The valid justifications we make to cover the problem or delay is essentially an excuse.

We make excuses as it is a valid cover to protect our self interest, and we often blame other people and circumstances to cover our own failure. If we could simply stop making excuses and start calling a spade a spade, we would learn a lot from our own behaviour.

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.