Procrastination: why we struggle to start - Deepstash
Happiness At Work

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Happiness At Work

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Procrastination: why we struggle to start

Procrastination is delaying an intended course of action despite expecting negative consequences for the delay.

Possible causes for procrastination:

  • Task unpleasantness. Boring, frustrating and aversive tasks.
  • Self-efficacy. Believing in your ability to do a task.
  • Task delay when rewards and punishments are more distant.
  • Impulsiveness. You are easily distractable and less able to resist it.
  • Organization. Being more organized is associated with less procrastination.
  • Achievement motivation. The higher you value achievement, the less you will procrastinate.

Learned industriousness claims that when you are rewarded for expending higher effort, the experience of effortful activity itself is reinforced, leading to a willingness to work harder for bigger payoffs.

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Motivation as change

Donald Hebb realised that existing theories were too focused on reacting to the immediate environment. Thoughts, ideas and goals could be just as strong for triggering action as sights and sounds.

Together with John Atkinson, they noted that the study of motivation had und...

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Motivation and psychological needs

People have three basic psychological needs: autonomy, competence, and relatedness. Our internal motivations often depend on how these needs are met.

Goals that satisfy these needs tend to be more motivating, while goals that don't may cause harm. The underlying reasons fo...

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Improving your life with motivation

While motivation is a huge topic, and the science on it is not in agreement, there are many takeaways we can use to understand how motivation operates and use it to improve our lives.

  • Rewards and punishments are at the centre of motivation. For example, we may not b...

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The six levels of motivation

  • A-motivation. An utter lack of motivation to act.
  • External regulation. When you're motivated to act based on external rewards and punishments.
  • Introjection. Your motives to ...

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Curiosity and boredom are a form of motivation for learning

  • Information-gap theory of curiosity. This theory argues that the intensity of curiosity is controlled by the gap between what you know and what you want to know.
  • Friston and free energy of human neuroscience places the search for information as the...

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Goals: how intentions impact results

  • Goals direct your attention to relevant information and tasks.
  • Goals give you the energy to act on various physical and cognitive tasks.
  • Goals increase your persistence. It enables you to endure for longer before giving up...

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The first views on motivation

The first views on motivation

  • At first, psychologist William James thought that only the initial act was conscious, thereafter behaviour was a spontaneous cascade of habits. He suggested we struggle with motivation when there are competing ideas.
  • Sigmund Freud theorised that we are largely unconscious of what d...

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The self-determination theory

This theory is not focused on how human motivation can be controlled and manipulated from without, but how it is functionally designed and experienced from within.

Intrinsic motivation is when we are more motivated to pursue actions when it emanates from the self.

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Modelling motivation: rationality, signaling and bias

  • Rational choice theory suggests that human behaviour is underpinned by the motivations of each individual. More specifically, this theory models human beings as utility-maximizers, according to a set of preferences. If you give people a set of actions to choose from, th...

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Mathematics of motivation

When Ivan Pavlov and his dogs led to the discovery of learned behaviour through repeated exposure, and Edward Thorndike discovered the Law of Effect that stated that rewarded behaviours tended to increase, many psychologists were impelled to separate psychology from armchair introspection and

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Reinforcement learning

Thorndike’s Law of Effect led B.F. Skinner to the study of instrumental conditioning, where behaviour could be manipulated by applying rewards and punishments.

To describe this paradigm, some terminology is useful since they are often confused in popular discussions:

  • ...

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Motivation and identity: what you believe about yourself

  • Self-efficacy. When we feel we can do something. The social-cognitive theory is the idea that we learn by witnessing others, not only by trying things ourselves. Yet, sometimes we don't (or choose not to) learn from the example of others. If you believe you cannot perform w...

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The neuroscience of motivation

Neuroscience offers clues on how motivation works within the brain.

  • Taking action. The motor loop in the brain enables one-action-at-a-time control. (We can't sit down and stand up at the same time.)
  • The dopamine network explains whi...

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