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Two Harvard Professors Reveal Why We Procrastinate

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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Two Harvard Professors Reveal Why We Procrastinate

Two Harvard Professors Reveal Why We Procrastinate

https://jamesclear.com/time-inconsistency

jamesclear.com

4

Key Ideas

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. immediate benefits (“I'll spend it right now.”).

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

“We'll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.”
-Paul Graham

“We'll increasingly be defined by what we say no to.”
-Paul Graham

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Procrastination is a lifestyle

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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.

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Our brains are programmed to procrastinate

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To make the benefits of action feel bigger and more real:

  • Visualize how great it will be to get it done.
  • Pre-commit, publicly.
  • Confront the downside of inaction.

Considering the downside of putting a task off will help move forward with it

While we might weigh the pros and cons of doing something new, we far less often consider the pros and cons of not doing that thing. This often leads us to ignore some obvious benefits of getting stuff done.

The Akrasia Effect

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

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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.

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