"Exercise? Nah, I'll do it tomorrow."
"Maybe I'll invest next time."
"Well, I still have seven days to go to complete the assignment. I'll do it tomorrow."
All of the statement above are some of the examples which prove that our brain loves to procrastinate. It's like a shield that we bring along every single day, and trust me; we love to shield ourselves from doing a "right now" thing, There is a study which is conducted in 2006 by two professors of psychology that investigate this phenomenon. They give two questions to be filled by the participants who ask whether or not they wanted to enrol two percent of their monthly salary into a saving account. From the survey itself, the majority of the participants agreed that saving a portion of their salary would be a good idea, but their actions divide them into two groups of people:
- The first questionnaire asks whether or not they want to enrol as soon as possible. Only about 30 percent of the respondents agreed to do so.
- The other question asked them whether they want to enrol some other times in the future. 77 percent said "yes" to this question.
The difference between these two responses can be explained in a few way. We usually care about ourselves in the present compared to ourselves in the future. Human love to enjoy an instant benefit. Let 's take a look at some of the examples:
You love to eat, and you've realised that you've become a little bit overweight than you used to be. You plan to hit the gym and cut some sugars in your diet. Chances are, you will fail. People love to eat because they provide an instant pleasure to the brain which they translate as an action that is desirable. They hate to exercise because compared to eating, the sense of satisfaction from hitting the gym would take weeks to months and sometimes years. The effect of skipping workouts would not be that obvious unless you've been loafing around for a month. So you think, eating would not affect your figure so much, at the same time you will feel happy. So you just eat and eat.
Saving money would take a long time before it will accumulate to a hefty sum. Spending the money on the hand would cause you to feel satisfied immediately after your purchase (imagine buying an iPhone X). After all, the sum of money that you will forget to save won't be that obvious unless you're years behind your financial schedule. So you've decided to spend.
When we think about our future more than the present, it will become easier to commit yourself to saving money and working out for staying healthy. I mean, if we consider long-term benefit, it will be easier, but if you've to choose between the future and now, it would be complicated (most of the time, the present you win). This phenomenon is called as "time inconsistency". When it comes to you to be making a choice today, you will usually underestimate the long-term effect and overestimate the immediate benefits of specific sets of behaviour. It's like we're prioritising the short-term impact compared to long-term benefits.
To overcome this, you have to ensure whatever decision that you made for your present self will comply with the future you:
Making a long-term reward immediate: Our mind always favour an instant result. It would take a lot of willpower and mental strength to resist the temptation to violate the agreement between you and your future self. A mind is a powerful tool that can be used to modified thought and behaviour. Just imagine the rewards that you will achieve if you stick to your current routine to reach a long-term benefit. Use whatever things that you can get your hands on to make you feel better. You can watch an inspiration Youtube video; you can read an article which featured a successful person etc. This behaviour would make your desire to achieve your goal stronger than ever which make it hard for you to procrastinate.
Making yourself look bad if you procrastinate: Human is a social creature. We are usually scared to betray the trust that has been placed on us. That would make us sounds like a jerk. Asking your friend to do something with you, like an exercise, will reduce your tendency to procrastinate. It's like you're pushing each other while competing at the same time. Miss one workout and you will surely feel guilty. Set a few goals, paste it on the wall so that you can see every day, what have you achieved and what have you procrastinated.
Remove any stimuli which could cause you to procrastinate: If you want to avoid sugar, cook at home by yourself so that you will be in control with what you put in your cooking. Remove anything that will potentially affect your judgement in making a decision. It's much easier to make the right choice if you've been given the right stimulus. Create a space where you can structure your decision making and not influence your desire to achieve anything immediately.
Decision making is hard but necessary.
February 26th, 2018
- Paul Graham (2010, July). Paul Graham Blog. The Acceleration of Addictiveness. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://www.paulgraham.com/addiction.html