Wednesday, March 8, 2017

What We Can Do About Our Human Nature Of Always Wanting To Put Things Off

We all know the feeling of having to do something and putting it off. I’ll do it tomorrow, you say to yourself, but you said that yesterday. That book you meant to write, that running habit, getting to work on time – whatever it is that you have been putting off, you can change it.

And here’s one idea that might help you change your behaviour so you can get to doing what you really want to do.

Temporary rewards are always more tempting to our brain.

There’s a term to describe the human nature of always wanting to put things off — Akrasia. It is a word created by ancient philosophers Socrates and Aristotle to describe that dissonance we feel when our higher self is telling us to do one thing, and our immediate self is vying for another activity.[1]

An example of this would be the feeling you get when you hear the words in your mind telling you not to eat another slice of chocolate cake when you’ve already had a piece. Our desire in the moment for the temporary reward often overwrites the deeper desire to be healthy and to choose fresh fruits and veggies instead.

This is simply how humans work, for the most part. However, there are some strategies we can incorporate into our lives when dealing with Akrasia. So what can you do about it? Well, you could try this strategy.

The “If…then…” strategy helps you decide the exact actions you will take in advance.

Using the “if…then” strategy can help clarify what you are going to do and ensure that you are focused on it.

Besides defining the specific steps you need to take, the “if…then” strategy also helps you to think about where and when you will take those actions. When there is no other options than doing what you have planned, it becomes extremely likely that you will do it.

This is because then, there is no deliberation. It becomes a certainty, so procrastination isn’t able to rear its ugly head.

To use this simple strategy, plan what you are going to be doing in a certain situation, time, or place:

  • If it is 8am, then I will get up and do some yoga and meditation.
  • If it is 10am, then I will begin writing my novel.

The if-then strategy has shown to increase levels of productivity by 200-300% on average. If you ask me, that’s some pretty good stats.

This is because it cuts out any thoughts that of tomorrow you might have, which means you can’t listen to the many excuses your mind will come up with to get you to put things off for a bit.

Establishing a new habit is always challenging, so don’t be too hard on yourself about whether you make it to the gym or not every single time. The simple fact that you are trying to change is enough for now. And the easiest way to begin is to make starting as easy as possible.


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