Why we always postpone our plans and how do we avoid this

Two Harvard professors started researching why we left the jobs for later. Why do we postpone the work we need to do, even if the results are good?

Why we always postpone our plans and how do we avoid this

To answer this question, two professors - Todd Rogers and Max Bazerman - conducted a study. Participants were asked whether they would like to enroll in a savings plan where 2% of their salary is transferred to the savings account.

Almost every participant stated that saving money is a good idea, but their behavior said otherwise:

In one version of the question, participants were asked whether they would participate in the savings plan as soon as possible. In this scenario, only 30% of the participants agreed to join the plan.

In the other version of the question, the participants were asked whether they would join the savings plan in the distant future (within a year from today). In this scenario, 77% of the participants agreed to join the plan.

Why did the timeline change its answers so much?

This little experiment, it turns out, will tell us a lot about why we delay our behavior.

You in the present versus you in the future

We tend to care too much about ourselves now and not enough of our future self. We consider the benefits of the present until the costs of our choices become apparent.

For example:

The result of eating chocolate is obvious (sense of pleasure) and the cost of avoiding sports becomes apparent after months.

The outcome of spending money today is obvious (a new iPhone!), And the cost of forgetting to invest in retirement is only realized years later.

The outcome of unavoidable fossil fuel use is obvious (more energy! More heat! More electricity), and the cost of climate change will only be realized years later.

But if we consider these types of problems in the distant future, our choices change. Do you want to be overweight and eat donuts in a year, or do you want to be healthy and exercise regularly? The long-term choice is easy, but if we have to make a choice today, we don't care about long-term costs and overestimate the benefits of inefficient behavior.

Behavioral economists describe this concept as "asynchrony" because we want to make choices that will lead to long-term benefits when we think of the future. But when we think about today, we want to make choices that will result in short-term benefits.

You can call this the present problem versus the future yourself problem. The present tends to overestimate the things that will cause benefits right now, while the future you know it needs to do things that will have the greatest benefits in the long run.

So what can we do about it?

Answer for indecision

If you want to eliminate procrastination and make more accurate long-term choices, then you need to act in the best way for yourself in the present yourself.

You have three main options:

Making the rewards of long-term behavior faster
Making the costs of delays faster
Removing procrastination triggers from your environment
Let's go through them all:

1 - Making the rewards of long-term behavior quicker

The reason for procrastination is that our mind wants to get quick benefits. It is easier to avoid procrastination if we find a way to expedite the benefits of long-term choices. One of the ways to do this is to imagine the benefits that you will enjoy in the future. Imagine what your life will be like if you lose weight. Think about why saving money now is so important to your future. Think of the outcome of the future as if it were now.

2 - Making the costs of delays faster

There are a number of ways to force you to pay the costs of delays faster than later. For example, postponing exercise to the next week because you will do it alone will not affect your life too much. Since you do not go only once, your health will not deteriorate in a short time. The cost of procrastinating will be painful if you are lazy for weeks or even months. However, if you are determined that you will go to the gym with your friend at seven in the morning on Monday, delaying the sport will cost much more quickly.

Here are some other ways to make procrastination more costly:

Set time for your behavior (I'll post a new article every Monday)
Make an expensive bet on your behavior (I'll pay my friend $ 50 for every workout I miss)
Determine physical consequences for your behavior (I'll do 25 push-ups for every filthy dish I left under the tap)

3 - Removing procrastination triggers from your environment

The most powerful way to change behavior is to change environment. You don't need predictive results to judge its accuracy. In the normal case, you may prefer to eat cookies instead of vegetables. Making the right choice becomes easier if you have better options around. Remove distractions from your environment and create an environment with better options.

Would you like to go one step further? Put triggers in your environment that stimulate good behavior.

Way forward

Every day, we face hundreds of tiny decisions. You have the right to take the easy route and be instantly pleased, or to disobey and behave in the long run.

These daily choices define our reality. The distractions we block determine our capacity for success.