The Akrasia Effect and how it impacts your life

February 14, 2023


Written by UJJI Team

The Akrasia effect and how it impacts your life

“You may delay, but time will not, and lost time is never found again.”

— Benjamin Franklin

Akrasia is a word developed by the ancient Greek philosophers to describe a lack of self-control, especially when we are distracted from our main cause. It makes you choose to do something different even when you set out with an initial plan or goal, and in modern times, we call it procrastination.

The book “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” is today because its author, Victor Hugo, devised a plan to beat his Akrasia effect when there was a change in plans. His publisher changed his submission time to be six months earlier than planned, and so he knew that if he didn’t do something drastic about his issue, he might not deliver. That was then; what of now? Have you ever woke very early in the morning intending to resume work early, only to get there late? Or have you ever had an assignment you believed could be done in a few hours turned in late, even when the time given was up to a week? Well, that happens a lot, but what is the reason behind this Akrasia effect?

In behavioural economics, we call “Time inconsistency,” which makes the brain value activities of “Here and now,” that would give immediate results or rewards compared to things that will give us future rewards. And that is why one often prefers Netflix n’ chill to write a book, learning a skill or doing something that will reward your future self, because the body wants to gratify now, which is why “Delayed gratification” is a virtue.

So, how do you beat Akrasia, AKA Procrastination in modern times?

I wouldn’t recommend what Victor Hugo did because their distractions in his era are different from ours; locking yourself at home now maybe even more distracting than going out.

Create an atmosphere that triggers commitment: it could be being around other people doing the same thing. For example, suppose you’ve been facing the challenge whenever you planned to study. In that case, you can join a serious study group, or if it was a project like art or work-related, you could join a community of artists in your locality that will motivate you to do your work. And if locking yourself indoors is what will work, then by all means.

Avoid the pressure of initiation: people always say that the first step or jump is the hardest and that after that, it becomes a matter of one step after the other. Try to limit to the minimum whatever is causing pressure when you are about to start.

Delayed gratification: can you say “No,” whenever you get that call or text to hang out, or the urge to do another urgent but unnecessary task (that seems like it is too important but isn’t), right about when you were about to start work? If you can, please learn to do so.

If you can incorporate these steps into your daily habit, then you have taken the first step already, and the rest is “one step in front of the other.”

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