Wednesday, October 29, 2008

On procrastination

He was a genius - that is to say, a man who does superlatively and without obvious effort something that most people cannot do by the uttermost exertion of their abilities.
- Robertson Davies

This is a quote by a famous Canadian author (1913-1995). Certainly applies to a professional mathematician.

I am ruefully wondering if this applies to dieting, as well, if only geniuses can do it?

Here is a short article excerpt about procrastination and doing what we don't wish to do (whether we can or not).

"The world is designed to create procrastination problems," says Dan Ariely, Ph.D., James B. Duke professor of behavioral economics at Duke University and the author of "Predictably Irrational."

"Our emotions get the better of us, and we tend to forsake our long-term goals in favor of short-term desires. It's a major source of human misery."

Ariely surveyed almost 3,000 users to explore how procrastination toys with our lives. He found that while people have a general tendency to drag their feet, certain tasks are real "back burners" for pretty much everyone.

Of the 12 activities listed (including chores like holiday shopping, paying bills, and scheduling doctors' appointments), exercising and starting a diet are the two people put off the most, topped only by evaluating their retirement plan.

Work duties like completing assignments and returning voice mails are attended to much more promptly. Even when people express a willingness to deal with their most avoided to-dos by setting deadlines, the data revealed, they are likely not to follow through.

"Just recognizing the problem," says Ariely, "is the first step to overcoming it." *

A helpful strategy offered to try to outsmart the temptation of short-term desires would be to use constant reminders of your mission to keep from deferring it. For example, it is suggested using lists and mirrors of yourself as diet reminders."

What could work is to use whatever has helped one succeed in anything in the past. (I can type this since my current diet is succeeding albeit with professional supervision and this distracting hobby).

Also, one should be conscious of all decisions. Poor decisions, like naughty pets, could come back to bite you...

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