The Akrasia Effect & The Art Of Procrastination | Kairos Institute

The Akrasia Effect & The Art Of Procrastination

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Plan, that’s what we hear all time before doing any work! Akrasia effect is what happens when we establish a plan and does not follow through with it. It is the state of mind where we have all of the details and information to make a proper decision, yet decide not to do. Akrasia is procrastination combined with a lack of self-control. Akrasia was actually coined by the philosopher Socrates over 1,600 years ago. But we all know that humans have been experiencing Akrasia from the moment they showed up on this planet.

Let’s take an example. Victor Hugo was a well-known French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the roman movement. In the summer of 1830, Victor promised his publisher for a new book. The deadline is quite far away, he started using his time to pursue other projects, entertaining guests and delaying his writing. As the deadline got closer his publisher was furious that not much progress was made by him. He told Victor he had six months to finish his book. Victor realized he would have to stop delaying his work and asked his assistant to do a rather odd task.

Victor concocted a strange plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes and asked an assistant to lock them away in a large chest. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Why would he do that u may wonder? He justified his action by saying that by having no good clothes to wear outside, he would be forced to stay at home and complete his book. The next few months were filled with writing. Out of this was born, one of his greatest works, the ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ in 1831, and as it turns out he gave the book two weeks before his deadline.


When we make a decision to do something or not, brain usually has a “gut instinct” answer of yes or no, before the words even come out of the mouth. We consider what benefit it has first, what benefit it has for another person. Then we consider other criteria like the time, strength, and effort it will take before we actually decide what it is we’re going to do. This all happens in a split second before we commit and the answer comes out of the mouth.

Often, procrastination occurs when you have decided to complete a task, but you keep postponing until later but without consciously choosing to do it then.

I would also like to add that not all procrastination is bad procrastination. There are two types of procrastinators- active and passive.

  • Active procrastination involves making a deliberate decision to procrastinate, in order to use the pressure of acting under a deadline as motivation to complete a task. This form of procrastination leads to positive outcomes, since it helps people be more efficient while they work.
  • Passive procrastination involves procrastinating due to an inability to act in a timely manner. In short, putting off one task merely because your lazy or can’t make up the mind to do it because of some of the other distraction.

Though you may be convinced by this that you are an active procrastinator the truth is most of us are actually passive procrastinators. We delay our work just because we can and with no justifiable reason.


What is AKRASIA?

Akrasia can be defined in terms of two distinct problems:
  • Procrastination – the unreasonable delaying of tasks with immediate cost but long-term benefit (e.g. putting off your training today).
  • Preproperation – the unreasonable chase of activities with immediate benefit but long-term cost – instant gratification (e.g. scrolling through your FB feed, rather than training this morning).

One answer is what psychologists call ‘time inconsistency’ which is our tendency to value instant rewards more highly than future rewards. This is illustrated nicely in a famous study on grocery-buying habits: When shopping for groceries online for delivery tomorrow we tend to buy a lot more sweet ice cream and a lot fewer healthy vegetables than when we’re shopping for delivery next week. Our preferences are inconsistent over time. Our ability to weigh the benefits (yumminess, healthiness) is weakened when we can tap benefits immediately and get instant gratification.


Fighting AKRASIA

Here is a list of some of the techniques for fighting Akrasia that work for some people but not for everyone.
  • Schedule work times
  • Set deadlines
  • Make to do list
  • Create financial consequences for failure
  • Create social consequences for failure
  • Create physical consequences for failure
  • Create existential consequences for failure
  • Create additional rewards for success
  • Set incremental goals
  • Create special environments for working only towards a particular goal.
Our brains prefer instant rewards to long-term payoffs. It's simply a result of how our minds work. Aristotle coined the term enkrateia as the antonym of akrasia. Akrasia refers to our inclination to fall victim to procrastination, enkrateia means to be “in power over oneself.” Planning our actions, reducing the resistance of starting good behaviours and using implementation intentions are simple steps that can take to make it easier to live a life of enkrateia rather than one of akrasia.  


Prepared by

Lavanya Ravindran

Academic Coordinator

Kairos Institute, Ernakulam

   2019-10-20 10:35:04
   Kairos Institute

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