The Akrasia Effect: Why We Make Plans but Don’t Follow Through

Humans are prolific procrastinators. It’s easy to make plans and throw dates on your calendar, and yet it’s practically inevitable that you’ll let some deadlines fly by with reckless abandon. Our brains simply prefer instant rewards to long-term payoffs. Given this tendency, we often have to resort to crazy strategies to get things done.

This post originally appeared on James Clear’s blog.

By the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the famous French author had made an agreement with his publisher that he would write a new book titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Instead of writing the book, Hugo spent the next year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work on the text. Hugo’s publisher had become frustrated by his repeated procrastination and responded by setting a formidable deadline. The publisher demanded that Hugo finish the book by February of 1831—less than six months away.

Hugo developed a plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes, removed them from his chambers, and locked them away. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, Hugo was no longer tempted to leave the house and get distracted. Staying inside and writing was his only option.

The strategy worked. Hugo remained in his study each day and wrote furiously during the fall and winter of 1830. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published two weeks early on January 14, 1831.

The Ancient Problem of Akrasia

Human beings have been procrastinating for centuries. Even prolific artists like Victor Hugo are not immune to the distractions of daily life. The problem is so timeless, in fact, that ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia.

Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgment. It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control. Akrasia is what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.

Why would Victor Hugo commit to writing a book and then put it off for over a year? Why do we make plans, set deadlines, and commit to goals, but then fail to follow through on them?

Why We Make Plans, But Don’t Take Action

One explanation for why akrasia rules our lives and procrastination pulls us in has to do with a behavioral economics term called “time inconsistency.” Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.

When you make plans for yourself—like setting a goal to lose weight or write a book or learn a language—you are actually making plans for your future self. You are envisioning what you want your life to be like in the future and when you think about the future it is easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits.

When the time comes to make a decision, however, you are no longer making a choice for your future self. Now you are in the moment and your brain is thinking about the present self. And researchers have discovered that the present self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff. This is one reason why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up you find yourself falling into old patterns. Your brain values long-term benefits when they are in the future, but it values immediate gratification when it comes to the present moment.

This is one reason why the ability to delay gratification is such a great predictor of success in life. Understanding how to resist the pull of instant gratification—at least occasionally, if not consistently—can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

The Akrasia Antidote: 3 Ways to Beat Procrastination

Here are three ways to overcome akrasia, beat procrastination, and follow through on what you set out to do.

Strategy 1: Design Your Future Actions

When Victor Hugo locked his clothes away so he could focus on writing, he was creating what psychologists refer to as a “commitment device.” Commitment devices are strategies that help improve your behavior by either increasing the obstacles or costs of bad behaviors or reducing the effort required for good behaviors.

You can curb your future eating habits by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in the bulk size. You can stop wasting time on your phone by deleting games or social media apps. You can reduce the likelihood of mindless channel surfing by hiding your TV in a closet and only taking it out on big game days. You can voluntarily ask to be added to the banned list at casinos and online gambling sites to prevent future gambling sprees. You can build an emergency fund by setting up an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account. These are commitment devices.

The circumstances differ, but the message is the same: commitment devices can help you design your future actions. Find ways to automate your behavior beforehand rather than relying on willpower in the moment. Be the architect of your future actions, not the victim of them.

Strategy 2: Reduce the Friction of Starting

The guilt and frustration of procrastinating is usually worse than the pain of doing the work. In the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky, “On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating.”

So why do we still procrastinate? Because it’s not being in the work that is hard, it’sstarting the work. The friction that prevents us from taking action is usually centered around starting the behavior. Once you begin, it’s often less painful to do the work. This is why it is often more important to build the habit of getting started when you’re beginning a new behavior than it is to worry about whether or not you are successful at the new habit.

You have to constantly reduce the size of your habits. Put all of your effort and energy into building a ritual and make it as easy as possible to get started. Don’t worry about the results until you’ve mastered the art of showing up.

Strategy 3: Utilize Implementation Intentions

An implementation intention is when you state your intention to implement a particular behavior at a specific time in the future. For example, “I will exercise for at least 30 minutes on [DATE] in [PLACE] at [TIME].”

There are hundreds of successful studies showing how implementation intentions positively impact everything from exercise habits to flu shots. In the flu shot study, researchers looked at a group of 3,272 employees at a Midwestern company and found that employees who wrote down the specific date and time they planned to get their flu shot were significantly more likely to follow through weeks later.

It seems simple to say that scheduling things ahead of time can make a difference, but as I have covered previously, implementation intentions can make you 2x to 3x more likely to perform an action in the future.

Fighting Akrasia

Our brains prefers instant rewards to long-term payoffs. It’s simply a consequence of how our minds work. Given this tendency, we often have to resort to crazy strategies to get things done—like Victor Hugo locking up all of his clothes so he could write a book. But I believe it is worth it to spend time building these commitment devices if your goals are important to you.

Aristotle coined the term enkrateia as the antonym of akrasia. While akrasiarefers to our tendency to fall victim to procrastination, enkrateia means to be “in power over oneself.” Designing your future actions, reducing the friction of starting good behaviors, and using implementation intentions are simple steps that you can take to make it easier to live a life of enkrateia rather than one of akrasia.

The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don’t Follow Through on What We Set Out to Do (And What to Do About It) | James Clear

WHO INVENTED THE FAHRENHEIT AND CELSIUS TEMPERATURE SCALES AND WHAT ZERO DEGREES FAHRENHEIT SIGNIFIES

Firmly entrenched in American society, the seemingly capricious nature of the Fahrenheit temperature scale could lead one to think that its Dutch inventor, Daniel Fahrenheit, pulled the number for the freezing point (32°F) of water out of his hat. But, in fact, its designation, as well as that of 0°F were precisely (for the early 18th century) calculated based upon deliberate choices about how to establish fixed points of temperature.

Engineer, physicist and glass blower, Fahrenheit (1686-1736) decided to create a temperature scale based upon three fixed temperature points – that of freezing water, human body temperature, and the coldest point that he could repeatably cool a solution of water, ice and a kind of salt, ammonium chloride. It is generally thought he chose these three points based on an older temperature scale created by Ole Christensen Rømer (1644-1710) 20 years earlier.

Under Rømer’s system, brine (the salt-/ice- water mixture) freezes at 0°, water at 7.5°, normal human body temperature was 22.5° and water’s boiling point was 60°. Desiring to make calculations easier (i.e., produce fewer fractions), and to increase the precision of the scale by increasing the number of distinguishable parts within it (granularity), Fahrenheit decided to multiply each value by a factor of about 4, and set to work.

According to his published article on the subject, he started with the brine and a blank thermometer; he then assigned the point where the thermometer was the lowest as 0°F. Next, he placed the thermometer in still water just as ice was beginning to form, and eventually assigned this 32°F. He then measured human body temperature and assigned this 96°F. He ultimately chose these two numbers, as opposed to 30°F (7.5*4) and 90°F (22.5*4) in no small part due to the fact that the 64 degrees between the two points made marking lines on the thermometer easier (due to the six equal intervals).

As water (at sea level and standard atmospheric pressure) boils at about 212°F in the original scale, 180° above its freezing point, this number was eventually defined as the scale’s exact boiling point of water. This more precise definition ultimately forced a slight adjustment of normal body temperature to about 98°F from 96°F. (Of course, “normal” body temperature is a bit of a misnomer here, with it varying from person to person, and even varying quite a bit in an individual based on a variety of factors such as time of day, age, etc., commonly ranging between about 97°F and 99°F.)

ThermometerAs for the Celsius temperature scale, it has been around for almost as long as Fahrenheit, but it wasn’t nearly as widely used as today until the conversion of most of the world to the metric system in the 1960s and 1970s.

Anders Celsius (1701-1744) was also a physicist, as well as an astronomer and mathematician. Interested in atmospheric sciences, in 1742 Celsius published his finding that the freezing point of water was independent of latitude (something previously debated); he also developed a consistent method of calculating the boiling point of water as barometric pressure changes.

To accommodate his findings, bring even more rationality to measuring temperature, and avoid negative numbers, Celsius designed his own temperature scale, and assigned 100°C as the freezing point of water and 0°C as its boiling point at sea level (and no, that’s not a typo).  Celsius’ colleague from Uppsala University, Carl Linnaeus (of thefamous taxonomy) is reputed to be responsible for reversing the numbers.

Specifically, in the 1730s, Linnaeus built an orangery (a kind of conservatory originally erected to grow citrus fruits) in Uppsala. In order to maintain the proper temperature for his exotic plants, he needed an accurate thermometer, which he ordered from the Swedish instrument maker, Daniel Ekström. It was delivered in December of 1745, and in a contemporaneous publication, Linnaeus noted that “our thermometer shows 0 (zero) at the point where water freezes and 100 degrees at the boiling-point of water.” As this is the earliest record of having switched the degrees to the modern form, Linnaeus is often given credit for the idea.

How to Use the Infinite Number of Email Addresses Gmail Gives You

How to Use the Infinite Number of Email Addresses Gmail Gives You

How to Use the Infinite Number of Email Addresses Gmail Gives You

One trick you may or may not have picked up about Gmail is that you can add in periods anywhere in the front part of your address and it makes no difference whatsoever: john.smith@gmail.com works just the same as johnsmith@gmail.com. What’s more, you can add a plus sign and any word before the @ sign (e.g. johnsmith+hello@gmail.com) and messages will still reach you. If these tweaks make no difference, then why use them? One major reason: filters.

Here are a few ways you can make use of the feature to bring order to the chaos of your inbox.

Signing up for newsletters

The next time you sign up for a newsletter, app or website, use an address like johnsmith+news@gmail.com. That way, you can filter out everything sent to this address to a low-priority label or folder. A couple of options available to you are to have Gmail mark all these messages as unimportant, or categorize them all as Updates.

How to Use the Infinite Number of Email Addresses Gmail Gives You

If you want to get really involved with your email management then you could even add a specific word for everything you sign up for: johnsmith+evernote@gmail.com for example. This might eventually become more trouble than it’s worth, but it does give you the power to instantly send emails from a certain source to the spam folder, or to trash them immediately.

Giving friends VIP status

As well as marking some messages as unimportant, you can of course do the opposite. Try handing out an alternative email address—such as john.smith@gmail.com—to your nearest and dearest to help them stand out from the dross that usually fills up your inbox. Then set up a filter to mark these messages as important and top priority.

How to Use the Infinite Number of Email Addresses Gmail Gives You

There’s the mobile aspect to consider too. Through the settings in the Gmail app for Android it’s possible to set notifications on a label-by-label basis, so if you set up a new label for your VIP contacts then you can make sure only these specific messages trigger an alert on your phone.

Dividing work life and personal life

You may already have a separate Google account for your job, but if you’re someone who combines work and pleasure into one central inbox then use the address tricks to distinguish between the two. It could be as simple as adding “+w” to your Gmail address for any work-related emails.

How to Use the Infinite Number of Email Addresses Gmail Gives You

That then gives you the ability to mark every incoming work email with an appropriate label, with no manual effort required—not only will your inbox look tidier, but it will make searches much more efficient. You can restrict queries to one particular label and leave yourself with fewer results to sift through.

How to customize the URL of your LinkedIn profile

How to customize the URL of your LinkedIn profile

Before customizing the URL of your LinkedIn profile, it’s best to ensure that all vital information is posted since it serves as your online resume. Think of the name that you wish to use in your URL. It must be composed of 3 to 30 numbers or letters. Special characters and spaces are not accepted.

    1. Log in to your LinkedIn account.
    2. Hover your mouse on “Profile”, which can be found on the top part of the screen, then click “edit profile”. (See Image Below)
    3. LinkedIn URL Settings

    4. Look below your photo and you’ll see your profile’s URL. Click the “edit” link next to it. (See Image Above)
    5. Under “Your public profile URL” on the lower right side of the window, click the “customize your public profile URL” link. (See Image Below)
    6. LinkedIn URL Settings

    7. Enter your preferred URL name in the field. (See Image Below)
    8. LinkedIn URL Settings

    9. Click “Set Custom URL”.
    10. LinkedIn URL Settings

    That’s how you customize your LinkedIn URL. For instance, if you entered “ChaNarula”, your URL will be “http://www.linkedin.com/in/ChaNarula“. LinkedIn URL can only be customized up to three times within six months. If you’ve changed it three times in less than six months, you must wait for the said period to pass before you can change your URL again.

Clever ways to fix bad eating habits

How food impacts your energy

When you’re hungry, a hormone produced in the stomach called ghrelin, interacts with the neutrotransmitter NPY in the brain, signaling to you that your body’s energy levels are low and you need food:


source: YouTube

NPY lives in the hypothalamus, a part of your brain that controls your energy levels, memory, and emotion.

In the context of food, the hypothalamus is like a 24-hour bouncerlooking out for your energy, keeping constant tabs on when you need your next meal.

Once you eat, your food breaks down into glucose, which is like fuel for your brain. In order to maintain alertness, your brain functions best when there is a consistant amount of glucose in your blood.

Leigh Gibson, a researcher from Roehampton University in England, noted:

The brain works best with about 25 grams of glucose circulating in the blood stream – about the amount found in a banana.

You can get this short-term glucose fix from a Snickers bar or a t-bone steak, but the trick to keep your energy levels functioning at peak performance is knowing which foods help you maintain optimal glucose levels while at the same time making you feel full longer.

In 2012, researchers at the University of Sydney created the satiety index, a guide for choosing foods to eat based on how full you’ll feel after and whether or not you’ll experience an energy crash.

Here’s a visual chart of the guide, showing how different foods stack up in terms of how you can expect to feel after eating them:


source: Massive Health

This chart takes into account how quickly glucose from certain types of food get released in your bloodstream (also called a food’s glycemic index).

To maintain your energy levels, you want to eat food like beans, fish, and most types of vegetables because they release glucose slowly into your bloodstream.

Meanwhile, high-carbohydrate or high-sugar foods like white bread, potatoes, and candy bars cause a rapid rise in glucose levels followed by a crash in energy.

This crash happens because of a spike in the release of insulin, a hormone that tells your body to suck up as much glucose as possible; which leads to you feeling tired and unmotivated.

To make matters worse, when you eat more food that’s high in carbohydrates and sugar, you need to eat even more of them to feel full.

Our love affair with junk food

Food psychologists believe that energy rich foods (like those high in fat and sugar) were attractive to early humans and needed to be taken advantage of if they became available:


source: YouTube

As a result, these foods became more desirable in order to survive.

The problem is, recent research indicates that continual intake of food that’s high in fat or sugar, overrides your body’s ability to tell you when you’re full.

So the more unhealthy food you eat, the more you desire it.

Why you crave “crispy”

As if it weren’t already hard enough to stop eating food high in fat and sugar, certain foods we would describe as being “crispy,” like potato chips or french fries, are even more hard-wired to be attractive to you.

Millions of years ago, early primates ate a lot of insects and plants. If something our ancestors ate was crispy, it was a sign of freshness and meant that it was safe to eat.

When John Allen, a research scientist at the University of Southern California, looked at brain scans when the word “crispy” was said, he found that areas in the brain started lighting up in the same way as if the crispy food was actually being eaten.

This finding was noted by Celebrity chef Mario Batali in his book The Babbo Cookbook,

“The single word ‘crispy’ sells more food than a barrage of adjectives…”

So when a menu describes a type of food as being “crispy”, you begin to have the same experience as if you are actually eating the food because of an innate desire for the sound of a crunch.

Diets suck

The crash diet always fails. Why? Because you’re trying to break years of your own eating habits while going against human evolution all in one swoop.

When researchers looked at the results across 31 studies on eating habits, they found that dieting doesn’t work in the long run. Within five years, about two-thirds of dieters gain the weight back (and sometimes more).

If you regularly skip a meal as part of a diet, you’ll be hungry and your brain makes even worse food choices when you haven’t eaten in a while.

That’s exactly what a team of researchers found when they asked people to fast overnight on two different days.

The first day, the participants were fed breakfast before looking at photos of high-calorie food.

The second day, they were not given breakfast and then had to look at the same photos.

The results of the study found that participants who were shown photos of high-calorie food without eating breakfast, showed more activation in areas of their brains that indicate desire, suggesting that fasting or dieting makes it harder to resist high-calorie food.

Solving the food-life balance

Whether you’re starting a new career or a family (or one of the other thousand moments that will inevitably occur in your life), making what you eat a priority is the single biggest change you could make to improve how you feel, the work you do, and how you treat the people around you.

I founded a company a year ago and getting my eating habits right has been a continuous experiment. It’s a work in progress but here’s what I do to sustain a healthy eating lifestyle.

1. Cut sugar and starch (gradually)

Eating too much high-sugar and high-carbohydrate food makes you feel like crap.

The challenging part about trying to cut these foods out of your eating schedule is you realize that pretty much everything sold at the grocery store or made in a restaurant has either a type of sugar or starch in it.

Here’s a guide that I use when buying food:


source: paleohacks.com

Cutting the majority of sugar and starch out of your diet is a dramatic change so you need to treat it like building a habit.

When you’re creating a new habit, it’s best to start small so you don’t become overwhelmed and feel guilty if you slip up.

Willpower is like a muscle, and the growth of it takes time.

When it comes to restructuring how you eat, the best thing to do is eat no high sugar or high starch foods for 4 days a week.

After two weeks, move to 5 days a week. Repeat this cycle once more so you’re at 6 days a week of healthy eating.

2. Removing guilt with a Cheat Day

I don’t want to go through life not being able to enjoy a Tim Horton’s cheese croissant once in a while (Yes, I’m an American-Canadian).

Because we are modern humans and have been living with tempation from fast food restaurants and vending machines our whole lives, letting yourself go one or two days a week won’t kill you.

On your Cheat Day, you can eat whatever you want, but stop when you feel full, rather than stuffed (don’t try to eat enough junk to make up for a week or you’ll feel awful for days).

If you can workout on your Cheat Day, even better. My Cheat Day foods are usually ones that have a high glycemic index (things like potatoes, french fries, and ice cream) which help in recovery from exercise.

3. Use a mint to master portion control

One of my biggest challenges is eating just enough to the point that I get full.

I have the tendency to overeat so one way I fight this is by having a mint or chewing gum once I feel full after a meal.

Because of mint’s strong scent, it naturally suppresses your appetite.

That’s exactly what psychologists at the University of West Virginia found when they gave people mints to sniff throughout the day.

The results of the study showed that people who inhaled mint, ate 3,000 fewer calories over the week.

Your sense of smell is a big part of your experience of food, so by controlling your scent you can somewhat control your appetite.

4. Replacing “crispy”

I have a mild addiction to chips. So one thing I’ve done that has worked well is replacing crispy chips with a healthier alternative that is also crispy – like a cucumber or bell pepper.

Granted, a cucumber may not offer the same explosion of flavor as chips, but after I’ve eaten it, I feel better and more full, curbing my desire to want more food.

5. Never skip breakfast

To regulate glucose levels, you should eat within 30 minutes of waking up. Research also shows that skipping breakfast may increase how much food you end up eating at lunch.

For breakfast, I’ll aim for something high in protein like an egg white omelet or oatmeal with blueberries, which keeps me feeling alert and full for hours.

What you eat reflects in everything you do. Eating well helps you be more creative, productive, and enjoyable to be around.

The hard part with eating right is there is no plan that is perfect for everyone. There’s no simple prescription. The only way to find what works for you is to experiment with what you eat and find something you can sustain that makes you feel alive.

SOURCE

Google Offers Phone Notifications for Suspicious Activity, Here’s How to Enable Them

Google Phone Notification

If a hacker gets access to your Gmail account, the results could be disastrous. Google has long notified users via email if their account passwords have been changed or there’s a suspicious login attempt, but now you can also set up phone alerts.

You’ll find this recently added feature under your Accounts > Security page. To get the text message alerts, add your mobile phone number and just check the two notification boxes. You’ll get a one-time verification code on your phone to finish setting this up.

The added phone alert may be more immediate for you, especially if you’re not always accessing your email. If you get a notification about sign in attempts or password changes you didn’t make, the notification email and text message will tell you what to do next to secure your account.

Note that this feature doesn’t appear to be available for Google Apps users yet.

Finally, above all else, make sure you have the most important security setting enabled for your account: two-factor authentication.

Google Mirror – I’m elgooG

Google Mirror - I'm elgooG

elgooG.im, A rotated version of Google.com, kind of google tricks. Provides you with a reversed Google site, known as Google backwards.

Also comes with a lot of cool features like Underwater SearchHigh Gravity SearchTerminal SearchSearch with Pacman & Search with Guitar