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Timwi comments on How to Beat Procrastination - Less Wrong

156 Post author: lukeprog 05 February 2011 06:49PM

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Comment author: Timwi 07 February 2011 01:15:25AM 24 points [-]

One obvious way to inject more value into a task is to reward yourself for completing it.

Research shows that this doesn’t work for most people (but maybe it does for you). The reason seems to be that most people normally go and get what they want if they can. In order to turn something that you can always have into a reward, you would have to suppress this. Instead of rewarding yourself, you end up punishing yourself.

To use your example, you are not bribing yourself with Pinkberry frozen yogurt at all; you know that you can have your Pinkberry frozen yogurt whenever you want. You are actually denying yourself the Pinkberry frozen yogurt until you’ve finished the task. After the completion of the task you just restore normality. Every time your subconscious asks you, “I want Pinkberry frozen yogurt, why am I doing this to myself?”, your conscious comes back saying “Because I need to motivate myself to do this task I hate.” You begin to associate the task with Pinkberry-frozen-yoghurt deprivation and you start hating the task even more. Motivation goes down.

Furthermore, there’s the side-effect of having Pinkberry frozen yogurt at a time when you would normally not actually want it. You only have it in order to “reward” yourself for that task. Having Pinkberry frozen yogurt now itself becomes a task! You run the risk of compromising your love for Pinkberry frozen yogurt by forcing it instead of letting it happen naturally. Before you know it, Pinkberry frozen yogurt is no longer a reward. As soon as you realise this, you stop having it after the task, then you stop having it altogether because you associate it with the task you hate, and then you hate the task even more for destroying your fondness for Pinkberry frozen yogurt. Motivation goes down.

The only times this “self-imposed reward” system works on me is when the reward is intrinsically unavailable until the task is completed. For example, you could reward yourself for doing the shopping by buying Pinkberry frozen yogurt. You can’t have it until you bought it. But for other tasks (like writing an essay), that doesn’t work.

Comment author: lukeprog 08 February 2011 02:48:05AM 1 point [-]

Concerning rewards, see Procrastinus' comment here.