how to fight the akrasia effect and how to follow through


Your success rate is highly reliant on your preparation.

Remember this. I’ll get back to this a bit later.

The human mind is a curious thing. Most simply put, it consists of two main areas: one associated with emotions and another with abstract reasoning. And you guessed it, it’s the emotional part that prefers immediate rewards over future rewards. So when presented with a choice, it will typically choose the option that leads to instant gratification.

Following this explanation, it’s no surprise that when we need to choose between watching an episode of our favorite TV show versus dedicating several hours to working on a project, we’d rather watch the episode (or ten).

But in that same situation, the logical side of our brain tries to reason with the emotional side and tell us that focusing on work is a smarter and better choice in the long run and that watching an episode is only a waste of time.

So which side do you think will prevail? Well, it depends on the situation.

But let’s get back to our topic – akrasia.

The Akrasia Effect: What it is?

Have you heard about akrasia? No? But I bet you’ve heard about procrastination. :)

Well, it’s pretty much the same thing.

Procrastination is such an old problem that the ancient Greek philosophers created a word to describe the behavior. They named it akrasia. Much like procrastination, akrasia is a state of consciously making a ‘bad’ choice, when you know the other option is the better and smarter one for you. You can even say that akrasia is the lack of self-control and the reason behind your inability to follow through on what you set out to do.

Can you Fight Akrasia?

Let’s get back to the introductory paragraph.

When you set a goal and make a plan to achieve it, you are making a decision where your future self will receive some gratification. You make a choice about the future, and decide what steps you need to take now to get there. Sure, at that moment, your logical side dominates, and it’s easy to see the value in taking actions that yield long-term benefits. But, when you are actually faced with taking steps towards the goal you previously set, the brain is no longer focused on the future, but on your present self. Thus, it prefers to get the dopamine flowing. Now.

And the next thing you know, the motivation to work hard on your goals you had the night before seems to have evaporated with the morning dew.

how to fight the akrasia effect and how to follow through

Learn How to Follow Through

Even though it seems like your brain is working against you, there is a way to train yourself to be patient and disciplined, and enjoy delayed gratification.

The process explained below will help you prepare for success and resist the pull of instant gratification. And if not always, at least most of the time, bridge the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future.

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1. Decide What you Want. And Be Honest About it

Say, you want to get a promotion. But why do you want it? Is it because you want recognition of your work? Or are you only looking for a higher salary? Getting a promotion means working harder and taking on bigger responsibilities.

Before you set a goal, be honest about what you really want. Then, you can understand the time and effort required to reach it. Just make sure you are clear about the sacrifices you might need to make. And that you don’t set yourself up for failure by creating demands that are not in conflict with other priorities.

2. Prepare Thoroughly

If you really want to follow through on your plan, you can’t rely solely on your will. You need to prep and plan. And that means understanding all the steps you need to take to reach your goal. And then, creating a “commitment device”. A commitment device is a choice you make now that will help you control your actions in the future.

You can even devise a system of all goal-related tasks, and gather all the tools and even people that you’ll need to help you get things done. Even though willpower can be a strong driver, it’s not reliable. That why it’s important to have a meticulous plan of action to help you complete your goal.

3. Get in The Habit of Getting Started

Another important step, sometimes maybe even more important than planning is getting started. But, if you consider the fact that usually, the guilt and frustration we feel when procrastinating is worse than the pain of doing the work, why do we continue to slack off?

Well, because starting is hard. Remind yourself of the end-goal when you make excuses to procrastinate. If the first step seems too big, break it down into a series of smaller ones that will make it easier for you to start. Then, focus on turning that sequence into a ritual until it becomes a habit. Only then, you can start seeing the results of your new habit.

4. Set Dates and Deadlines

If you find it difficult to get started, no matter how much you simplify the process, add additional measures to reinforce your commitment, like scheduling particular actions or behaviors and setting deadlines for your planned tasks.

This way you apply implementation intentions, which increases your likelihood to perform a task by 2x to 3x. Moreover, deadlines help you stay even more accountable because if you delay completing one task than you’ll delay reaching your goal. And if that doesn’t motivate you to stay on track, I don’t know what will. ?

how to fight the akrasia effect and how to follow through

Make Your Intentions Visual

When things get tough it’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. And choose to procrastinate instead of work. So the best way to make a plan and actually bring it to an end is to use a visual system that will showcase the whole process and progress as you complete each step.

That’s why Kanban can be our biggest ally in the fight against Akrasia (and procrastination). Kanban has all the tools necessary to visualize the whole plan, and schedule and complete tasks. And in doing so, it provides us with a system that allows us to be flexible about your methods, but keeps us on track and focused on our goals.

But Kanban is not going to force you to do anything. Kanban can only help you enforce the steps we explained above, so you can end (or at the very least minimize) procrastination.

Did this blog inspire you?

Once you start visualizing your work in Kanban Zone, you will be surprised how much faster it gets done!

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About the Author: Ivana Sarandeska

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Ivana Sarandeska is a digital marketer, creative writer and master procrastinator. An Agile enthusiast and a firm believer that thorough planning is key to good execution and even better improvisation. She has a soft spot for technology, so most of her full-time jobs were in IT companies where she was introduced to Agile and Scrum. After she got her Scrum Basics certification she started actively using these methodologies and their main principles. Learning how to organize her time and tasks better has motivated her to dive deeper into these methodologies. Now, she is an avid advocate of Agile and Scrum and happily shares her knowledge and experience to fellow procrastinators.