Why People Slack Off | Bleader

Friday, June 24, 2011

Why People Slack Off

Posted By on 06.24.11 at 03:25 PM

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  • Photo by Ekkebus via Flickr/Creative Commons Attribution 2.0
University of Chicago brain scientists Minjung Koo and Ayelet Fischbach have come up with a plausible reason why you have trouble getting things done, if you have trouble getting things done. It's because you focus too much on what you've done already ("to-date thinking"), and not enough on what what is left to do ("to-go thinking"). To succeed in life and achieve your dreams you have to cut out all the to-date thinking, STAT:

Koo and Fishbach's studies consistently show that when we are pursuing a goal and consider how far we've already come, we feel a premature sense of accomplishment and begin to slack off. For instance, in one study, college students studying for an exam in an important course were significantly more motivated to study after being told that they had 52% of the material left to cover, compared to being told that they had already completed 48%.

If you do the to-go thinking thing, then you stay motivated—supposedly. What happens if you're the type of person who becomes overwhelmed and discouraged by how much is left to do, and quit? The article where I learned about Koo and Fischbach's research doesn't say what happens to this kind of person, and therefore seems ... unfinished.

For some reason all this to-date and to-go thinking talk made me think about cross-stitched wall hangings that have hokey little self-help sayings on them. My modified, cross-stitched version of this article would go something like, "Take your goals out of that flimsy paper to-go thinking cup and put them in the porcelain mug called THE FUTURE." A little coffee cup would rest in the lower-right corner. This kind of handcrafted item would make a nice gift for a friend who fails all the time.

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