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Optimal Time-Inconsistent Beliefs: Misplanning, Procrastination, and Commitment [pdf] (princeton.edu)
90 points by jonbaer 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments

", people tend to postpone work because they hold overoptimistic beliefs about the ease of the task" - this is certainly not the case for me when I procrastinate. Usually, I procrastinate when mentally exhausted, not seeing a clear picture of how to achieve the end goal, not being extrinsically motivated about the end result, depression. And most of the time it is a combination of these, not just one. In fact, easily completable tasks are something I fall back onto during procrastination (that's how I can keep my kitchen sink clean)

To be fair, they're talking about Kahneman's '79 research and then talking about how they build on top of that. I guess yours maybe could be modeled as the inverse planning fallacy - you hold over-pessimistic beliefs about the ease of the task. This happens to me too: e.g. when I don't call the bank to do something because I think I'm going to be on the phone for forever, and when I finally get around to doing it it really only takes 5. So perhaps the model could accommodate that, but I'll admit to having skimmed a bit and closed the page. I agree with your sentiment though!

The most annoying thing about exponential discounting is that even when you know you're doing it, and you can see what's happening, it's still really hard to fight it.

And you're right, it works both ways - I think the primary driving factor for me when I procrastinate is that an annoying thing feels like it'll be much more annoying to do now than it will in an hour or a week, so I put it off. Which is why I'm writing this post right now, instead of finishing an email, instead of doing another email, instead of bringing my accounts up to date, instead of doing my taxes...

(This also works with things like long term social planning - my wife's forever signing us up for things weeks in advance, and if asked if I want to go to a party in six weeks' time I'll usually say 'sure, sounds fun' even though if you asked me if I wanted to go to the exact same party tomorrow I'd say 'not really'. Then I end up cursing myself for agreeing to all these engagements.)

For me working on my mood / starting to meditate and learning to say no helped.

I don't know. Sometimes things are more painless than expected, but there are also times where things get more complicated than you'd ever anticipate. Anecdotally, I recently replaced my Windows 10 system SSD, but between a faulty USB drive, Windows 10 fast boot not taking kindly to having partitions changed underneath it, and missing the BIOS at an inopportune moment, the process (best-case estimate of "10 minutes to clone the disk") took over 5 hours.

Can you post a citation to "Kahneman's '79 research"? I really want to read that stuff since it sounds useful for me.

From the linked paper: Kahneman, D, and A Tversky. 1979. “Intuitive prediction: Biases and corrective procedures.” TIMS Studies in Management Science 12, 313–27.

You can also read the book "Thinking, fast and slow"

Okay how many saw Mansplaining?

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