Sunday, 8 May 2011


When reading self-help books, I'm biased towards those of which are based upon psychological/behavioural economics research or philosophical reasoning. I am inclined to believe more in something, only if they have been scientifically tested and rigorously debated, rather than just a collection of "wise" words & advices from the so called "famous motivators".

Procrastination is a massive problem that many people have, me not excluded. In game theory, a major branch of mathematical economics, there is something that we call the "principal-agent" problem. This problem comes from the existence of asymmetric information, which means one person has more information than the other.

Modelling procrastination problem in this fashion, really does make sense, doesn't it? My today self wants to delay revising, and indulge more in fun things like watching movies, having fun with friends and facebooking. Now, my future self will inevitably have vastly different preferences, compared to my today self. It would've want my today self to focus more on revision, and ignore everything else for the moment.

Now, how do I approach this problem and induce my today self to obey the command of my future self?

According to the game theoretical approach, a person will only oblige to do something, only if it is in his interests to do so. In other words, he is better of doing it, rather than doing something else. How do I increase the "attractiveness" of doing something that my today self loathes?

I find it helpful to:
1. Imagine that you're in a revision class for one full hour. So the "teacher" is in front of you, and you can't be possibly playing with your phone or whatever.
2. Break every hour for 10 minutes to do whatever that you want.
3. Revise one subject for one hour, and do a rotation of all subjects. Eg. if for example, you have 6 subjects, then after 6  hours you'll be back to the first subject again.
4. Limit anything else not worth doing at the moment, only within that 10 minutes.

I find revising this way to be more bearable and less boring. The 10 minutes break is essential as it helps satisfying the lust for any immediate gratification (facebook, twitter, etc). Sometimes, denying gratification for too long makes us lose focus in doing our job. 

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