It’s so easy to put off tasks that aren’t immediately pressing and fritter away the present on tasks that aren’t as important. Avoid time discounting by assigning values to your tasks independent of the calendar.
Photo by maroinaire.
Time discounting is the phenomenon where by people assign more value to the present and the immediacy of the “now” than they do to the future even if the future holds more value. At Productivity501 they highlight an example of this:
if you allow people to choose from being paid an amount in one year as opposed to being paid a smaller amount now, they will settle for a much smaller payment right now than they will in the future. There has been some research done on this and scientists found that a $US100 payment in 12 months is just as attractive as $US68 right now for the average person. This means that on average, people will discount the value of a gain made in one year by 32% over how they would value the gain made immediately.
How does this apply to productivity? People just as easily apply the same behaviours to time management and goals. When faced with a task, let’s say a report due at work in 4 weeks that will take some decent preparation, many people will look at that span of 4 weeks and say “I have lots of time — I can do something else today” because they assign a higher value to say their leisure time in the present.
Waiting until the last minute to get the report done however will most likely yield a lower quality report, not be a true reflection of your ability or your potential, and cause undue stress. The immediacy of the leisure time or other task that distracts from the bigger project robs the bigger project of quality.
How can you combat the effects of time discounting? By evaluating your tasks, goals, and potential outcomes independent of their due dates and dependent on their total value to your life you can more easily see which tasks you should be focusing on. Tasks which seems to have a high payoff in the immediate present often contribute very little to future goals.
Have your own technique for evaluating goals across long spans of time? Familiar with the side effects of time discounting first hand? Let’s hear about it in the comments.
Time Discounting [Productivity501]