Procrastination, as we all know, is a productivity killer. I have a list of jobs (sometimes written down, and sometimes in my head) I need to do on a day to day basis. Some jobs – particularly ones I am worried about, or where a poor outcome has dire consequences- seem to sit on that list for a long time. This often makes them more difficult when I finally get to them! Why do we do this to ourselves? What is the psychology which underpins it, and how can we avoid getting bogged down in procrastination?
This post has a bit less psychology and a bit more opinion on Brexit and our society.
I voted to stay, and we lost. That is one side effect of democracy. In the aftermath of the Brexit vote, half the population of the UK is surprised. A good chunk of that half is also very angry (I was this morning for sure). Social media today is full of people berating Leave voters for being ‘stupid’, ‘selfish’ or ‘racist’. People need to blow off steam, but they also need to step back and consider what comes next, and who we want to be as a nation.
Many commentators have (and I am sure will continue to) split the in and out voters along broad lines – haves and have nots, urban vs. rural and young versus old. This is simplistic stereotyping at its very worst. I bet you within a mile of me I can find a young urbinate who voted leave and an old farmer who voted stay. I can also find bright and not-so-bright people in both camps, and those with strong (and absent) moral compasses too. We know from social psychology categorising people in this way reduces them to a few basic attributes and removed individual difference. It also fosters negative interactions between groups which increases the likelihood of conflict and makes agreement harder. Be under no illusion we need to avoid this.
Sometimes, I wonder who is driving, me or the autopilot!
This last week or two have been a bit busy. As a result, I suspect I have been leaning a bit too much on my autopilot. On top of the day to day stuff, all sorts has been going on – I have had a big grant application due in, a new member of staff starting and end of teaching session marking, checking, and paperwork are all being done. (I love teaching, but I hate paperwork). I’m also getting ready to visit another university to comment on their courses and preparing to help evaluate one our own institution is launching. Finally, one of my PhD student this week defended their thesis – basically explaining to an independent judge why they should be given a doctorate. Alongside this me, my partner, baby Annabelle and big sister Katherine all went camping for the first time this weekend (having a great time, but a busy, not-much-sleep one!). This is all good stuff, but it means sometimes I forgot to be conscious of what I was doing. Whats the psychology behind this, and can we do anything about it?
I am thrilled to say that my new book, Psychology Squared: 100 Concepts in Psychology You Should Know is now out, published by Apple Press and available in physical form via Amazon and other channels. Written by myself and Dr. Christopher Sterling, this volume outlines 100 interesting ideas and concepts in psychology, each accompanied by a beautiful illustration or fantastically informative diagram. I’m really proud of what we have achieved, and writing it was really the inspiration for the blog. You can read more about it by visiting my little bookstore here.
In the three years since our daughters were born I think I have sung more notes than in the previous couple of decades. We sing in the car, at breakfast , to settle down for bed, at playgroups and sometimes just for no reason at all. And you know what? I am great at it. In my head. Pre-vocalisation I am in tune and often there is an orchestral accompaniment. Then it comes out my mouth and it sounds somewhat flat (or sharp) and a tad toneless. None-the-less I enjoy it – in particular I enjoy singing quietly to (or, I admit sometimes, at) my daughters in the wee hours when it is just us.
It turns out singing is good for you. Personally, I find it has a absorbing quality (much like gardening!) which de-stresses to the extent it makes you mindful of the present without worrying about everything else. If you really belt out a tune, the cardio effects can raise endorphin levels much like exercises such as running or swimming. I did consider trying this when singing to my daughter last night, but it was suggested to me that she only has small ears, I can probably project quite loudly, and the two may lead to less than positive parenting.
If you like what you have read on the blog, you may be interested to know my first ‘PocketBook’ ebook (on how to reduce cognitive biases and improve decision making) is available to borrow from the Kindle Unlimited Library and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library – search for Daniel Frings! (you can also find out more about this PocketBook in the Bookshop, including how to get hold of it if you are not a ‘Kindler’)
Interesting couple of blog entries by Scott Adams (he of Dilbert creator fame) this last couple of weeks. The first why is on why Trump may not be so bad a risk as president as he first seems. It made me chuckle at times, but I don’t buy it – arguing ‘Trump doesn’t mean it most of the time’ just doesn’t cut it for me (nor does the portrayal of Clinton as a drug addled alcoholic seem entirely fair!). But an interesting read none-the-less… What did get me thinking about this article was the notion that you can’t evaluate how well leaders (or decisions) have performed due to the fact you never get to see how the alternatives would have played out. Yet, we are often certain we are pretty good at it!
The second is a humorous take on why you should publicly endorse Clinton – presumably in all her wine-drug-addled glory. Basically, his reasoning is if you that if you don’t, half the US populace (and possibly a greater proportion of the world’s) will want to assassinate you if Trump wins. Not sure that is the best reasoning either, but there you go!
With the Brexit referendum looming I have been thinking a lot about how I will vote. Both camps – for exiting and remaining, can make economic arguments for their position. Both camps can make arguments about the implications for democracy and for the UK as a global power. But what does social psychology say about the Brexit question?
Implementation intentions and behavioural follow-through
Like many people (I suspect!) I am sometimes not so good at following though on my goals. Here are a bunch of things which this week I fully intended to do, but failed epically to achieve. Note this is the abridged version – the full list runs to 3 volumes.
Buy light bulbs for the kitchen
Call an old friend I ran into on the train last week (Hello J!)
Write down when my annual leave is on our kitchen calendar
Call a work colleague to discuss a new project
Write up some work related expense forms
For many of these things I actively thought about doing them several times a day (as well as whilst cooking crazily calorie laden food in a near pitch-black kitchen).I’m not alone here – these sort of goals only seem to account for around 30% of the variance in our behaviour. Now, I am a reasonably well motivated guy, so why the apparent multiple lack of follow through? Part of the is probably due to the way I formulate my intentions.
I am really touched to say my blog has been nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award by ThugsandRuffians over at the AGreatBigBeautiful blog. A massive thank you for this – it’s a tremendous motivator 🙂 🙂 :-). Do check out AGBB – it’s a super positive, inspiring, honest and at times funny blog about parenting, everyday magic moments and life. I love it. Go and check it out now (then come back and read on).
Back? Ok. There are some strings attached to this award.