Behavioral Economics is the study of emotions on economic decisions. It arose because, despite what many of us would believe, we humans don’t always act in our best efforts. In fact, it seems like our greatest shared pastime is indulging in acts which will destroy us, damage us, or at the least – waste our precious resources.
Here are 10 things I do every day that I shouldn’t – and my efforts to change them.
1. Sit in front of the TV too long in the morning.
On workdays, I have a habit of waking up, brewing coffee, making breakfast and sitting in front of the TV while eating breakfast. And then I sit there some more. And then some more. Eventually all hope of arriving at work early escapes.
I am definitely not a morning person. Acknowledging this, it’s best that I don’t try to attempt too much. I’ve skipped too many o’dark early workouts to think differently of my sleepy willpower. I’ll start small. Eating at a table, not on the couch is a good start. Limiting my morning intake to TiVo’ed programs should provide a good time box. After that show is over, I should be moving on.
2. Listen to radio on the morning commute
What’s wrong with rocking out on the way into the office? Well, not much, really. Except for the fact that my commute is really my only set-aside alone time. I’m in a car by necessity – no bus or train where I live. I usually
I just started a “no radio in the car” experiment. My goal is to just sit and enjoy the silence. No phone calls, no news. Just silence to hear myself think.
While there was an initial period of withdrawal, I’m feeling considerably less-stressed through out the entire day.
3. Check email too often through out the day.
Email is my greatest procrastination tool. It has all the feel of something productive … but comes with none of the benefits.
This one’s simple; take a sticky note, write a goal, pursue that goal, then relax by checking email.
4. Consume data and information that I’ll never use.
Books, Google reader, web surfing, travel programs etc. I am an information junkie. I use information as entertainment. It’s the sweetest of all procrastination because it has the look and feel and taste of productivity. But all of that studying. All of that preparation. Why not spend a little bit more time “doing” than preparing?
Remember, I’m not talking about rocket science here. More like, why not write a blog post instead of reading 100 articles on how to write the perfect article?
I think the cure for this is to “Grip it and Rip it.” Or, just do more. I’ll never stamp out my curiosity about the world around me, but I can do a better job focusing my efforts.
5. Make lists of things to do.
I have more sheets of paper with things to do them littered around my desk, computer, and living areas than anything else. Again, this has all the hallmarks of great procrastination; it looks like work, smells like work, takes up time … but again achieves no real benefits.
Choose one thing, do it, then repeat.
6. Start projects without defining an end state.
One of my best traits is the willingness to take on projects.
One of my worst traits is the willingness to take on projects.
Forgive me for stealing a page out of the 7 Habits book, but I should ‘Begin with the end in mind.’ An investment, of any kind, be it cash, time, effort, etc should have a goal line, a time limit, and an exit strategy. Without it, I give myself a license to tread water.
7. Write rough drafts.
I have published some 1000 articles on the web. I have about another 1000 sitting in draft form in various places. They’re half-formed, pseudo outlines of things I should write. And they are cluttering up the place.
Just publish, baby. Seriously, it’s not like I’m penning the Great Works here. Those rough drafts are just another incarnation of checklists and are similarly insidious. Am I really so worried I’ll never have a great idea again? If it was such a great idea it would scream out ‘write me!’ And then the words would flow and the article would be posted.
None of these changes are huge alone. But together they could really amount to something. I bet they will.
This exercise was a stream-of-consciousness post done as an experiment to avoid the above. It didn’t turn out too badly and only hurt just a little. What are some of your giant time-wastes? What are all those minutes shaved off for this or wasted away on that? What would you be after a year of that time and energy better applied?