Akrasia: How to Overcome Procrastination

Akrasia: How to Overcome Procrastination



What’s the most creative excuse you’ve used for your procrastination? There is the usual: Facebook, surfing the net, checking your phone. Successful people do better because they put the important things, like studying, first and avoid the unimportant, like watching that 10,000th cat video.


Socrates called this problem akrasia, which is when someone acts against their better judgment. In the Bible, some English translations use the word self-indulgent. Regardless of the translation, the idea is that you know what is best for you and instead you do something else. For an easy-to-read article on why we procrastinate, read this article 0n procrastination.

100 Mile Hike

Last year I decided that I wanted to go on a two-week hike with the Boy Scouts at the Philmont Camp in New Mexico. But I had a problem: I needed to lose 75 pounds to be eligible to go. Over the course of 18 months, I experienced akrasia numerous times by indulging in several pizza buffets or eating ice cream. Each time I deviated, I knew I was hurting my chances to go on the hike.

I am glad to report I reached my goal and completed the entire two-week, 100 mile hike! To see how tan I got on this hike, and for some lessons I learned that apply to law school, check out my video on tips from hiking you can use in law school.

Tip #1

You need a commitment reminder system. I began doing this years ago by using a day planner. If you haven’t used one, this is a paper calendaring system where you place your activities into a schedule. Today you can  do this with any calendar app, or if you want something a little bit different there is an app called BeeMinder. This app allows you to track any goal that can be measured by numbers. For example, you may want to spend 60 minutes a day studying for Constitutional Law. BeeMinder will send you reminders, where you can input your commitment into the app.credit card use to stop procrastination But here’s the twist: the first time you don’t meet your goal, BeeMinder will ask you for a credit card. And if you get off track a second time, BeeMinder will charge you five dollars. By having a disincentive to lose five dollars, you are more likely to keep your commitment.

Tip #2

A second approach is for you to use short-term rewards to help you defeat akrasia. The part of teaching that I hate is grading exams. To force myself to grade, I place all the exams in stacks of five. When I grade five, I then have permission to go do something else, like get some coffee or talk to a colleague. Think about short-term rewards that will work for you. Maybe that means Facebook for five minutes or eating a chocolate kiss. Keep in mind that these have to be short-term rewards rather than long-term rewards. If you know that that 5 minute Facebook break will turn into a 60 minute Facebook break, then you should think about doing something else like going for a short walk. Exercise is a great way to get your blood flowing, which in turn helps you focus and retain information better. Watch this video on how the brain benefits from exercise if you want to learn more.

For more ideas, here are 10 more tips for overcoming procrastination. One good book you may want to read is Procrastination: Why You Do It and What to Do About it Now by Da Capo. If you need help with your procrastination, reach out to our tutors and let us help you overcome this bad habit.

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