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Time Discounting_Interesting

via a couple of times a week or so email from Productivity501

There is a psychological phenomenon known as time discounting. Basically, it means that a desired result in the future is perceived as less valuable than one in the present. For example, 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 $100 payment in 12 months is just as attractive as $68 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.

Time discounting applies to areas other than money as well. In particular it effects the way we perceive our efforts in the area of time management and organization. For example, spending half a day organizing your work space will give you benefits in the future, but it has a present cost. Because of time discounting, you are likely to underestimate the amount of benefit being organized will give you in the future. Another task that is 31% less beneficial, but with immediate results will likely appear to be more attractive.

Time discounting explains some of the reasons we procrastinate. Working on something that isn’t due for 2 weeks often has a lower perceived benefit than doing something much less important right now. This explains why it is sometimes easier to spend an evening watching television instead of preparing for a presentation that is coming up in a few weeks.
Just being aware of time discounting can be a big benefit. If you realize that you are likely to underestimate the value of future gains, you can compensate in your planning. Another possibility is to assign a “value” metric to each of your tasks. If you can do this ranking from a third person perspective and think about the value of the task and not when it needs to occur, it will give you better insight into its actual benefit.

Individual Differences in the Use of Time Management Mechanics and in Time Discounting” in Individual Differences Research, Vol. 4 No. 3, pp. 194-207



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 27th, 2011 06:26 pm (UTC)
Very interesting! I, myself, tend to be a procrastinator. I do not particularly like being that way, as most of the time, it's stressful to do things at the last minute. But it's way too easy for me to tell myself, "I'm tired and stressed from my day. I just want to sit here and veg in front of the TV, and fuck everything else until tomorrow!" LOL.

I know a lot of people, though, who are procrastinators that claim to thrive on working under pressure. I had friends in high school who could study for a test or write a term paper the night before, and ace it.
May. 29th, 2011 12:39 am (UTC)
Your friends in high school may have thrived under pressure, I had friends like that and I kind of hated them, but I would think that their strategy would only work for individual short term projects. As you know from your house hunting, you need a plan and you need to work it steadily. For me, doing mission101 has been an incredible teaching experience about learning to move beyond procrastination.
May. 28th, 2011 04:08 am (UTC)
The $100/$68 dollar choice is interesting-I would probably take the 68 now only because I may not be alive in 12 months which is usually how I make all my decisions. Spend now, take now, because tomorrow may never come. Hmm.
May. 29th, 2011 12:11 am (UTC)
I was telling my daughter about this and we thought the same thing for the same reason. Problem is, most likely you and Lauren and me will still be alive in a year. We're thinking we're probably going to think a little more long term whenever we can.

Love your icon
Jun. 27th, 2011 06:08 am (UTC)
I never remember which icon I use when so had to come here to look. I like this one too. :)
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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