At last month's Aspen Ideas Festival, Harvard University professor David Laibson shared with The Huffington Post his findings on how we can regain self-control and master procrastination.
His 2011 TED Talk on the failure of self-control explored why we are tempted to put hard work off for our future selves. "We all have this robust gap between what we intend to do and what we actually do," Laibson said in the interview. He believes that gap comes from an inherent focus on the present and a desire to delay the weight of our responsibilities.
However, procrastination can be conquered. Laibson recommends three practices that can help break the "I'll do it tomorrow" cycle.
1. Tie your own hands. "Creating some kind of commitment, some kind of binding promise.. that you can't get out of that leads you to the action that you want," he said. "It's up to us to create those structures that basically bind us, that tie us to the mast, so that we don't have the luxury to postpone what we know we should do."
2. Make the process pleasant. Rather than rewarding ourselves only once a task is finished, Laibson recommends finding ways to make the task itself a little less painful. Incentive towards the end of a process is less vital than incentive during it.
3. Be realistic. Don't say you'll do things tomorrow that you know for certain you can't expect of your future self. Set attainable goals.
When asked about his thoughts on HuffPost's Third Metric initiative, Laibson said that, as an academic, his definition of success has less to do with his salary and much more to do with "the life of the ideas he creates."
"We don't care about how [the ideas] translate or don't translate into something monetary.. We care about whether people use those ideas, adopt those ideas, follow them, develop them, extend them, test them, use them in their own setting," he said. "It's those ideas, and your students and your colleagues and your collaborations that really animate us."