Akrasia

Description to come later



A useful insight from behavioural economics is that coordinating between my past self, my current self, my near future self and my far future self is a difficult coopereration game and it might be useful to think time management as a mechanism design problem where all the players are me.

Akrasia is the beeminder term:

Akrasia (ancient Greek ἀκρασία, “lacking command over oneself”) is the state of acting against one’s better judgment, not doing what one genuinely wants to do. It encompasses procrastination, lack of self-control, lack of follow-through, and any kind of addictive behavior.

That is the conceptual framing.

Role playing time management

Experiment: Start by being aware of your time discounting. (Choose the version of yourself with the most propitious perspective to make decisions on behalf of the slacker pre-coffee version.) Is this role-playing sufficient to improve your time management?

Discounting

Peter Clark calls this the “Intrapersonal Collective Action Problem”, which I like because it emphasises that our preferences might be inconsistent across timescales, or even inside ourselves. A complementary concept: “precrastination”.

Tim Harford on hyperbolic discounting:

…what to do about the hyperbolic discounting problem? I have two suggestions. The first helps bring a long-term perspective to the daily to-do list. Don’t draw up your list of tasks first thing in the morning — do it the previous evening, when you will have a slightly more distant perspective. When you do so, think about the two or three tasks you would feel most satisfied to have ticked off. Put those at the top of the list and make them your priority.

The second suggestion flips the telescope around and brings today’s perspective to tomorrow’s commitments. When being invited to do things months in advance, the diary usually looks pretty clear and it’s tempting to say “yes”. But whenever a new invitation arrives, ask yourself not, “should I accept the invitation in March?” but, “would I accept the invitation if it was for this week?”

Aside: I should look up why they always call this “hyperbolic discounting”. Sure, maybe it’s not exponential discounting, but has anyone empirically fit a good hyperbolic curve in particular to typical discounting behaviour, or do we use this term solely because it’s the most clever-sounding thing that’s got fewer syllables than “non-exponential”?

And when we say hyperbolic discounting, are we emphasising the far future tail, or the immediate inflation? Surely this is a non-parametric estimation problem?

The fun scale by Sketchplanations

Constraints

There’s A Time For Everyone, Scott Alexander argues thusly:

Marriage is a contract, no different in theory than an airline’s contract with an airplane manufacturer. The airline says they’ll buy X planes over the next ten years; the manufacturer says they’ll provide them at such-and-such a price. At the moment of signing, both parties think it’s a good idea. If they both knew it would stay a good idea, a contract would be unnecessary. But something might change. The air travel market might crash, and then the airline would regret having ordered more planes, and want to back out. The price of raw materials might go up, and then the manufacturer would regret offering such a low price, and want to back out themselves. But it would be unfair for the airline to make the airline manufacturer commit to a complicated course of action — building new factories, hiring lots of workers — and then change their mind, leaving them in a worse position than when they started. And it would be unfair for the manufacturer to make the airline commit to a complicated course of action — opening new routes, signing contracts with more airports — and then pull the rug out from under them and demand a higher price. So if you’re committing to a mutual enterprise where both sides are going to make big irreversible changes to satisfy the other, you want a contract where they both agree not to back out, and agree to suffer heavy social and financial sanctions if they do.

(Eliezer Yudkowsky sometimes describes this as ‘changing yourself into a more coherent person in order to become a better bargaining partner’, which I find strangely romantic.)

In practice

See time management.

Addiction

See addiction.

Doing what feels immediately good, not what will lead to more overall feeling good

References

Allcott, Hunt, Luca Braghieri, Sarah Eichmeyer, and Matthew Gentzkow. 2019. The Welfare Effects of Social Media.” Working Paper 25514. National Bureau of Economic Research.
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Bernecker, Katharina, and Daniela Becker. 2021. Beyond Self-Control: Mechanisms of Hedonic Goal Pursuit and Its Relevance for Well-Being.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 47 (4): 627–42.
Bernheim, B. Douglas. 2002. “Taxation and Saving.” In Handbook of Public Economics, 3:1173–1249. Elsevier.
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Dezfouli, Amir, Richard Nock, and Peter Dayan. 2020. Adversarial Vulnerabilities of Human Decision-Making.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (46): 29221–28.
Dolan, Paul, and Daniel Kahneman. 2008. Interpretations Of Utility And Their Implications For The Valuation Of Health*.” The Economic Journal 118 (525): 215–34.
George, David. 2009. Preference Pollution: How Markets Create the Desires We Dislike. University of Michigan Press.
Guzey, Alexey. 2018. How Our Commitments Slip Away From Us,” 17.
Lin, Liu yi, Jaime E. Sidani, Ariel Shensa, Ana Radovic, Elizabeth Miller, Jason B. Colditz, Beth L. Hoffman, Leila M. Giles, and Brian A. Primack. 2016. Association Between Social Media Use and Depression Among U.s. Young Adults.” Depression and Anxiety 33 (4): 323–31.
Maital, Shlomo. 1986. Prometheus Rebound: On Welfare-Improving Constraints.” Eastern Economic Journal 12 (3): 337–44.
Primack, Brian A., Ariel Shensa, César G. Escobar-Viera, Erica L. Barrett, Jaime E. Sidani, Jason B. Colditz, and A. Everette James. 2017. Use of Multiple Social Media Platforms and Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety: A Nationally-Representative Study Among U.S. Young Adults.” Computers in Human Behavior 69 (April): 1–9.

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