Saturday, April 22, 2017



Saturday, April 15, 2017


The Akrasia Effect: Why We Don't Follow Through On What We Set Out to Do And What To Do About It

By James Clear 
June 20, 2016 8:20pm

By the summer of 1830, Victor Hugo was facing an impossible deadline. Twelve months earlier, the famous French author had made an agreement with his publisher that he would write a new book titled, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Instead of writing the book, Hugo spent the next year pursuing other projects, entertaining guests, and delaying his work on the text. Hugo's publisher had become frustrated by his repeated procrastination and responded by setting a formidable deadline. The publisher demanded that Hugo finish the book by February of 1831--less than 6 months away.

Hugo developed a plan to beat his procrastination. He collected all of his clothes, removed them from his chambers, and locked them away. He was left with nothing to wear except a large shawl. Lacking any suitable clothing to go outdoors, Hugo was no longer tempted to leave the house and get distracted. Staying inside and writing was his only option. [1]

The strategy worked. Hugo remained in his study each day and wrote furiously during the fall and winter of 1830. The Hunchback of Notre Dame was published two weeks early on January 14, 1831.

The Ancient Problem of Akrasia
Human beings have been procrastinating for centuries. Even prolific artists like Victor Hugo are not immune to the distractions of daily life. The problem is so timeless, in fact, that ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Aristotle developed a word to describe this type of behavior: Akrasia.

Akrasia is the state of acting against your better judgement.It is when you do one thing even though you know you should do something else. Loosely translated, you could say that akrasia is procrastination or a lack of self-control. Akrasia is what prevents you from following through on what you set out to do.

Why would Victor Hugo commit to writing a book and then put it off for over a year? Why do we make plans, set deadlines, and commit to goals, but then fail to follow through on them?

Why We Make Plans, But Don't Take Action
One explanation for why akrasia rules our lives and procrastination pulls us in has to do with a behavioral economics term called "time inconsistency." Time inconsistency refers to the tendency of the human brain to value immediate rewards more highly than future rewards.

When you make plans for yourself -- like setting a goal to lose weight or write a book or learn a language -- you are actually making plans for your future self. You are envisioning what you want your life to be like in the future and when you think about the future it is easy for your brain to see the value in taking actions with long-term benefits.

When the time comes to make a decision, however, you are no longer making a choice for your future self. Now you are in the moment and your brain is thinking about the present self. And researchers have discovered that the present self really likes instant gratification, not long-term payoff. This is one reason why you might go to bed feeling motivated to make a change in your life, but when you wake up you find yourself falling into old patterns. Your brain values long-term benefits when they are in the future, but it values immediate gratification when it comes to the present moment.

This is one reason why the ability to delay gratification is such a great predictor of success in life. Understanding how to resist the pull of instant gratification--at least occasionally, if not consistently--can help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

The Akrasia Antidote: 3 Ways to Beat Procrastination
Here are three ways to overcome akrasia, beat procrastination, and follow through on what you set out to do.

Strategy 1: Design your future actions.
When Victor Hugo locked his clothes away so he could focus on writing, he was creating what psychologists refer to as a "commitment device." Commitment devices are strategies that help improve your behavior by either increasing the obstacles or costs of bad behaviors or reducing the effort required for good behaviors.

You can curb your future eating habits by purchasing food in individual packages rather than in the bulk size. You can stop wasting time on your phone by deleting games or social media apps. You can reduce the likelihood of mindless channel surfing by hiding your TV in a closet and only taking it out on big game days. You can voluntarily ask to be added to the banned list at casinos and online gambling sites to prevent future gambling sprees. You can build an emergency fund by setting up an automatic transfer of funds to your savings account. These are commitment devices.

The circumstances differ, but the message is the same: commitment devices can help you design your future actions. Find ways to automate your behavior beforehand rather than relying on willpower in the moment. Be the architect of your future actions, not the victim of them. [2]

Strategy 2: Reduce the friction of starting.
The guilt and frustration of procrastinating is usually worse than the pain of doing the work. In the words of Eliezer Yudkowsky, "On a moment-to-moment basis, being in the middle of doing the work is usually less painful than being in the middle of procrastinating."

So why do we still procrastinate? Because it's not being in the work that is hard, it's starting the work. The friction that prevents us from taking action is usually centered around starting the behavior. Once you begin, it's often less painful to do the work. This is why it is often more important to build the habit of getting started when you're beginning a new behavior than it is to worry about whether or not you are successful at the new habit.

You have to constantly reduce the size of your habits. Put all of your effort and energy into building a ritual and make it as easy as possible to get started. Don't worry about the results until you've mastered the art of showing up.

Strategy 3: Utilize implementation intentions.
An implementation intention is when you state your intention to implement a particular behavior at a specific time in the future. For example, "I will exercise for at least 30 minutes on [DATE] in [PLACE] at [TIME]."

There are hundreds of successful studies showing how implementation intentions positively impact everything from exercise habits to flu shots. In the flu shot study, researchers looked at a group of 3,272 employees at a Midwestern company and found that employees who wrote down the specific date and time they planned to get their flu shot were significantly more likely to follow through weeks later. [3]

It seems simple to say that scheduling things ahead of time can make a difference, but as I have covered previously, implementation intentions can make you 2x to 3x more likely to perform an action in the future.

Our brains prefer instant rewards to long-term payoffs. It's simply a consequence of how our minds work. Given this tendency, we often have to resort to crazy strategies to get things done--like Victor Hugo locking up all of his clothes so he could write a book. But I believe it is worth it to spend time building these commitment devices if your goals are important to you.

Aristotle coined the term enkrateia as the antonym of akrasia. While akrasia refers to our tendency to fall victim to procrastination, enkrateia means to be "in power over oneself." Designing your future actions, reducing the friction of starting good behaviors, and using implementation intentions are simple steps that you can take to make it easier to live a life of enkrateia rather than one of akrasia. [4]

James Clear writes at, where he shares science-based ideas for living a better life and building habits that stick. To get strategies for boosting your mental and physical performance by 10x, join his free newsletter.
This article was originally published on
  1. The story about Victor Hugo locking away his clothes has become embellished over the years. Most versions claim that he had a servant routinely lock away his clothes while he wrote naked each day. As best I can tell, this embellishment is a myth. The true version that I describe in this article originally comes from a book by Hugo's wife: "Victor Hugo Recounted by a Witness of His Life" by Adele Foucher.
  2. Thanks to my friends at Beeminder for some of the ideas I mention here. You can see their full article on commitment devices to overcome akrasia for more ideas.
  • "Using implementation intentions prompts to enhance influenza vaccination rates" by Katherine L. Milkman, John Beshears, James J. Choi, David Laibson, and Brigitte C. Madrian. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Vol. 108 No. 26.
  • Thanks to my friend Nir Eyal for originally pointing me toward the term akrasia.
  • Friday, April 14, 2017


    Dear J. R. 

    On Jan. 3 2014, I signed paperwork for retirement from ABC. Thanks to you, I have had the pleasure of going not to work but to have fun. What you have given me is the greatest gift ever when you asked me in1976, "would you like to do the show?".That was the beginning of something wonderful that lasted the next 36 years and I love you for it. There is not a day that goes by when don't think of you and rate every subsequent director by the high bar that you set at GMA. You were and will always be the man in my book. Love to you and Carol. Adrian

    My response: Adrian, I don't know what to say. That was the best compliment. You were/are a wonderful human being and I was lucky you said "yes". When I see you with a mini cam, I remember those early days getting you all out of the studio into the field to tape your own field stories for GMA. I'm so very happy you have enjoyed your time at GMA; it was a special time for me, too, albeit for a much shorter period. Enjoying one's work is a great prize & if I had something to do with that, I'm happy as hell. I saw Joannie & Karen Steckler not too long ago. Both seem to be doing fine. Hopefully I'll get to see you, too, one day. I miss all of you. Your friend, Jan.



    Monday, March 27, 2017


    Last night, as sleep time approached, Ziggy left our bedroom. Minutes later, I heard him whining quietly.

    This is generally a first sign that he wants me to take him out or move to another room; something like that. But it wasn't a serious whine so I chose to ignore it.

    But any cute mutt, worth his salt, knows how to manipulate his human.

    And after a few minutes of gentle whining I got up, and walked to the hallway to see what was up. And there I found Ziggy, calmly sitting, staring at the (closed) door that leads to the guest bedroom.

    Curious, I opened the door, turned on a night light & left Ziggy standing on the rug at the foot of the iron frame bed, BTW, it's the room where his crate resides. Maybe he wanted the security of his den?

    I went back to reading in our bedroom & all was quiet; no more whining.

    But curiosity got the better of me once again & so I ventured into the hallway to see what the Zigster was up to.

    When he's too quiet, well, anyone who has a mischievous 4 legged companion, knows what that can mean. So I tiptoed down the hallway to find Ziggy sound asleep in the middle of the guest bed.

    He had decided he wanted to sleep alone. The little shit!


    Friday, February 24, 2017


    I'm really having trouble sorting thru my thoughts on this: Why do courts get to decide on social issues like abortion, DOMA, gender identity, right-to-die. I mean -- if one is a conservative who believes in privacy & individual rights -- why would one care about another person's choices? 

    We had a couple of kids (ages 21, 18, 15 -- one of whom is gay) over to the house for dinner a few weeks ago. I love discussing current events / issues with them. I broached the bathroom issue. In a nano second, the response was "everyone goes to the bathroom". Indeed, in some European countries there are bathrooms, period. Why shouldn't it be that simple for the rest of us?

    Tuesday, February 07, 2017


    [...] conservative economics professor Peter Navarro, whom Trump has tapped to head his National Trade Council [...] recommend(s) the government allocate $137 billion in tax credits for private investors who underwrite infrastructure projects.

    [...] the administration's preference for addressing the problem with private dollars is clear. [...]

    [...] Infrastructure projects like roads and bridges are attractive to investors only if they have tolls or some other way of generating revenue. [...] but economists and transportation experts warn 

    the government could end up rewarding investors in projects that would have been built even without credits.

    ANOTHER WINDFALL FOR THE 1% Oh, yes, there would be construction jobs  ALONG WITH more permanent taxes for the middle class in the form of TOLLS.

    Tuesday, January 31, 2017



    Generals (most often) have three main characteristics which make them ideal cabinet members for an authoritarian POTUS.

    1. They accept civilian authority
    2. They take orders
    3. They are not idealogs

    WORD PLAY w a serious subject

    Retweeted Michele Smith (@mdfsmith1):
    @RichardHaass Clearly the Trump admin has no experience with ethical operations. Swamping the drain.


    Tuesday, December 27, 2016


    QUESTION: Does anyone else find that they're having a hard time handling Trump's election on an emotional level?

    JAN RIFKINSON: Yes. I'm disturbed & concerned on a national & personal level. 

    On a national level, I'm very disturbed by all the anger. On a personal level, I detest braggadocio & un-truths.

    I'm conflicted because I want to respect my POTUS and, at the moment, I am finding that to be a very difficult proposition. 

    I hope this changes.

    Saturday, December 03, 2016


    Honestly, folks, here's a problem I have & I ask for your thoughts on the matter. 

    DJT has made & continues to make statements that are FACTUALLY untrue when taken literally. 

    The PETUS & his spokespeople have stated in multiple settings, multiple times, during the campaign and after the election, that what the PETUS states is not necessarily what he means. It may be a symbolic statement, not a factual statement. And the MSM takes his statements literally but "the people" understand what he really means. 

    Does this mean that every time he makes a statement, I should interpret it instead of listening to it? Should I believe the PETUS's statements or not? So, for example, when he says "Stop It" looking into the camera on "60 Minutes", does he really mean STOP IT! or is it really a wink & a nod to proceed? 

    What I'm trying to noodle out is how to weigh what the PETUS and soon-to-be POTUS says going forward. It strikes me is that if I'm constantly "interpreting" what he really means instead of listening to what he states, I could get into a lot of trouble intellectually. 

    What's your take?

    Thursday, November 24, 2016



    1. language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of abstruse technical terms; nonsense.

    Good morning & happy Thanksgiving.

    While the  president of the teacher's union is upset by Betsy DeVos,  DJT's Secy of Ed -- a billionaire who has fought endlessly for school choice (charter schools & vouchers to compete with public ed), some are celebrating the selection. 

    While I think our current public education system (K-12) is basically bankrupt, I want to see it improved not decimated. OTOH, our HS grads are REALLY under-educated by comparison to the rest of the world. I would rather pay a good teacher $150k+ than hire another edu-crat.

    In my town, when the Superintendent of Schools discusses education policy, I don't understand what she's talking about. It's all gobbledygook edu-speak which sounds good but means little.

    Ike warned us about the military-industrial complex. No one warned us about the edu-industrial complex which is undoubtedly MORE important.

    Tuesday, November 22, 2016


    Working from the sunshine-is-the-best-disinfectant POV, I'm wondering if it's actually better that all the discord in the country has bubbled to the surface. Unlike undocumented workers, it's out of the shadows. Doesn't that force us to deal with it?

    Monday, November 21, 2016


    Why does DJT seem to embrace military figures, ie ex-generals, military academy graduates? Could part of his rationale be that they know how to take orders? .... Calm down. It's just a question. Clearly these individuals are also leaders.

    Thursday, September 08, 2016



    What I wouldn't do to sit down with Walter Cronkite, Bud Benjamin, Peter Jennings, Tom Brokaw, Fred Friendly, Roger Mudd, Huntley, Brinkley, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, and a few others to discuss how the media is covering this political season. 

    I think it borders on irresponsibility especially since journos think of themselves as an indispensable column in the democratic coliseum. They are indispensable but there is much public sentiment that views them as very dispensable which is a shame but may be deserved. 

    Day after day, there is uneven, lazy reporting on our crop of presidential candidates, currently the most important story in the world. I watch it day after day. And I'm sad about it. 

    It's like watching an extremely accomplished, greatly respected individual now living as a drug addict, on the street, family-less, home-less, fund-less, scrounging around, wondering how to get their next (ratings) fix.

    Monday, September 05, 2016


    "Federal law enforcement and local election officials say the decentralized nature of the voting process, which is run by states and counties, makes it impossible to ensure a high level of security in each district." 

    So.... Why did the SCOTUS get involved in Bush v Gore? Just imagine how our current situations around the world might have been different. Let's start w Iraq.... 

    Shame on the SCOTUS for intruding on states rights & forever reducing itself from a highly respected apolitical judicial body to another grubby body politic.

    Thursday, September 01, 2016


    Ann Coulter thinks Donald Trump made the greatest speech of his campaign last night (08/31/16) in Phoenix, Arizona. The subject was immigration and border control. OK, maybe she'll sell more books.

    But, personally, I feel badly for serious GOP players who blew a historic chance to have it all. 

    Almost any other GOP primary candidate could have taken the former Secretary of State at the ballot box because of her historic proclivity for slipperiness.  It seems to be a Clinton chromosomal defect. 

    Ms. Clinton, an intelligent student of government policies, probably one of the most prepared people to campaign for the White House, will now have to govern upstream, like her husband and her predecessor. However, unlike them, she will probably only get to serve one term.

    Meantime, much of the people's business will take a back seat to continued ideological wrangling and truculence at the Federal level despite Madam  President's best efforts. 

    So while the Democrats may cheer -- and rightfully so -- the rest of the country will get angrier and angrier while Mr. Trump, Mr. Ailes and Mr. Bannon make millions more running the Trump streaming network. 

    And the poor GOP -- which has an important and legitimate role in balanced governance -- will try to re-build itself with minorities (soon to be majorities) in order to counterbalance the growing ALT-RIGHT contingent... assuming it's still possible in the foreseeable future.