Ponca City writes: "Every year, millions of Americans pay needless penalties because they don’t file their taxes on time, forgone huge amounts of money in matching 401(k) contributions because they never get around to signing up for a retirement plan, and risk blindness from glaucoma because they don’t use their eyedrops regularly. Now James Surowiecki writes that procrastination is a basic human impulse, a peculiar irrationality stems from our relationship to time — in particular, from a tendency that economists call “hyperbolic discounting," the ability to make rational choices when they’re thinking about the future, but, where as the present gets closer, short-term considerations overwhelm their long-term goals. Game theorist Thomas Schelling proposes that we think of ourselves a collection of competing selves, jostling, contending, and bargaining for control where one represents your short-term interests (having fun, putting off work, and so on), while another represents your long-term goals while philosopher Mark Kingwell puts it in existential terms: “Procrastination most often arises from a sense that there is too much to do, and hence no single aspect of the to-do worth doing. . . . Underneath this rather antic form of action-as-inaction is the much more unsettling question whether anything is worth doing at all.” So before we rush to overcome procrastination we should consider whether it is sometimes an impulse we should heed and that it might be useful to think about two kinds of procrastination: the kind that is genuinely akratic, a weakness of will that allows us to act against our own benefit, and the kind that’s telling you that what you’re supposed to be doing has, deep down, no real point. The procrastinator’s challenge, and perhaps the philosopher’s, too, is to figure out which is which."
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