Taming the Instant Gratification Monkey

Hey everyone,

This week I watched Tim Urban’s masterful TED talk, Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator. In the talk, Urban, who writes the awesome blog Wait But Why, gives a hilarious breakdown of his struggle with procrastination.

In the talk, Urban defines two forces on either side of the struggle to get things done: the Instant Gratification Monkey and the Panic Monster. The Instant Gratification Monkey tempts us from doing hard or boring tasks with fun, immediate distractions. In turn, the Panic Monster wakes up when there’s a deadline looming, and forces us to get things done. Aside from these helpful metaphors, one point Urban made stood out to me.

Towards the end of the talk, Urban mentions that often there’s no deadline for things which are important to us. For example, starting a business or creative endeavor, or staying in touch with family. A lot of the important things in life lack an impetus for waking the Panic Monster.

The question is, how do we motivate ourselves to do the important things that don’t have deadlines or external pressure? In response to that question, Urban shows this chart:

We realize, when looking at this chart, that a human lifespan is not too terribly long. We don’t have infinite time, and the time we do have is running out.

I think that’s how we prioritize the important, long-term goals: by remembering that time is, in fact, short. I want to make the most of mine. How about you?

Pete’s Picks ✅

  1. App: I got an iPad this week, pretty much for access to the app Procreate. Procreate is a drawing app, and it has been really fun to use so far.

  2. Podcast Episode: I was happy to hear this episode from The Knowledge Project featuring Tyler Cowen, who has one of the most-read economics blogs. The topics include tech advances and the changing labor market.

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