Akrasia: Procrastination’s Older Cousin

I’ve always been a master procrastinator. I push things off until the last possible moment and only begin a task when I know I have to or it won’t get done.

In school I wrote papers at 6 a.m. the day they were due. At work, I build presentations minutes before I present them.

Right now, I’m writing this blog post hours before the calendar flips.

I’ve always finished assigned duties, but need deadline pressure to force me to do it.

But what about things we haven’t committed to? You know, the things we are putting off even though we know we should get around to doing them.

Even Though I Know I Should

When we know we should do something because it is beneficial, but take other action or no action, we are experiencing akrasia.

Akrasia comes from early Greek philosophers, and is more formally defined as a state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgement, often through a weakness of will.

I know I should workout. I know I should read a lot. I know I should eat healthy. These activities are proven beneficial actions to creating a healthy body and an active mind.

Choosing to not partake? Or to blatantly take action in the other direction? Akratic behavior.

Overcoming Akrasia

So how do you start taking action on things you know you should be doing and stop experiencing akrasia?

Baby steps.

In James Clear’s strategy guide on building new habits, step one is “start with an incredibly easy habit.”

Clear notes, our motivation will come and go and willpower acts as a muscle, strengthening over time. The best way for us to start a new habit, and start doing the things we know we should be doing, is to pick something that is so simple it doesn’t require motivation.

Read one page, not a chapter. Write one paragraph, not a book. Run one mile, not a marathon.

We can do the things we know we should do.

Note: Everything James Clear writes is worth consuming, but his book Atomic Habits was a complete game changer for the way I think about habits.