Tag: motivation

Hyperbolic discounting applied to habit-formation

We live near the middle of town, a five minute walk to the leisure centre — and less than that to get to the shops. As a result, we don’t use our cars at all for three days of the week, and I go to the gym at the leisure centre every day.

My grandmother, who wasn’t well-off and who rented all her life, used to ensure that she lived right next to a bus stop. Although she wouldn’t have used the phrase from this article, she knew that she was more likely to travel and get places that way!

You may have heard of hyperbolic discounting from behavioral economics: people will generally disproportionally, i.e. hyperbolically, discount the value of something the farther off it is. The average person judges $15 now as equivalent to $30 in 3-months (an annual rate of return of 277%!).

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But what about when something is farther off in space rather than time?

Say a 1-hour activity is 10 minutes away, compared to 5 minutes away. The total time usage would be 80 vs 70 minutes, about 15% longer. A linear model would predict that it would feel 15% more costly, and then proportionally affect your likelihood of going. In practice though, an extra 10 or 20 minutes of travel time will somehow frequently nudge you into non-participation.

Source: Hyperbolic Distance Discounting | Atoms vs Bits

Getting out of a rut

I didn’t send out a Thought Shrapnel newsletter at the end of May as I’d hardly posted here during the month. There was no particular reason I could fathom for this. I guess I just got stuck in a rut of not-writing-here.

As David Cain points out in this post, ruts are often of our own creation and happen when we relate to a ‘dip’ in mood, luck, or progress. Happily,  I’m back posting here and I’m in the opposite of a rut when it comes to exercise!

Ruts can be years long – that near-decade in which you didn’t touch the piano at all — or just a few days – you ordered out Tuesday instead of cooking, did it again Wednesday, and then again Thursday. Whatever the duration, ruts are temporary dips in our apparent ability to do a thing that’s important to us.

What I’ve noticed about my ruts is that they are mostly my own creation. Something external precipitates them, and something internal sustains them. Bad luck and bad weather are unavoidable, but a long rut can begin, and persist, even when the bad weather itself only lasted a day.

My theory is that ruts are what happen when you experience a dip – in mood, in luck, in progress – and you respond to it in a certain very human way: by doing something that makes you more prone to such dips. A simple example is the common sleep-caffeine spiral. You have a bad sleep for some reason (there was a party next door, or you saw a mouse in the cellar) and the next day you feel tired, and when you feel tired you sometimes have an afternoon coffee. This makes you more prone to more bad sleeps, which makes you more prone to afternoon coffees, and so on. You responded to the dip by doing something that creates more dips. All of this feels perfectly natural as it is happening.

Source: The Rut Principle | Raptitude

Motivating people who don’t need a job

There are two kinds of people who don’t need the job you’re providing for them. The first kind is the independently wealthy. The second kind is the person with an in-demand skillset (or rare knowledge/experience).

The last time I was employed, I kept reminding my boss that I came from consulting and I could always go back to it. And that’s what I did. Employers whose main way of motivating employees is to implicitly threaten them with ‘not having a job’ aren’t worth working for.

You should manage all of your employees as if they don’t “need” their jobs and have other options — whether those options are family money or the ability to go out and get another job with their skills.There are two reasons for that:

1. Assuming you’re hiring good people, it’s very likely they do have other options. It might be a pain for someone to leave and find another job, but generally it’s something people are able to do.

2. Using someone’s paycheck as your primary leverage might be effective in the very short-term, but it’s rarely a way to build or retain an engaged, invested staff in the long-term.

The way you motivate someone who doesn’t need the money is the same way you should motivate people who do need the money: by giving them meaningful roles with real responsibility where they can see how their efforts contribute to a larger whole, giving them an appropriate amount of ownership over their work and input into decisions that involve that work, providing useful feedback, recognizing their contributions, helping them feel they’re making progress toward things that matter to them, and — importantly — not doing things that de-motivate people (like yelling or constantly shifting goals or generally being a jerk).

Source: how do I manage an employee who doesn’t need the job? | Ask a Manager