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Rabu, 11 Februari 2009

Delaying and Flexibility

Inspired by Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational
Chapter 6: The Problem of Procrastination and Self-Control: Why We Can't Make Ourselves Do What We Want to Do

Last Saturday, I flew home from Medan, feeling very mixed. It was not only because of the bad weather lately in this lovely country, but also because of the flight delay that we - the passengers - had to bear. We should have taken off since 1.45 pm, but we needed to be very patient waiting for boarding. And when we actually were aboard, buckled up in those compact seats, the pilot once again had to apologize that he had to wait for the signal from the tower for about ten minutes. Unfortunately when we were ready to take off, the pilot again had to apologize. The reason then was the sickness of one of the passengers so that we all had to go back to terminal. Ouch...

The story does not end there. Actually we had to tolerate other unfortunate consecutive delays. In total, the delay was about two hours. In this typical case, we usually have to restrain ourselves from being blown up. In other cases of delays, however, we are so flexible that delays are somewhat liked very much, especially when we ourselves are the ones responsible for the delays. In the morning, we usually snooze the alarm, set at a promised time the night before. In the weekend, delaying and then giving up exercise, we enjoy sitting all day watching TV. Every month, we usually delay the payment of our credit up to the last time possible. The list can go forever (Anda mungkin berkata: ‘ah itu kan lo aja’ atau ‘kita? lo aja kali’ - Y Pan).

OK, if you are not convinced that we - including you - are so happy to delay things, please consider what Dan Ariely found in his research on procrastination. He experimented with his three groups of classes at MIT. In the first class, he said to the students, “You will have three papers this semester. You are free to choose the deadlines of each.”

“Is it Ok to submit all of them in the last day of the semester?” asked one of Dan’s students. The answer was a yes if they really taught it as the best strategy. Dan informed them that papers submitted earlier than the promised dates were not to receive any extra point. So, each student had a contract with the professor something like the following.

Paper 1’s deadline is week bla bla bla.
Paper 2’s deadline is week bla bla bla bla.
Paper 3’s deadline is week bla bla bla bla bla.

Again remember, the last day of the semester was allowed to be the papers’ entire deadlines. Each day of delays will then be penalized.

That’s it for the first class. For the second class, Dan Ariely gave a complete flexibility to the students. They were allowed to submit the three papers whenever they liked but not after the last day of the semester. For the third class, Dan Ariely dictated the deadlines. Paper 1 was on week 4th. Paper 2 was on week 8th. Paper 3 was on week 12th. Now, this is the best part of the research. Who do you think the worst performers?

The best performers were the third class who had to bear a dictatorship, and then the first who had some flexibility, and then the worst the second class who were given full flexibility, full freedom. Even without applying penalty for every delay, Dan found that the students of the third class really prepared well and wrote superior papers than do others.

Dan Ariely explains in his book, Predictably Irrational, the ones who are forced to do something in advance have more chance to succeed. The beauty of the finding is that it is not only applied to the scenario set in the research above, but also to many real life scenarios: waking-up, exercise, credit card payment, health check up, studying, project, work, spending-vs-saving, personal finance, and any other value proposition activity.

For more advices from the expert, please read the book. Do not stop here. Reading a summary of a book is good, but reading the book itself is the best. But I guess you will just take an easy way. Aren't you Irrational? YOU BET!

Next: Ownership or Stewardship
Prev: A Monster in Each of Us

2 komentar:

Henri mengatakan...

artikel yang bagus sekali bro!. Qur'an sudah menjelaskan hal tersebut dengan surga dan neraka. Coba kalau manusia di beri flexibility mengenai hidupnya di dunia..

Y Pan mengatakan...

tepat sekali mas henri. terima kasih komentarnya.


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