CHAPTER 3: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE TO-DO LIST- (BAUMEISTER)
-The to-do list started with God and the creation of the universe; the process was apparently broken down into a schedule of daily tasks.
-Making and following a to-do list may seem fairly simple and direct, but we're not always successful in checking off all the items on our lists. Our failure rate increases as our lists get longer.
-Self Control / Self Regulation(synonymous):
-> First step: set agoal.
-> Regulation highlights the importance of a goal. Regulation means changing, but only a particular kind of intentional, meaningful change. To guide toward a speciﬁ c goal or standard. (e.g. the speed limit for cars on a highway)
-> Self control without goals is aimless change.
-> Problem: too many goals. We make unrealistic and really long to-do lists that are almost impossible to accomplish. (e.g. Benjamin Franklin, who aimed for moral perfection (long-term goal) and found it very difﬁ cult to
-> Franklin's approach: divide and conquer. Drew up a list of virtues and wrote a brief, speciﬁ c goal for each one. He did it one thing at a time. He devised a regimen complete with a table of virtues. He made 13 weekly charts,
one for each virtue, and put black pencil marks on the ones he had failed to uphold at the end of the day. Tried to focus on one virtue per week. He couldn't succeed in upholding all virtues, because some of the goals were
bound to conﬂict at times.
-> When asked by researchers, most people can easily come up with 15 separate goals.
-> Inevitable conﬂicts between work and family goals. Conﬂ icts also exist within the family - taking care of the children vs. maintaining a good relationship with the spouse.
-> Research conducted on conﬂ icting goals results in unhappiness instead of action. It shows three main consequences:
(1) You worry a lot- more competing demands, more time spent contemplating them, rumination, involuntary and unpleasant repetitive thoughts.
(2) You get less done- you replace action with rumination. You're so busy worrying that you get stuck. Researchers found that people with clear, unconﬂ icting goals tended to forge ahead and make progress.
(3) Your health suffers - physically AND mentally. Studies showed people with conﬂ icting goals reported fewer positive and more negative emotions, more depression and anxiety. More psychosomatic complaints and
symptoms, and plain physical sickness. Number of visits to the doctor and self-reported illnesses were higher among people with conﬂ icting goals.
-> Basically, the more the goals conﬂict > the more the people get stuck > the more unhappy and unhealthy they become.
-> Researchers asked subjects (heroin addicts group vs. control group) to complete the sentence 'Joe is having a cup of coffee in a restaurant. He's thinking the time to come when…'
- found that time typically covered about a week in the stories from the control group, whereas in the heroin addicts' stories it covered only an hour.
-> Researchers asked subjects to complete the sentence 'After awakening, Bill began to think about his future. In general he expected to…'
- found that the control group tended to mention long term aspirations like earning a promotion at work or getting married, while the addicts wrote about upcoming events, like a doctor's appointment or a visit with relatives.
-> The typical person in the control group contemplated the future over four and a half year, while the typical addict's vision of the future extended only nine days. (inability to think long term)
-> Shortened temporal horizon in drug addicts; even when playing card games in labs, they prefer risky strategies with quick big payoffs, even if they could make more money in the long run.
-> Research by Warren Bickel has found a preference for short term payoffs again and again in heavy users of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs. The only exception was marijuana, which is far less addictive than other
substances, and doesn't require the short-term mind-set.
-> A short-term perspective can make you more likely to become addicted, and then the addiction can further shrink your horizons as you focus on quick rewards.
-> How to ﬁx it? By managing to eliminate or moderate your addiction, your future horizon is liable to expand.
-> Ignoring the long term can is hazardous to your health - both physically and ﬁ scally.
-> In another experiment researchers found that people with high incomes tended to look further into the future than people with low incomes. (partly due to necessity). Short-term thinking can cause you to be in that (low income)
position, or being in that position can also cause you to think short-term. (causal relation, both ways)
-> Proximal Goals: Short-term objectives
-> Distal Goals: Long-term objectives
-> Study by Albert Bandura - studied children between ages 7-10 having difﬁ culty with math. The children took a course featuring self-directed learning, with many arithmetic exercises.
- 4 conditions: (1) Proximal goals - some children were told to 6 pages of problems in each session.
(2) Distal goal - some were told to set only one distal goal of completing 42 pages in 7 sessions. (thus, same pace for both (1) and (2))
(3) This group did not set goals
(4) This group did not even do the exercises.
- Group (1) with the proximal goals outperformed everyone else when competence was tested at the end of the program. Meeting daily goals built their conﬁ dence and self-efﬁcacy. Focusing on a speciﬁc goal helped
them learn better and faster than the others. Spent less time per session, got more done, progressed through the material faster. When faced with hard problems, they persevered longer and were less likely to give
up. (ego depletion from chapter 1)
- The distal goals (Group 2) were no better than having no goals at all (Group 3)
- Only the proximal groups produced improvement in learning, self-efﬁ cacy and performance.
-> Later a study by Dutch researches revealed the importance of distal goals for high school boys. The boys who cared more about long-term objectives - ﬁ nding careers, making money, good family life, high social status -
tended to do better in school. Those who were relatively indifferent to such distal goals tended to be worse off. Why were distal goals more important in this study? Because high school boys seem to understand the
connection between their daily tasks and their long-term goals. They saw their current studies and work as vital steps leading toward those goals. And older children are better than younger ones to think about the future.
Fuzzy Versus Fussy