The 9 Reasons Friday You is Screwing over Monday You
Posted on November 30, 2017
Written by Hunter Thurman
There’s a great country song with the chorus of “I don’t have to be me ‘til Monday.”
For most of the working world, this rings true. Here’s the scenario…
Friday afternoon, 3:30, sitting at your desk. If your boss asks, you’re finishing up a couple things, or getting a good draft of that thing you’ll have to do next week. In reality, however, you scroll aimlessly through Facebook, check out the online menu of the restaurant you’re going to Saturday night, and as the minutes tick by, you generally lollygag your way through the next 90-minutes of obligatory “work.” Just like the country song, “Monday you” doesn’t work here right now.
Cut to Monday morning, 8:30, sitting at the very same desk. As you stare down those nagging things to tackle, and that big thing you’ll now have to get done asap, your emotions basically amount to “would it have been so difficult to get a head start?!? Thanks for nothing, Friday me!!!”
And, while this is all too familiar for many of us, “Friday you” continues to slack off. The reason “Friday you” generally wins out is driven by a psychology principle known as “temporal discounting” – which basically says that people tend to prefer immediate rewards to those available after a period of time. In turn, the “future you” is a very vague concept, and you’ll generally make decisions that much more strongly favor the “current you.”
Studies have shown that even a much bigger reward in the future will be outweighed by a smaller reward NOW (in one famous study, students opted to forego two treats just 15 minutes later in favor of one single treat immediately…).
Measuring which decision is best for “current you” is a delicate balancing act of cognitive science. Subconsciously & consciously, your mind is weighing the elements of your current situation, and the associated costs and benefits of potential behavior. On one hand, inside your brain there are four “voices” motivating your goofing off:
- “It just makes rational sense to wait until Monday when you’re sharper to tackle work.” (Rational)
- “You’ve worked hard all week; you deserve to slack off.” (Entitled)
- “Everyone else in the office is probably slacking off, too.” (Social)
- “You’re just too bored, and can’t get motivated to work – even if you want to.” (Emotional)
And while all of these may ring true, ONE of them will be the deciding voice in actually driving your behavior.
Concurrently, your brain is processing five perceived “costs” that goad you to keep focused and on-task. Like another set of voices in your brain saying…
- “It will be really hard on Monday if you don’t work now.” (Physical)
- “You should feel guilty for slacking off.” (Emotional)
- “Everyone else looks like they’re getting work done – you should, too.” (Social)
- “You might not have time to get everything done Monday if you slack off now.” (Time)
- “If you slack off now, you’ll probably have to work late a night or two next week.” (Trade-off)
These voices in your head are “the 9 WHY’s” behind any behavior. Assessing which of the four motivations, and which of the five costs, are driving your behavior (especially behaviors you’d like to change) can be empowering in helping you assess and challenge WHY you do what you do.
Now, imagine it’s the same Friday, late afternoon, but you’ll be on vacation the next week. In this case, the voices stating the emotional and social costs, (“You should feel guilty for slacking off, leaving this work for your team to complete”), might overpower the voice of the motivation and you will, in fact, keep plugging away…
But on most Friday afternoons, the motivation outweighs the cost enough that your behavior ends up following the motivation, and another country song guides your behavior… “It’s five-o-clock somewhere…”.
Now stop reading articles and get back to work. Future you will thank you.