Designing for the Future Self : From Enduring Procrastination to Cultivating Self-Improvement

Nour Diab

UX Magazine: Big data, smart mobile technology and connected devices are combining to allow us to build a new type of smart digital service, capable of constantly evolving and learning our individual preferences and environments, almost as if it’s alive.

As I found myself procrastinating while writing this article, I began rationalizing this behavior: for all the hours spent postponing this task and that, I had subconsciously been preparing for the task, mentally organizing thoughts and data.

This made me think of the 2011 TEDx talk, where psychology and behavioral economics professor, Dan Ariely, painted the picture of a utopian society of productivity.

In the future we are wonderful people: we will be patient, we will not procrastinate, we will take our medication, we will exercise…The problem is that we never get to live in that Future. We live in the Present and in the Present we’re not that wonderful people.

Procrastination naturally bleeds into every aspect of life, from the routine of getting out of bed and paying one’s bills, to more serious things like going to the doctor for a check-up. Our brain sorts tasks into recognizable and retrievable patterns, assigning fear or pleasure intensities to these, which permits us to foresee the level of effort needed to complete a given task. But just imagine how much more productive we’d be if we eradicated procrastination, and how much we could improve ourselves.

Unattainable future

Rather than a necessary step to achieving our goals, procrastination is symptomatic of our self-perception and ambitions. Quoting Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, Erving Goffman wrote in 1959 in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life:

There are indeed many precautions to imprison a man in what he is, as if we lived in perpetual fear that he might escape from it, that he might break away and suddenly elude his Condition.

While it can be difficult to remodel our socially-engrained personas, it’s important to remember that we are evolving beings and not fixed entities. It is when we engage in self-control exercises (ie banning chocolate from our homes), join motivational support groups, or carry out relaxation rituals, that we introduce meaningful change agents into our lives.


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Nour Diab

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