The World is Against Us

That’s why we aren’t doing the projects we want to do.

Why aren’t we writing? Why aren’t we reading? Why aren’t we doing the projects we want to do?

The world is against us.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely in Manage Your Day To Day says three things are happening.

1) The world around us tries to tempt us.

That’s not news. In addition to our thoughts and emotions, we now actually carry around an immediate attention-grabber that pings and zings us every step of the way, trying to get us to look at it.

2) We listen to the world around us.

The world has set up choices that makes it easy for us to do nothing. The friction points are nil.

3) We don’t deal very well with temptation.

Because the bar is so low to an immediate (and small) sense of gratification, we go that way. It’s hard to fight it. And Ariely notes, as we create new technology, we create more ways to distract (and possibly harm!) ourselves.

“If you put all of those things together, you have a recipe for disaster,” Ariely says.

Is there any hope?


We have to show progress.

Ariely says that we need some sort of device to measure our progress. Sometimes that means writing with pen and paper to see how far we’ve gone. Other times it means saving a new copy of your corrections and additions so you can see how far you’ve gone.

It could mean physically moving paper from one stack to another just to see how far you’ve come. It may mean writing by hand (!) or creating several small folders with documents to see it increase.

By keeping track of what you’re actually writing and producing, you’ll trick your brain into remembering the truth: that you’re actually doing something.

This piece first appeared at

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I’m Josh Spilker and I blog about writing and books. Join my newsletter for more on writing and creativity and get a free book…sound good?