The Instant Gratification Monkey

The Instant Gratification Monkey is a concept introduced by blogger Tim Urban that represents a part of the brain that interferes with rational decision-making. Specifically, this figurative creature is the reason why people procrastinate, particularly by compelling individuals to desire to experience pleasure or fulfillment without delay or deferment instead of focusing on accomplishing a more critical task.

Why You Procrastinate: Getting to Know the Instant Gratification Monkey

In his blog post and TED Talk presentation, Urban describes this monkey as someone who only thinks about the present, thus ignoring lessons from the past and disregarding the future altogether. It also concerns itself entirely with maximizing the ease and pleasure of the current moment.

The monkey affects rational decision-making that takes place during the accomplishment of a task or while an individual is in the middle of completing a particular task. Furthermore, this creature seems to take a commanding influence while inside the minds of individuals who often procrastinate.

Consider a procrastinator tasked with writing a long essay due within five days as an example. As a rational decision-maker, this individual would initially set his mind on doing something productive. However, the Instant Gratification Monkey takes over.

Instead of working on his paper, the procrastinator would delay its completion to spend time on leisure activities or any activities that are a complete waste of time. He might spend more time on Facebook or watch random YouTube videos while in the middle of writing.

The procrastinator could also completely turn his back from completing the paper on the first days of the five-day deadline, thinking that there is more time to do so. Hence, he would rather spend these initial days doing other activities.

Urban describes the pursuit of these weird and unproductive activities as being in a Dark Playground where leisure activities happen at times when leisure activities are not supposed to be happening. The monkey keeps the individual in this figurative place.

In other words, to understand the reason behind procrastination and why some people procrastinate, think of the brain as having two conflicting personas: the Rational Decision-Maker who is concern about planning and the future and the Instant Gratification Monkey who is more concern about the present and temporary highs.

FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES

  • Urban, T. 2013. “Why Procrastinators Procrastinate.” Wait But Why? Available online
  • Urban, T. 2016. “Inside the Mind of a Master Procrastinator.” TED Talk. Available online
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