Sushi Train Psychology

Story of the Week Aug 30, 2020 1 min read

๐Ÿ“š Story of the Week #14

Sushi trains have much to teach us about procrastination.

Unlike today, sushi trains had yet to make a dent in 2012 London, so my first experience was in Tokyo while completing an internship.

For the uninitiated, a sushi train involves plates of sushi being placed on a conveyor belt and paraded past your eyes for you to pick up and eat. This makes them an insidious invention that is equal parts psychological exploitation and delicious.

Salmon and tuna are the gateway fish, and sit on top of the more innocent looking pieces of sushi. I took one, probed at it, and then took a bite.

Not bad. Actually, quite brilliant.

Before long, Iโ€™d ventured into more exotic waters, full of wasabi, pink ginger, eel, squid, and, of all things, fish eggs.

It was at that point, almost invisible behind the stack of plates I'd amassed, that the bill found me, and my eyes started to water. Those devious fish had made me forget that โ€˜Go on, one more wonโ€™t hurt youโ€™ is a terrible life motto unless youโ€™re a billionaire โ€” which Iโ€™m not.

Each plate felt within reach at a few hundred yen, but the resulting stack had toppled me, and my mind and wallet had be tricked into spending far more than planned.

Fortunately, this psychological sleight of hand doubles as a trick for overcoming procrastination. Whenever my brain protests doing anything productive, I offer it a small plate of work by putting a timer on for ten minutes, and after ten minutes we can stop working.

Thatโ€™s the gateway task. After 10 minutes, the protests are gone, and 10 minutes becomes 30 minutes, and 30 minutes becomes an entire morning of productively ticked off to-dos.

The dark cloud of sushi train psychology has a silver-lining after all.

Stay curious,


P.S. Iโ€™m now vegetarian.


Jamie Miles

๐ŸŒฑ Building a media company to make sense of the 21st century ๐ŸŽ Sharing the best ideas along the way ๐Ÿต Former @Airbnb @Onfido @UniofOxford

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