Ming the Mechanic:
The formula for procrastination

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 The formula for procrastination2007-01-18 17:14
9 comments
by Flemming Funch

Yeah, I should have posted it last week, but some things got in the way. Science Daily: Research Into Procrastination Shows Surprising Findings. A scientist has spent 10 years studying procrastination, and he says he has a formula for it.
Steel says motivational failures such as difficulty in sticking to diets and exercise regimes -- frequently the focus of New Year's resolutions -- are related to procrastination because impulsiveness is often at the root of the failure. "Temptations that are close at hand are difficult to resist. Addicts often relapse after returning from treatment facilities because drugs and alcohol become easily available and daily habits reassert themselves. Or we load up on bread in the restaurant before the meal is served. Or we check our email 10 times an hour instead of completing a project."

The good news is that willpower has an unusual capacity. "The old saying is true: 'Whether you believe you can or believe you can't, you're probably right'," Steel says. "And as you get better at self control, your expectancy about whether you can resist goes up and thus improves your ability to resist."

Steel has also come up with the E=mc2 of procrastination, a formula he's dubbed Temporal Motivational Theory, which takes into account factors such as the expectancy a person has of succeeding with a given task (E), the value of completing the task (V), the desirability of the task (Utility), its immediacy or availability (Γ) and the person's sensitivity to delay (D).

It looks like this and uses the Greek letter Γ (capital gamma): Utility = E x V / ΓD
Eh, ok. That pretty much says ... nothing. But we can feel a whole lot more scientific if we have a formula.

I'd say the key issues in procrastination is that one has something one thinks one "should" do, but one hasn't visualized what really is involved, and it isn't wired up to stuff one really can perceive. It is just an idea, and one's immediate feelings and instincts are always what wins. To not procrastinate, one would need to do more homework. Visualize completely what is there to do, and what is involved. Decide whether it really is something one wants to do. And then backtrack from there, until one has practical and doable steps to get there, the first of which is right in front of you.

It is the same as the problem of To-Do lists that are filled with abstract stuff one has attention on, but where one hasn't done the work of finding out what it actually IS, what actually has to be done, and what the immediate next step is.


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9 comments

18 Jan 2007 @ 13:03 by dewf @72.178.51.249 : abstraction
ah, abstraction. for all of man's great dreams, he lives in a fairy-world of concepts, which defeat him at every turn. (and by "man," i mean "me" of course)

i believe it was in some of your comments that i read the suggestion to read "drive yourself sane," and it was quite an enlightening book. i had known of korzybski's work, but the older books were way too thick and rigorous to get into. i am convinced that general semantics, or some flavor of it, directly ties into the very notion of enlightenment-- if a person really saw every "thing" as entirely unique, merely a confluence of process, there would be no room for the notion of agency, other people, or self-- precisely the concepts used to anchor one's existence.  



18 Jan 2007 @ 13:50 by jobrown : 'Cool' Article!
and so timely -for me! This whole subject matter of Procrastination has been on my mind lately and stimuli for own Insights about the Process has been coming towards me from "all" directions! (Universe does indeed work with us! : ) )
Thanks Ming!
Have a Great week! /Astrid
(a little side note: So. Cal broke the COLD-records those days we discussed earlier: down to ONE degree Fahrenheit in the Mountains and around mid thirties DownTown LA. Unheard of! ) /A-d  



18 Jan 2007 @ 14:26 by GeZi @76.168.91.127 : COLD
Yes, I sure was cold - today a bit better .....
.... must be that global warming thing happening here in SoCal.  



18 Jan 2007 @ 17:51 by ming : Cold
The news shows snow in Malibu. Yeah, it's an upside down world. We had a particularly warm and pleasant day here in Toulouse. But northern Europe is freezing as well.  


18 Jan 2007 @ 17:57 by ming : Abstraction
Dewf, you're right, the general semantics principles plug right into enlightenment. Not that I'm sure Korzybski would have thought of it that way. But if we can just learn to see things as they are, or, rather, at least remain aware that there's reality beyond our shortsighted generalizations, and always seek it. Being conscious of abstraction, and there-through be willing to see what actually is there.  


18 Jan 2007 @ 19:11 by bushman : Frozen engine,
is what I got for procrastinating on getting my radiator fixed. I could blame it on the cold, but in reality, I droped the ball, thats lesson enough, lol.  


19 Jan 2007 @ 11:54 by jobrown : I love your
kinda philosophical exclamation comment here above; the "Abstraction". What keeps us stuck in this frozen (; emotional, where energy with high voltage charge freeze and thus remains stuck, without flowing back into the Sun) I believe, is, this structure we call 'Semantics' -and from that ALL procrastination has its origin-,(mostly) due to peer pressure, and this in turn does not promote Reality /seeing Reality AS it IS.
I also believe ALL people can see Reality as it is,( it is called 'conscience' and even those who we think have none, considering their repeated evil, but they too do see Reality of both their own evil actions and the Reality they are violating with those evil actions; why else would they have such a strong need to hide their evil actions -IF they truly believed their actions to be good and life supporting? ) but so many are still scared to death of the oppression that runs forth from the peer pressure; very vengeful and indeed deadly in many instances!
People choose to procrastinate, when they feel threatened to let their own creativity flow; when they feel that being just them is not OK and when they feel that what is expected from them ( on a daily basis) is just too far from their own true Nature and too far away from what they really wish for their life.
Peer pressure is "the Devil" and the root to the fraudulent monetary system as well! "Don't you dare to see Life differently than what I tell you to you to see it as!"
This twisted energy process has now gone on so long that it has taken on this form we call "general (or "sloppy") semantics" - as well as an over all tendency by us to procrastinate when we feel stuck and of course procrastination makes us even more stuck, for real, as it were!
It all boils down to individual psychology. I personally believe that best and quickest Road to Healing is whenever ONE person dares to allow their own creativity to be their guiding Star in their life. That "allows" the people around, who witness this transformation in 'me' to go and do the same thing in their life!
After all; wasn't it the fact that Buddha and Jesus et Al, dared to live on their own Inner -Ethical- terms, that made them "Enlightened" - and never "needed" to procrastinate!... Full circle! : )
Thanks for giving the stimuli and forum to clarify this for myself! I hope this also might be a window for others as well and enable many more to see through the loop of this wicked, vicious, evil circle and free themselves!
ALL people are (made by ) Nature (to be ) ( Joy-/"fun"-)loving, allowing and creative -if only given the permission without risking life and limb ( by mean spirited peers )!  



22 Jan 2007 @ 03:00 by FreedomBuilder @68.3.101.223 : DEprocrastinate
Couple of things come to mind reading this is the (really!) success I've been having listening to the Think Right Now! audio CD called End Procrastination Now!

Also, regarding to-do lists or getting things done (which would more likely occur without procrastination present), can be best achieved by power-thinking projects ahead of time (like on a Sunday) into their constituent physical movements (like picking up the telephone, meeting people, doing accounting, writing letters/emails etc., etc., appropriate to your work/project) then allocating each physical movement a period of time in each day (say 1 hour telephone, 2 hours letters etc.) and doing just that movement in that period of time, each day...  



22 Jan 2007 @ 16:26 by ming : Procrastinate later
What somewhat works for me is something like that, getting really clear on what actually is involved, and allocating time to it, doing it one step at a time. As opposed to leaving one's project in a vague and abstract state.

What also works is to be less ambitious in filling my available time with to-do items. I've usually overlooked at bunch of things, so there needs to be room for working on stuff that isn't on the plan. So, ironically, I often get more done if I lower my expectations on how much I can do per unit of time.  



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