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Thursday, January 18, 2007day link 

 The formula for procrastination
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.
[ | 2007-01-18 17:14 | 29 comments | PermaLink ]  More >

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