2 years ago
A few years I read a New Scientist article about a psychologist called Piers Steel, who had studied procrastination. This thread reminded me about that article, and that the psychologist had formed an equation to describe procrastination!
I found a round up of the study on www.itwire.com
Steel generally found that men postpone more than women, and younger people procrastinate more than older people. Perfectionists procrastinate less, but worry more, than those without that perfection trait.
Overall, though, Steel found four factors that determine procrastination or its opposite (the desire (U) to complete the task):
(1) Expectation (E) of Success (how confident a person is at completing a task successfully);
(2) Personal Sensitivity to Delay (D) (how easily a person is distracted by the task);
(3) Value (V) of Completion (how undesirable, unpleasant, boring, menial, agonizing the task is viewed by the person); and
(4) Immediacy (I) of Task (how quickly or delayed is the reward for performing the task).
As quoted within the New Scientist article “Procrastination: The thief of time,” Steel stated, "We prize the now so much more than the later. So if a task can be realized now and we can have the pleasure now, we value that a lot more than something that will have a larger reward with greater certainty later."
Basically, Steel concludes that procrastination is not due to one factor. Instead, it comes about from many differences in personality from each individual and, equally as important, from each particular situation confronted by each individual.
Steel is confident that he can even predict the amount of procrastination. He states, from the same New Scientist article, "Procrastination can be understood, or summarized at least, by a mathematical equation."
He takes into account the four factors stated earlier and quantifies (measures) each of them: Expectation, how confident a person is at succeeding in the task (E); Value, how pleasant the person perceives the task to be (V); Distraction how easily distracted or sensitive the person is (D); and Immediacy, how much time will elapse before the reward for completing the task arrives (I).
The formula is therefore U = (E x V) / (I x D), where U is the desire to complete the actual task.
I think what the formula means is that if you're confident of succeeding in the task, and think that it's worthwhile doing, and you make sure you reward yourself for completing the task; you'll be less temped to put it off.
A fat lot of good all that did me quite recently when I was running exceptionally late on a couple of university assignments that I had to complete by the first of March this year.
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