There’s a Formula for Why You Procrastinate – Understand It and It will Help
Now before we get to the procrastination formula, let’s get a definition.
So what is procrastination? Firstly, it’s that nagging productivity problem that just won’t do. ‘I know I’m bad at it. But what can I do?’. This is not a real question but more of a statement of frustration.
Now the word is from the Latin ‘pro’ which means ‘forward’ and ‘crastinus’ meaning ‘tomorrow’. This is one for the pub quizzers.
Luckily, for anyone, and everyone struggling with this modern-day nasty, there’s hope. A bright spark called Piers Steel, a Professor at the University of Calgary (Yes, the place of Eddie the Eagle fame-ish) spent 10 years creating a formula for procrastination. Interestingly, his formula, called ‘The Temporal Motivation Theory’ calculates dilly-dallying. Now it’s a bit like Einstein’s E=MC2 but not as famous, though it has more practical applications for us mere mortals.
Procrastination = Utility = E x V / (Gamma) x D.
Now let’s make that you and I speak:
The Procrastination Formula is:
In essence, this means that your ability to get a task done is divided into 2 broad parts:
- Self-confidence: How good you think you are at doing the task.
- Task Value: How much worth the task adds to your life/work.
Then they are multiplied together.
Now there are these two other broad parts:
- Task Urgency: How quickly the task needs to get done.
- Surrounding Distractions: How much stuff around you will shift your focus from the task to anything else.
Likewise, they are multiplied together.
Lastly, the above 2 broad parts are divided against each other.
A Real World Explanation – Procrastination Formula
Now that we’ve explained the procrastination formula, here’s an example. I have a presentation to write for a meeting with a Tesco buyer in 2 weeks. This is my task. I am nervous because it’s a big pitch, so my self-confidence is ok, and the value of the task is huge. So, I am motivated to do it. Yet, the urgency is not there because it is not for another two weeks and I have my emails buzzing every few minutes. I’ll procrastinate.
So I changed the example to ‘I have a presentation to write for a meeting with a Tesco buyer tomorrow’. Now all the above are the same, yet the immediacy factor has changed. So, I get it done. This is obvious. If it’s immediate I get it done. But the challenge is how to get it done when it is not immediate. That’s where we need to look at the other 3 factors of the procrastination formula; Self-confidence, Task Value and Surrounding Distractions.
Self-confidence comes with experience and there’s little you can change here. Task value is what it is. Similarly, not much can change here either. It’s in door number 3 that we can really make the difference – Surrounding distractions.
Tips to Reduce Your Distractions
The procrastination formula supports this. To improve your chances of getting a task done and reduce your chances of procrastinating, follow these steps:
- Set Outlook to offline.
- Turn your phone to silent.
- Book a meeting with yourself.
- Set the instant messages that nag you the most to off/busy.
- Tell Siri to set a timer for 20 minutes.
- Do the task and nothing else for 20 minutes.
- At the end of 20 minutes reward yourself with a small break and get a coffee.
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