Rick Smith

Rick Smith

The Leap

Procrasturbation

Are you a chronic "procrastibator"?

Posted Mar 31, 2011

Procrasturbation. noun. prə-ˈkras-tə-ˌbā-shən -When delaying the performance of a task feels so good, it results in... euphoria.

Why does procrastination feel SOOOO good? We are stressed about a task. There is uncertainty in the outcome and we creatively come up with a perfectly good excuse to postpone what we do not want to do. We all do it. From college students to senior executives. You might be surprised. The more senior you get in an organization, the more tools are afforded to you to procrastinate.

I recently stumbled upon some new research about procrastination. Labeled as Temporal Motivational Theory, Dr. Piers Steel says that procrastination can be boiled down to a simple formula: E x V/Γ x D. I am not exactly sure what Γ stands for, but I think it may be the list of crap your wife has for you to do if you ever succeed in getting out of the task you are procrastinating on the first place.

It boils down to two main factors:

1) We are more likely to do things that we expect to succeed at and we value

2) We typically discount future rewards in favor of immediate rewards

Consider this equation and the mindset of a senior high school student who has to write a history report. If he's already been accepted to college (discounted future rewards of current tasks), and is studying with Betty, the Cheerleading Captain (immediate reward, strong chance of succeeding). BAM! High likelihood of procrastorbation on that report. Unless dad is home. (I will cover procastoration in a separate post).

Unfortunately, much of our procrastination comes from how bad our brains are at accurately visualizing the future, and tricking ourselves into underestimating the consequences of putting off a task. There may be a formula, as Dr. Steel hypothesizes, but our brains manipulate the variables so that we believe doing what we want to do actually makes more sense than doing what we need to do.

It seems that there are also several very creative methods by which we can avoid procrastination. But I'll put that off for another blog. Betty????

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