More on Procrastination

I’ve been studying procrastination, motivation, etc to help me with the issues I mentioned when I made my New Year’s Resolutions last November. Reading Getting Things Done (I think Jess recommended it) has helped me put some structure around my natural processs for doing things.

Today, I learned this from taking a Procrastination Central test:

Accuracy = 96.55% – “You rank in the top 10% in terms of procrastination. That is, when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t. Likely, you are much more free-spirited, adventurous, and spontaneous than most. Probably, your work doesn’t engage you as much as you would like or perhaps you are surrounded by many easily available and much more pleasant temptations. These temptations may initially seem rewarding, but in the longer-term, you see many of them as time-wasters. Though you are likely incredibly productive just before a deadline, you might not get all your work done and there is a lot of unwanted stress. You may want to reduce what procrastination you do commit.”

Hmm… “incredibly productive just before a deadline”. Check! “surrounded by many easily available and much more pleasant temptations” Check! “when it comes to putting things off, you often do so even though you know you shouldn’t” Check! It’s nice to see this in this evaluation, because these are the things I’ve been focusing on as ways to improve. I’m particularly focusing on the best ways to prevent me from putting things off.

Being overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to do has always been a challenge for me and the Getting Things Done approach is really interesting in that aspect – in how it recommends putting everything out of your hand onto paper. I still haven’t finished the initial exercise of clearning out my mind of my unfinished business, but the little I have done has already helped with my motivation and ability to handle the amount of things I have to do.

On a related note, a 10-year study from the psychologist Piers Steel resulted in a formula to map your procrastination response in a particular situation: Desire to Complete Task (U) = Expectation of Success (E) x Value of Completion (V) / Immediacy of Task (I) x Personal Sensitivity to Delay (D), or U=ExV/IxD. From Scientific American: U = E x V / I x D. The argument for this forumula seems interesting (thought its application sounds a little too exagerated), but I really don’t think you can answer “Why we do what we do?” with a generic formula.

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