Book Summary: The Procrastination Equation
Author: Piers Steel
About the author: Piers Steel is a Ph.D. in industrial/Organizational psychology. He studies the Science behind the working of a workplace. His works have been published in many reputed psychology journals. He has coached many businessmen and has received a number of awards for his work. He is an international author especially known because of the book The Procrastination Equation.
About the book: The book Procrastination Equation talks about the other side of the could have and should have that many people talk about. The book tells about how people are on one side of the equation. They want to be on the other side but just can`t. And they leave many tasks undone, projects unfinished, things that are incomplete. The book talks about the ways to get from one side of the Procrastination equation to another side.
1. The Procrastination Equation
The procrastination equation that the author has discovered is as follows
Motivation= Expectancy x Value / Impulsiveness x Delay
And there it is: the Procrastination Equation—inspired by the common elements that determine when we procrastinate, and crafted together from the most deeply researched elements of social sciences’ strongest motivational theories. The Procrastination Equation accounts for every major finding for procrastination. As the deadline for any task gets pushed further into the future, Delay increases and our motivation to tackle the task decreases. Impulsiveness multiplies the effects of Delay, and so impulsive people feel the effects of time far less acutely, at least at first. Consequences have to be on their doorstep before they start paying attention to them—unless they are particularly large. And what makes consequences large? Expectancy and Value. The bigger the payoff and the greater the likelihood of receiving it, the sooner it will capture your attention.
This equation by the author is what most people face everytime they have to do something. The author views procrastination as the lack of motivation to do the things that you want to do. He says that whenever you want to do something, the probability of you getting it done depends on the percentage of motivation you have to do it. If you have enough motivation you probably are going to push through all the obstacles that stop you from getting it done. if you don`t have enough motivation to do it you probably are going to procrastinate on doing it.
So let’s see what the four deciding factors according to the author for your procrastination are :
The first factor for not getting things done is the percentage of expectancy that you have from this task. So what do you mean by having expectancy?
Expectancy means that what you expect from doing the task? What you will get and what you will have to go through? Do you think you can succeed in doing this or do you think you will fail? If you probably are going to fail so why do it in the first place, right?
Well if you really expect yourself to succeed then you will not procrastinate on getting things done. like writing an essay for your assignment. If you expect yourself to get an A + on the essay then you will begin writing it real fast so you will have enough time to make it the best essay you have written
The second factor for procrastination is the value. What reward you will get if you complete this task? What will you gain from your effort? This is the thing that you will get in return for your work.
everyone wants something, right? who doesn`t want to get something in return for their hard work? The bigger the value you are going to get more the motivation you will have. If the value is less then you will try to procrastinate on the task.
These are the factors in the numerator of the equation. The larger the expectancy and value, the chances of you getting to work increases. Now let’s look at the denominator of the equation.
Impulsiveness is what you can call the instant results syndrome. (This syndrome is not a real problem. I just made up the name for better understanding.)
This syndrome is just your temptations for results. Your brain works on the dopamine system. whenever you achieve something your brain releases dopamine. This habit makes us submit to our temptations.
You too have such type to thing going on your head. When you do something you want a reward for the work you have done. But most of the time reward take a long time to reach you so you give up to the instant cravings and procrastinate on things.
Delay is the time taken to reap rewards. (or just being impatient)
Delay is the time period between the day you start doing the thing and the day you will get the rewards for it. The delay takes place because you might have to work for a long time on a single task like for example an assignment or a project.
It may take a few days to a few months to get the rewards for your work. you may have to work harder each day until you get the results that you want. During this period that your motivation starts decreasing and if it becomes zero you probably procrastinate on the task or just quit doing it.
Let’s look at this example to understand this concept better
Carl is a college student and has been assigned an essay on September 15, the start of the semester and is due on December 15 the course end.
Carl likes to socialize but also likes to get good grades. The below graph shows that the rewards that carl will get in socializing at the start of the semester are pretty high than compared to the work he is doing. But as the submission date nears the rewards for writing the essay gradually start increasing and suddenly exceeds the instant social gratification that he sought. In this example, the switch in motivation occurs on 3rd Dec.
The above example also shows the positives of long-term thinking. Which I talk about in the summary of. Carl chooses long-term rewards than the short-term rewards and starts working immediately on the essay. He will have more time and can enjoy a little bit of socializing during the rush hours. But of course, all his friends probably will stay busy because they haven`t completed their essays yet.
You can read more about Long Term thinking in this article.
This is the end of the summary of The Procrastination Equation.