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Bookshelf: The Procrastination Equation

By Piers Steel

11-19 Procrastination Equation

If we had a coin with motivation on one side, we’d find procrastination on the other.

Almost everyone procrastinates.

People who don’t procrastinate are so few as to be, well, odd. But some of us do it more than others. And, we can learn to do it less.

It costs us: personally, academically, professionally, and financially.

It is not our friend.

Despite various myths to the contrary, productivity and creativity are not enhanced  by procrastination. We feel bad about it. It’s bad for business. It’s even bad for the country (wherever you live).

Dr. Piers Steel, from the University of Calgary, specializes in the science of motivation and procrastination. He has isolated the factors that make us procrastinate, and he provides evidence-based strategies for turning that coin over, to find the motivation we seek.

Here are the major reasons why people procrastinate:

  1. Expectancy. We don’t believe we can succeed (or we think a task is way too easy—which is also bad for motivation).
  2. Value. We don’t value the task. Maybe it’s awful, boring, and/or repetitive.
  3. Impulsiveness. We’d rather do something else. Plus, our environments are full of distractions.
  4. Delay. It’s not due yet, so we’ll get to it tomorrow. Or the day after that. Or maybe the next day…

Dr. Steel gives us multiple strategies for each of the reasons we procrastinate. My favorites involve goal setting: breaking down long-term goals into short-term objectives (including using mini-goals to help get started) and organizing goals into routines (same time, same place). These strategies are especially good for goals that aren’t due right away. There’s more to good goal-setting, but bite-sized pieces and predictability can go a long way to helping us to get started.

With the strategies in this book you can help your kids, students, employees, colleagues, and yourself, too. None of them are too hard to do, and every one is backed by solid research.


Book | The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Things Done

Article | Farrington (2012). Procrastination—Not All It’s Put Off to Be (pdf)

Post | Bookshelf: Changing for Good

Post | 6 Reasons You’re Not Motivated & What to Do About Them

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