Update – anyone suffering the curse of procrastination should head over to Dr Piers Steel’s website Procrastination Central where there is an opportunity to take part in his research online, have a formal assessment of your procrastination and some suggestions about tackling it. On the other hand you might have something else to do first. /update
I’ve been attempting to write a post but, well, procrastinating over it.
A University of Calgary professor has recently published his magnum opus on the subject of procrastination – and it’s only taken him 10 years.
Joking aside, Dr. Piers Steel is probably the world’s foremost expert on the subject of putting off until tomorrow what should be done today. His comprehensive analysis of procrastination research presents some surprising conclusions on the subject, such as:
- Most people’s New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure
- Most self-help books have it completely wrong when they say perfectionism is at the root of procrastination, and
- Procrastination can be explained by a single mathematical equation
“Essentially, procrastinators have less confidence in themselves, less expectancy that they can actually complete a task,” Steel says. “Perfectionism is not the culprit. In fact, perfectionists actually procrastinate less, but they worry about it more.”
Other predictors of procrastination include: task aversiveness, impulsiveness, distractibility, and how much a person is motivated to achieve. Not all delays can be considered procrastination; the key is that a person must believe it would be better to start working on given tasks immediately, but still not start.
It’s estimated that about 15-20 per cent of the general population are procrastinators. And the costs of procrastinating can add up well beyond poor work performance, especially for those who delay filing their taxes or planning their retirement.
And that formula up there in the title? it’s Steel’s
Temporal Motivational Theory, which takes into account factors such as the expectancy a person has of succeeding with a given task (E), the value of completing the task (V), the desirability of the task (Utility), its immediacy or availability (Ã) and the person’s sensitivity to delay (D).
Doesn’t help me get the post done though.