Do Humans Seek and Create Meaning (Part 4)?
November 11, 2016 – 4:29 pm | No Comment

Article #918
It is through our perception and connection with all life that we can experience meaning and have a fulfilling life.

Read the full story »
Confidence Building

Articles to help you learn to build and keep genuine self confidence.


Articles that will help you motivate yourself and others.

Getting Organized

Articles that will help to organize and bring order to our chaotic lives.

Boosting Creativity

Articles and tips that will help you boost and improve your personal creativity.


Articles to help inspire you each and everyday.

Home » Featured, Motivation

Stop Procrastinating…now…now…

Submitted by on September 19, 2010 – 9:53 pmNo Comment

Procrastination Explained as a Math Equation

University of Calgary professor Piers Steel said the act of dillydallying can be boiled down to three human traits: the person’s confidence, values and impulsiveness (how susceptible he or she is to immediate delight). Like an economist might, Steel combined those elements to develop a mathematical theory that can define procrastination. His work was published this month in the journal of the American Psychological Association.

“The heart of procrastination is an adaptive natural tendency to value today much more than tomorrow,” said Steel.

This is why most people make New Year’s resolutions in vain. A person’s intention alone is not enough to see anything through–a condition called “preference reversal.” Unless an individual has some knowledge of their motivational weaknesses and can create a plan to counteract them, those promises of losing weight or writing a novel will fall to the wayside, Steel said.

Steel’s formula, called the Temporal Motivation Theory, calculates procrastination like Albert Einstein’s equation for energy, E=MC2. It factors the person’s expectancy for succeeding at a given task (E) or self-confidence; the value of completing the task (V); its immediacy or availability (Gamma); and the person’s sensitivity to delay (D) to come up with the desirability of the task (Utility).

The equation reads: Utility = E x V / (Gamma) x D.

Ok, enough scientific jargon.  What this means (for those of us that don’t like math) is human behavior is obvious when it comes to a person’s opinion of value (what something is worth to them) and whether or not they expect to get something.

A person’s tolerance for delay also works into the equation.  For example, whether they can wait 20 minutes for dinner to be served or fill up on bread immediately. “These are the basic elements people use in making decisions.”

Most people who procrastinate are impulsive, and they value what they can have today more than what they can have tomorrow.  Long-term goals don’t have motivational force, Steel said.

Steel’s theory is that if your model of motivation remains level, it only spikes up right before deadline.

Having a self-awareness or self-knowledge also plays a role in procrastination.  Self-knowledge might include knowing that the goal is large and then breaking it down into easier, step-by-step tasks in order to succeed, he said, or removing temptations like TV or video games. But he said most people don’t have that much self-knowledge.

Procrastination Is On the Rise

“Procrastination is one of the most frustrating obstacles in the business place,” said David Nershi, executive director of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Dr. Steel’s work is valuable not only to other researchers, but to business leaders as well.”

Procrastination is from the Latin “pro,” which means “forward” or “forth,” and “crastinus,” meaning “of tomorrow.” Since the 1970s, when researchers began investigating human behavior, societal procrastination has risen five-fold to affect from about 5 percent of the population in the 1970s to about 15 percent to 20 percent of people today, according to various estimates. At least 95 percent of people say they procrastinate occasionally.

That standardized failure breeds among college kids, who choose to watch TV, go out with friends or sleep instead of studying. Researchers estimate 80 to 95 percent of college students procrastinate, with 50 percent doing it regularly.

Technology has boosted the amount of procrastination in the world, Steel said. The Internet and gadgets like the Blackberry, give people a constant source of putting things off.  They create motivationally toxic environments, he said. “Imagine trying to diet with a magic floating spoon of ice cream following you around,” Steel said.

I like to call this the ‘TMI’ age—the ‘Too Much Information’ age.  Let’s face it; distractions abound with thousands of TV channels, movie channels, infomercials, internet social networks, clubs, pop-ups and ads, etc.

He said if people want to avoid procrastinating, they need to do things like remove games from their PC, or turn off automatic e-mail alerts.

Still, Steel admits that it’s an inexact science. As researchers attempt to get more and more precise in their measurements on human nature, they find that raises more questions. Eventually, researchers could develop diagnostic tests that pinpoint people’s motivational weaknesses.

“Essentially, procrastinators have less confidence in themselves, less expectancy that they can actually complete a task,” Steel said. “Perfectionism is not the culprit. In fact, perfectionists actually procrastinate less, but they worry about it more.”

Paul Spector, professor of industrial organizational psychology at University of South Florida, said there are three ways of getting sidetracked:

One is characteristic of people who simply have a hard time getting started on a project, or a classic procrastinator.

Another deals with a person who gets started, but then gets bogged down in details, or a classic perfectionist.

The last is the person who is distractible, i.e., the student who has the paper to do, but decides to go out when a friend calls.

Steel’s theory combines time into this mental regulation process to look at procrastination as a dynamic process.

Experts in the field believe that Steel’s formula could lead to further research in the field and eventual methods of helping chronic procrastinators.

“This sort of thing could be stimulating for future research and generate ideas of things to try in terms of intervention, like getting kids to procrastinate less,” he said.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.

Leave us a suggestion for articles you would like to see. We will do our best to suit your needs! Did this information help? I hope so. Change can be difficult sometimes. Like I always say in my workshops, It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it because you’re worth it! Donations fund Self Esteem Workshops for teens, supply books to schools for the continual support of character education across America, and are tax deductable. Thank you from Self Help Guides!