The Procrastination Equation: An In-Depth Breakdown

Procrastination. There’s a good chance you’re doing it right now. It’s one of the biggest problems we hear about from students and it’s absolutely still a problem after graduation. There’s no escape.

Or is there?

While we likely can’t banish procrastination from our lives forever, we learn to manage it and build habits that work against it. But in order to work against it, we need to understand it.

Luckily, Dr. Piers Steel has a nice definition for us:

…procrastination has identified not just any delay but an irrational one—that is, when we voluntarily put off tasks despite believing ourselves to be worse off for doing so.

Even more helpfully, his work on the study of procrastination led to the procrastination equation — an equation that explains your current level of motivation to do something.

Each variable in the equation represents a different problem you might face when putting off something you shouldn’t be, and each has a slew of ways you can go about mitigating its effects.

So if you’ve got a problem with procrastination, it’s time to see what we can do about it.

Today’s episode delves heavily into Dr. Steel’s book, .

If you think it’s just a fluff-filled self-help book, it’s worth noting that the book itself is 250 pages, followed by 76 pages almost entirely filled with research citations. It’s a little intense. If you want to look more deeply into what we talk about on this episode, this book is a great place to start.

Things mentioned in this episode:

  • , by Piers Steel
  • Quiz – How much of a procrastinator are you?
  • Quiz – Which motivation variables affect you most? (If Expectancy <= 24, it’s a likely problem area. If Value or Delay >= 24, they’re what you should probably be looking at.)
  • 10-Step Anti-Procrastination Checklist
  • Focus app
  • Cold Turkey app
  • Magnet app
  • Learned helplessness dog study
  • Learned Helplessness (Ep. 99)
  • What We Learned from Reading “Deep Work” (Ep. 140)
  • Just 6 Weeks app (iOS | Android)
  • Habitica
  • Beeminder

Want more cool stuff? You can find all sorts of great tools at my Resources page.

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The Procrastination Equation: An In-Depth Breakdown (Ep. 167)