Have you ever wondered why you can’t quite get round to finishing a job? Researchers have devised a mathematical formula for procrastinators to work out just how much chance they have of overcoming their weakness.
According to the new book containing the equation, procrastination is becoming more and more of a problem as computer games and personal organisers provide endless opportunities for distraction and rescheduling.
Piers Steel, a business professor at Calgary University in Canada, has pulled together hundreds of studies on the art of delay. He believes that the two contradictory views commonly held about procrastinators — that they are either extra-careful or bone idle — are both wrong. Instead, they have a vice all their own. According to Steel the evidence suggests that chronic procrastinators, who make up about 20% of the population, are more impulsive and erratic than other people and less conscientious about attention to detail and obligations to others.
In his forthcoming book, The Procrastination Equation: Today’s Trouble with Tomorrow, Steel warns that dozens of “procrastination workshops” that have sprung up on campuses to help students are only delaying a solution.
According to Steel, procrastinators believe they can complete a task and also care about it. Lazy people, by contrast, are not bothered whether they can finish the job — they just do not want to do it. Both can come up with excuses such as a dog eating the homework. Steel, who admits he can be distracted by computer games, says procrastination is becoming a bigger issue because many more jobs are “self-structured”, with people setting their own schedules.
The equation is U=EV/ID.
The 'U' stands for utility, or the desire to complete a given task. It is equal to the product of E, the expectation of success, and V the value of completion, divided by the product of I, the immediacy of the task, and D, the personal sensitivity to delay.
You can measure your procrastination here.