Calculate your procrastination with the Temporal Motivation Theory

Just when I thought I understood the hows and whys of procrastination (or at least how and why I procrastinate), someone came along and turned it into a mathematical equation. Check out this recent news story: "A formula for procrastination."

According to the article, "University of Calgary professor Piers Steel, a self-described reformed procrastinator, 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)."

I know that I'm not the only one in the world who is guilty of procrastination. Steel believes that "most people who procrastinate are impulsive; they value what they can have today more than what they can have tomorrow--and long-term goals don't have motivational force. 'My theory is that if your model of motivation remains level, it only spikes up right before deadline, like a shark's fin,' Steel said."

When I read this, I have to admit that I was a little defensive. I have long-term goals!! How about my New Year's resolution to go to the gym and lose a little weight? Hey, I did go last night... 

Steel believes that "most people make New Year's resolutions in vain. In scientific terms, a person's intention alone is not enough to see anything through--a condition called 'preference reversal.' That means that unless an individual has some knowledge of his or her motivational weaknesses and can create a plan to counteract them, those promises of losing weight or writing a novel will fall to the wayside." 

So, what's this formula all about? "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."

Great. All I needed was a little multiplication and division to muddle my understanding of something that I thought I had down pat! I'll have to read up on this... later... when I have more time. :-)