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The Procrastination Equation

As geeks, we love equations. They tend to simplify life. So when I read about the motivation equation in Nick Winter’s Motivation Hacker, I was intrigued. According to a source he cited, the equation is given as;


First of all, before we proceed, let’s rename this as the procrastination equation, because post-grad research students tend to be procrastinators. Also, let’s define each term;

Expectancy is your confidence of success.
Value is how rewarding a task will be when you finish it and how fun it is while you’re doing it.
Impulsiveness is how distracted you might get by something.
Delay is how far off the reward seems to be.

The biggest problems students face are impulsiveness and delay. Most of the time, these two go hand-in-hand. Graduation dates (Exam/assignment/project deadlines) are so far off into the horizon {delay} that this one hour spent going down the IYS (Infinite Youtube Spiral) {impulsiveness} seems insignificant. Now if you add the fact that sometimes students enter research fields they don’t expect much from, or neither care about nor value, and the procrastination index just increases exponentially and motivation level dips.

Of course, the thing about simple elegant equations is they really fail to capture reality. Procrastination can never really cease to exist, because of the battle between the Instant-Gratification monkey and the rational decision part of the brain as Tim Urban explains in his recent viral TED talk. But to be honest, procrastination is not bad. History has shown us that a lot of eureka moments happen by accident, during moments of procrastination/relaxation…something about delegating the problem to the subconscious or whatnot…

But also, in my real life, procrastination has served me well. Take this post from 11:56am Monday, Dec 25, 2006;

“Why is it that during Finals’ week we get inspired to do all kinds of things when we are supposed to be studying? So tomorrow I have got p-chem final exam, 8 am in the morning and let’s just say that I am saturated with the course. Anyhow, I have to go back to studying but I know I won’t for the next 30 minutes at least so I might as well continue typing.
The weather’s really good today; cool breeze even though the sun’s out.”

That was the very first Facebook post I ever published, and you could say it’s the origin story of this blog.

So in order to further encourage your procrastination, here’s a link to Tim Urban’s TED talk;

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Published inCareerEngineeringPersonal DevelopmentProcrastination