The Procrastination Equation

A book that I went through recently is The Procrastination Equation by Piers Steel.

I am not going to give the actual equation. You can find it as his site. About half the book goes over the causes and the costs of procrastination. The basic thrust is that procrastination is caused by people paying more attention to the urges and messages from the limbic system (which deals with appetites and short-term needs) than the pre-frontal cortex (the part that deals with logic, reason, self-control and long-term thinking and planning). He states that even educated people have these issues. He is upfront about procrastination in his own life.

He has a couple of interesting posts on his blog here, here, here and here. There are reviews of it here, here and here.

He does not give advice and strategies until chapter 7. I will list them here.

Chapter seven strategies:
Action points for success spirals:
– volunteer for more responsibility
– travel to some new place you thought you would never go
– try an adventure activity like skydiving, mountain climbing, white-water rafting
– learn a new skill (cooking, music). As you advance, give yourself some credit
– Challenge yourself pushing an old hobby to new limits
– break down initimidating tasks to smaller tasks, track progress and count successes
Action points for vicarious victory
– Watch inspirational movies
– read inspirational biographies and autobiographies
– listen to inspirational speakers
– join a community, service or professional organization
– start your own support group
Action points for wish fulfillment
– sit down in a quiet place and clear your mind, think about the life you want
– focus on one aspect of this life
– elaborate on all the things about this mental picture that are attractive to you
– mentally contrast this ideal future with your life now
– if you are still optimistic, you will find more motivation
Action points for plan for the worst, hope for the best
– distract what could go wrong to distract you on the way to your goal
– make a list of ways you procrastinate, and post it where you work
– avoid these risky pre-defined situations
– develop a disaster recovery plan ahead of time
– if you get derailed, use your recovery plan
Action points for accepting that you are addicted to delay
– take a moment to reflect on how many times you have talked yourself out of your plans and into trouble. Start a log to track procrastination habits
– acknowledge your biggest worry is your weak will
– accept that the first delay allows you to justify subsequent delays

Chapter 8 strategies
action points for games and goals
– avoid boredom by making tasks more challenging. Gamify stuff
– connect tasks to your long-term goals, to what you find intrinsically motivating
– frame your goals in terms of what you want, not in terms of what you are trying to avoid
action points for energy crisis
– reserve your morning and mid-day peak performance hours for the hard stuff
– don’t let yourself get hungry
– exercise a few times a few times a week
– get on a regular sleep schedule
– respect your limitations
action points for you should see the task I am avoiding
– identify a large task you should be doing right now but are not
– identify tangent tasks that should be done, that you might be putting off right now, and are more enjoyable than the target task
– accept the trade-off of avoiding the target task by tackling the tangent tasks, putting you in a better position to do target task
action points for double of nothing
– make a list of rewards you can give yourself
– promise yourself these rewards upon task completion
– consider ways to make tasks more enjoyable
– make sure what makes the work more enjoyable does not override the work itself
action points for let your passion be your vocation
– look at careers involving activities you like doing
– filter out occupations for which you do not have needed skills
– ranks what remains by economic demand
– look for career advice (he recommends Career Vision)
– start job hunting

Chapter 9 Strategies
action points for commit to bondage, satiation and poison
– bondage: put temptations out of reach or far away. remove batter from PDA
– satiation: satisfy your needs before they get too intense
– poison: add disincentives to your temptations
action points for making attention pay
– sully tempting alternatives by using covert sensitization
– when confronted with distracting temptations, focus on their abstract aspects. Chocolate cheesecake is in the categories of fat and sugar
– eliminate cues that remind you of distracting alternatives
– replace them with meaningful pictures, like a picture of your family to remind you why you are working
– foster work cues by compartmentalizing work and play
action points for scoring goals
– frame your goals in specific terms. Instead of “do expense report”, say “Gather receipts and itemize them”
– break down long-term goals into short-term objectives
– organize goals into routines that occur regularly at same time and place

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