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The Procrastination Equation

4 out of 5 stars.

Piers Steel, Murdoch Books, RRP $17.15

How many students perform well in the structure of school only to drop out in their first year of university? It’s not a matter of intelligence.

Often they left school on a high of academic achievement. Then suddenly they are confronted with an array of choices – not all of them good ones – in an environment where the structure is all up to them.

Lots muddle through; many don’t. Even those who succeed remember the stress they put themselves through.

You may not be one of them, but you may have to manage them. This book will help.

Steel distills this tendency into an equation then works through it, examining each of the variables and what you can do about them.

On the plus side, there is expectancy and value. We have certain expectations that drive us to achieve things.

In turn we put a value on the result. The stronger your expectations and the greater the value you put on it, the more likely you’ll get on with the task at hand.

Working against you are impulsiveness and delay. The former will shift your attention to other activities where the expectation and value is more immediate.

That in turn leads to delay, which generates stress and even more delay.

Steel sees impulsiveness as the core culprit. We are hard-wired for it.

Thousands of years ago, people went off to hunt when they were hungry. Why bother tilling the fields for six months when you can get food when you want it?

Nothing new there. How often do we see impulsive action neutralise planned production today?

One trick is to bring forward the targets. Break your plans into short sprints with short-term deadlines.

Give yourself rewards. Celebrate success at each step. The same impulsiveness that ultimately motivates people to cram when the hour is near can be utilised more often.

Lower the daily bar to a level where you can jump over it. Get some value now.

This book won’t eliminate procrastination, but you’ll be more self-aware for reading it, and you’ll understand more about how to handle it in others.

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