A Mathematical Formula for Procrastination

Posted on 17th January, 2007

The Scientific American has published an interesting article about a 10 year study of procrastination.

The researchers from University of Calgary even came up with a mathematical formula for calculating your tendency to put off doing important tasks.

The magic formula is

U= E x V / Ix D


U – desire to complete the task
E – the expectation of success
V – the value of completion
I – the immediacy of task
D – the personal sensitivity to delay

Obviously this formula does not explain why we humans procrastinate in the first place, not does it explain why procrastination seems to be on the rise according to two recent surveys – it afflicts as many as 95 percent of students and at least 115 percent of adults.

The formula may have a greater impact upon us:

Insights into our procrastinating ways may help explain why humans struggle with long-term problems that require immediate solutions such as climate change and mounting public debt.

And by reducing human motivation to a formula, powerful computer models can be put to work to predict our choices (and perhaps create avatars that will successfully mimic us in online worlds). “Modeling complex systems is something that we’ve done. We do it with the weather,” Steel says. “This gives us the initial foundation to do it with people’s personalities.

In my case though I think I have an average U. But I can be more productive if I know that I could make more money (V) once the task is completed for example and as long as the potential for success is there (E)

I think the formula should be

U = (E x V) / (I x D) as the bigger personal delay would result in lower desire to complete the task U.

From the formula, to be more productive, one should focus in increasing the value of E and V, given that I and D remain constant. What do you think?

[via lifehacker]
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  • lrn says:

    U = E x V / I x D is the same as U = (E x V) / (I x D). Multiplication comes first!

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