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The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done

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Using a mix of psychology, science, self-help, and a decade of groundbreaking research, Dr. Piers Steel, internationally recognized as the foremost authority on procrastination, explains why procrastination is dangerously on the rise and tells us how to overcome the destructive patterns that affect our health and happiness to create more positive lives.

If you think you are not one of the 95 percent of those of us who procrastinate, take Dr. Steel's test in The Procrastination ...

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The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done

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Overview

Using a mix of psychology, science, self-help, and a decade of groundbreaking research, Dr. Piers Steel, internationally recognized as the foremost authority on procrastination, explains why procrastination is dangerously on the rise and tells us how to overcome the destructive patterns that affect our health and happiness to create more positive lives.

If you think you are not one of the 95 percent of those of us who procrastinate, take Dr. Steel's test in The Procrastination Equation. Or if you think you procrastinate because you're a perfectionist—you're wrong. So, why do we surf the Web instead of finishing overdue projects? Why do we say we'll start that diet—tomorrow? Why do we stay up late watching television instead of going to bed? And how do we overcome these bad habits that we know work against our best intentions? Based on more than a decade of research, and written with humor, humanity, and solid science, The Procrastination Equation explains why we do what we do—or, in this case, don't—offering answers to such questions as:

  • Are we biologically hardwired to procrastinate? If so, why?
  • How does procrastination cost us?
  • What tricks do we play on ourselves when we procrastinate at work, school, and home?
  • If visualizing our dreams isn't enough to make them real, then what steps must we take?

Along the way, Dr. Steel dispels the myths and misunderstandings of motivation and procrastination, replacing them with a clear explanation of why we put off until tomorrow what we should be doing today. He then offers specific techniques we can use to tame and prevent the bad habits that adversely affect our health, happiness, and careers, all the while celebrating the very human foibles that make us who we are. The Procrastination Equation is the definitive and accessible guide for anyone who struggles with this age-old dilemma.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In his absorbing first book Steel looks closely at the oft-misunderstood habit of procrastination. Usually seen as laziness, procrastination stems from the mismatch between human evolution and modern society. Steel, a reformed procrastinator who calls procrastination his "life's work," studied the subject by conducting original research and analyzing hundreds of published cross-discipline studies. His carefully crafted volume describes what he calls the "intention-action gap" and explains why so many people are driven to delay. Early chapters, from "Portrait of a Procrastinator" to "The Economic Cost of Procrastination" take the reader on a vivid tour of the consequences of procrastination and analyze why humans are wired to wait. Though Steel is perhaps too abstruse in describing the results of some findings, most of his writing is clear, never more so than when associated with the biology underlying procrastination. "Action points" offer practical advice for readers who have identified their procrastination tendencies. Though some of the author's tools are self-help book staples, Steel adapts them to his subject. His engaging guide will appeal to a wide audience of past, present, and future procrastinators and researchers trying to get a handle on the science of putting things off. (Jan.)
Booklist
“A useful, eye-opening book.”
Montreal Gazette
The Procrastination Equation is this season’s must-read self-help book. In addition to offering useful strategies to fight a common problem, it’s a fascinating read.”
Gretchen Rubin
“Procrastinating just makes unpleasant tasks worse, so why is it so hard for us to resist dithering and delay? The Procrastination Equation is crammed with surprising insights about procrastination and human nature — as well as concrete, helpful solutions for fighting procrastination.”
Dan Ariely
“Procrastination is the saffron spice of human behavior, where even small amounts of this tendency can shatter the best of intentions. In this illuminating book Piers Steel shows us the secrets of procrastination, how it affects us and how we will, one day, be able to prevail.”
Daniel H. Pink
The Procrastination Equation will teach you how to bust the excuses that are preventing you from doing your best work and living your best life. . . . So don’t put it off any longer. Read this book. Today.”
Richard Florida
“I put off writing this blurb ‘til the last minute. I thought it was because I was too busy but after reading The Procrastination Equation, I know the real reasons. Piers Steel will help you tackle the goals . . . that always seemed . . . out of reach.”
Library Journal
Why you "put off till tomorrow what you can do today" forms the crux of Steel's (human resources & organizational dynamics, Univ. of Calgary, Canada) book, in which he not only answers that question but details specific techniques to reign in the impulse. While 95 percent of the population tends to procrastinate sometimes, chronic offenders tend to be more impulsive. This stated, Steel delves into the realm of motivation and shares techniques to reframe the goals of a task vs. the difficulties involved. For instance, he suggests that one focus on having energy rather than not being tired and starting early rather than not being late. While Steel offers good advice, getting to the essence involves reading chapters of text and examples. Easy to put off reading.
Kirkus Reviews

An upbeat, motivational guide to procrastination.

Steel (Haskayne School of Business, Univ. of Calgary), an industrial-organizational psychologist whose doctoral thesis examined procrastination, explains it all: what it is, why people do it, what the results of such behavior are and what do to about it. Defined here as irrational delay, procrastination is a measurable trait, and the author provides simple tests so that readers can determine their type of procrastination and how they compare with others. Steel introduces three characters, dubbed Eddie, Valerie and Tom, whose stories illustrate the motivational elements that make up the "procrastination equation": Expectancy x Value / Impulsiveness x Delay = Motivation. Simply put, the equation means that the motivation to perform a particular task declines when the expectancy or value of a task's reward declines or when there is an increase in impulsivity or in the delay of the task's reward. Graphs and charts demonstrate how these elements operate and what Steel's research on procrastination has revealed. Individual chapters focus on each of these equation's elements and give pointers on how to deal with them. Following the self-help sections, Eddie, Valerie and Tom return in stories that illustrate how they changed their behavior and their lives by applying the recommended tactics. Procrastination, writes the author, is widespread because it is wired into the human brain, occurring when the impulsive limbic system overrules the more rational prefrontal cortex, and he offers a capsule history of procrastination from the introduction of agriculture to the industrial revolution. Today, he writes, computers and television are the top two distractions that fuel procrastination, but, in his view, easily built and readily implemented technological devices could provide a solution to our weak wills in these areas of temptation.

Everything you ever wanted to know about procrastination but never got around to reading.

Montreal Gazette
The Procrastination Equation is this season’s must-read self-help book. In addition to offering useful strategies to fight a common problem, it’s a fascinating read.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061703614
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/28/2010
  • Pages: 307
  • Product dimensions: 9.52 (w) x 11.34 (h) x 1.07 (d)

Meet the Author

Piers Steel, PhD, one of the world’s foremost researchers and speakers on the science of motivation and procrastination, is the winner of the Killam Emerging Research Leader Award. Dr. Steel’s research has appeared in numerous outlets around the world, ranging from Psychology Today and New Scientist to Good Housekeeping and The New Yorker. He lives in Calgary, Alberta, with his wife and two sons.

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