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17 February 2014

Why do you procrastinate?..

Just landed in Mumbai by Indigo flight. Overheard a fascinating conversation...

This was between two people sitting next to me. There was this guy, sitting next to me, and this lady sitting next to him. Lady was some sort of Psychologist, I think and she was educating this guy about the perils of Procrastination.

This guy was complaining that he is not able to get stuff done and he was prone to procrastination. As per her, Procrastination was bad.

(It was surprising. Today morning I had listened to a program in NGC which said that Procrastination can be good. That is a topic for another post)...

The discussion that I was overhearing set me thinking.

What is procrastination? What is related to?

I can see that most of you are surprised that I am asking this question itself. 'Procrastination is the inability to take timely action', I can hear you saying. But is it?

Is procrastination is the delay in taking action or is it due to your inability for decision making. In other words is Procrastination a 'Decision Making' issue or 'Timely Action' issue?

Let me take it further. In our lives, we all have taken decisions, right? Every one of you have taken decision one time or other. (Not taking a decision is also a decision, remember). If you look back in your life, you will see that whenever you have taken a decision, you have acted on it. In other words, when you are clear of what you want, you take a decision and act on it.

You procrastinate when you are not clear in your mind about your impending decision. You wait for new clues to land so that you can take a better informed decision. You are waiting for new information to process so that you can take a decision.

Once you decide, you act. You don't procrastinate.

As per Vroom's Expectancy Theory of motivation, people's motivation to meet a goal is based on three factors.

One, Valence, it is the attractiveness of the Goal. The Goal should be attractive enough for the people to try to achieve

Two, Instrumentality: Which means that the people should feel that their efforts will be instrumental in their achieving their goal

Three, Expectancy: Not only that the goal is attractive, people should also expect that if they put in the right effort, they can achieve the goal

Let me illustrate this with an example.

Assume that You want to change your job. Valence refers to how strong you want to change your job. That is the first aspect. Unless the goal is strong enough, attractive enough in comparison with the existing situation, you will not even start to put in the effort.

Having decided that the job is attractive enough, now you look for instrumentality. What do you have to do to change your job. One, you have to update your CV, two, you have to circulate the same, three, you have to follow up...

Now you know what you want and how to get there. Now comes the third part, Expectancy: You must feel that if you put in the effort mentioned in the paragraph above, you will be able to achieve your goal. For example, if you are a person with a communication handicap, you many not feel confidence (Low Expectancy) to take those steps. 

The strength of your motivation is a product of the above three parameters measured mathematically.

And if your motivation is high, you will not procrastinate. 

Think of all those times when you did not procrastinate. What was common to all those situations?

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