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The Procrastination Equation: How to Stop Putting Things Off and Start Getting Stuff Done Paperback – January 3, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

According to Steel, an expert on procrastination, about 95 percent of us procrastinate. About a quarter of us are chronic procrastinators, having finely honed the art of putting things off. But why do we do it? It’s not like we don’t know there are things we should be doing and things we shouldn’t. So why do we spend time doing the wrong things? Steel’s explanation, which should come as a relief to some, is that procrastination is an evolutionary feature, a sort of biological imperative. Drawing on research from a variety of sources, Steel takes us through the history of procrastination, showing how it has become, in modern times, a serious problem that leads to increased health troubles, loss of productivity, and unnecessary poverty or depression. Fortunately, he also suggests ways we can stop procrastinating and get ourselves on track. A useful, eye-opening book. Now, if only the people who most need to read it could find the time to do so. --David Pitt --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

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.” (Montreal Gazette)

“An upbeat, motivational guide to procrastination. . . . Everything you ever wanted to know about procrastination but never got around to reading.” (Kirkus Reviews)

“Why you ‘put off till tomorrow what you can do today’ forms the crux of Steel’s book, in which he not only answers that question but details specific techniques to reign in the impulse. . . . Offers good advice.” (Library Journal)

“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.” (Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project)

“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.” (Dan Ariely, author of The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational)

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.” (Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind)

“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.” (Richard Florida, author of The Great Reset)

“A useful, eye-opening book.” (Booklist)

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (January 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061703621
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061703621
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #236,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

89 of 93 people found the following review helpful By frankp93 VINE VOICE on January 1, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
If I come away from a book with one new idea or a fresh take on a familiar one, I consider the read worthwhile. The takeaway in Piers Steel's `The Procrastination Equation' is the notion that procrastination, contrary to popular perception, is neither the result of perfectionism nor of simple laziness.

Perfectionism might be a comforting rationale (`If I can't do something to my exacting high standards, it's a real struggle for me to do it at all.'). Nice try but, according to Steel and his research, true perfectionists actually accomplish quite a lot in spite of their high standards. And blaming it all on laziness is a too simple cop-out that our culture too often buys into with stereotypes.

For most of us, according to the author, the root cause of this tendency to delay tasks is impulsiveness, which lies at the core of a complex interplay of personality traits and environment. It's not a question of what we can't bring ourselves to do but rather a question of what we too easily and too often uncontrollably choose to do instead.

The jargon-free neurobiological overview of how our brains regard short and longer spans of time was clear and informative. It turns out those Zen monks were right: we truly are wired to live in the moment. It's only since civilization has allowed us to plan for the longer term (weeks, months, even years ahead) that procrastination has truly come into its own, with a solid majority of people now acknowledging some degree of it in their lives.

This short-term mindset served us well in our hunter-gatherer past and still has a place today. But modern society continues to fragment our lives and abstract our goals to the point where the benefits of today's actions often can't be known or enjoyed until some vaguely imagined future.
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91 of 97 people found the following review helpful By D. S. TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
While this book has an exhaustive (and exhausting) explanation for *why* people procrastinate, the "solutions" are actually rather skimpy and already well known, seemingly added as almost an afterthought. I respect author Piers Steel's research and expertise on the causes of procrastination, and I think his "procrastination equation" (motivation = [expectancy x value] / [impulsiveness x delay]) could be useful in seeking ways to overcome procrastination. But, unfortunately, he just has not presented nearly enough of them here (and certainly not in an easily accessible format).

Throughout the book, Steel uses three fictional characters to illustrate his points. This is a common technique in self-help books, but he uses it so extensively, I got the feeling that Steel would actually rather be writing novels: his fictional procrastinators meet up and get romantically involved! I found all of this to be distracting (and time wasting), not illustrative. Procrastinators don't want to wade through page after page of dialogue; they want bulleted lists!

Steel repeatedly says that he wanted to keep the nature of his audience in mind; thus, his intent was to keep the book lively. But he drones on like a self-amused college professor who is fond of telling irrelevant stories (Steel is, in fact, an associate professor). Perhaps his numerous and often extensive tangents were intended to keep the reader interested, but most of them seem to be included for the sole purpose of showing off that Steel is a walking compendium of information. And he seems a little too proud of himself. He praises his own work and cites his own credentials far too often throughout the book. He comes across as being a little bit insecure, as if he *expects* to be questioned.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I'm writing this review during time I reserved to write my novel, so I have plenty invested in this book's topic. But as a teacher, I see procrastination's lingering, destructive consequences daily. As my colleagues dither about grading and administrators dilly-dally over budgets, students take their cues from us and do as little as possible, right up to the moment their work is due. How can we break this cycle?

Dr. Steel identifies three procrastination categories: we expect to fail; we don't value the work; and we let momentary impulses rule us. We may show any or all of these. Each reason begins in different brain regions, incubates under different conditions, and expresses itself in different ways. But each costs us, not only as individuals who miss our rewards, but as a society, when lost productivity translates into economic doldrums.

Steel, a psychologist, combines new research in psychology, neurology, economics, political science, and more fields, extracting a broad overview of what procrastination is, where it originates, what it costs us, and how we can redress it. His suggestions for fixing bad habits require fine-tuning for your individual situation, but they can get you started pulling your time together and accomplishing your long-held goals as painlessly as possible.

While I wonder if those who most need this advice will ever plow through such a book, I applaud Steel for presenting his research and counsel in such lucid terms. He writes with humor, humility, and a lively tone that keeps readers engaged. While he's unlikely to pry everyone away from his identified sources of procrastination, if a few make even mild gains, the individual and social rewards will be profound.
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