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THE PROCRASTINATION EQUATION

HOW TO STOP PUTTING THINGS OFF AND START GETTING STUFF DONE

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

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.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-170361-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2010

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GOOD ECONOMICS FOR HARD TIMES

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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MASTERY

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should...

Greene (The 33 Strategies of War, 2007, etc.) believes that genius can be learned if we pay attention and reject social conformity.

The author suggests that our emergence as a species with stereoscopic, frontal vision and sophisticated hand-eye coordination gave us an advantage over earlier humans and primates because it allowed us to contemplate a situation and ponder alternatives for action. This, along with the advantages conferred by mirror neurons, which allow us to intuit what others may be thinking, contributed to our ability to learn, pass on inventions to future generations and improve our problem-solving ability. Throughout most of human history, we were hunter-gatherers, and our brains are engineered accordingly. The author has a jaundiced view of our modern technological society, which, he writes, encourages quick, rash judgments. We fail to spend the time needed to develop thorough mastery of a subject. Greene writes that every human is “born unique,” with specific potential that we can develop if we listen to our inner voice. He offers many interesting but tendentious examples to illustrate his theory, including Einstein, Darwin, Mozart and Temple Grandin. In the case of Darwin, Greene ignores the formative intellectual influences that shaped his thought, including the discovery of geological evolution with which he was familiar before his famous voyage. The author uses Grandin's struggle to overcome autistic social handicaps as a model for the necessity for everyone to create a deceptive social mask.

Readers unfamiliar with the anecdotal material Greene presents may find interesting avenues to pursue, but they should beware of the author's quirky, sometimes misleading brush-stroke characterizations.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02496-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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