Procrasturbation and Temporal Motivational Theory

In searching for the formal definition of the word mash procrasturbation, I found a neat article from Psychology Today on the subject which introduced me to Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT).  I was intrigued, after all, this was yet another way I had found to delay the task of re-committing to writing after several week hiatus.  Again.

Life really gets in the way of doing the things you love and in recent time, it is the always draining combination of work and severe allergies.  Too much work and poor health make Jane a dull girl.  So, while every day I think, ‘Ooh, I should write’ or, ‘Ooh, I should do something artistic,’ I end up doing nothing.  Sitting in front of the television gape-mouthed and trying to breathe while letting my brain waves bounce off a flat line.

Procrasturbation and TMT

Firstly, I move with the less popular definition of procrasturbation as putting off something in favor of something IMG_20160529_103707else while knowing that it is effing your goals.  For example, I put off writing and art by cleaning the house, knowing that while the house needs cleaning, failing to dedicate time to writing was a poor choice for my long-term goals.  When putting this together with TMT, my behavior makes more sense.

The expectancy in the formula relates to the fact that we are more likely to do things that we expect we will be successful in completing.  When I am not feeling inspired and the ideas aren’t flowing, then I am more likely to do something mindless and the drudgery of housework fits that bill perfectly.  I know I can vacuum and dust, but I don’t always know that I can write a good post.  The total though is also predicated on value, so how much do we value the activity.  Now, when my house is dirty and mind is messy, the value of both can seem equal, so the expectancy weights higher.

The denominator of the formula takes into account the factor of delay, knowing that we typically discount future rewards in favor of immediate gratification.  The factor of impulsiveness in the formula was not as I initially expected, and relates to an individuals sensitivity to or tolerance for delay.  So, impulsiveness moderates delay.  In other words, will I be so freaked out by the consequences of the delay that I can not tolerate it?  In the case of cleaning over writing, then the immediate gratification is high and since there is no tangible consequence for delay, it makes cleaning both an easy and safe choice.  In the long-term though, failing to write makes it harder to get started again and my ultimate goal of increasing readership falters.

So, as the graph explains, enough time has elapsed that the utility of cleaning (flat line) is now lower than the utility of writing (positive sloping line).

The end of procrasturbation has come!

Marie Wheeler