Procrastination and usability

I must get round to reading this. It says, perfectionism is at the root of procrastination, which is sort of comforting, knowing that the reason/excuse for not getting something done is because you were going to do it so much better. There’s an irony there isn’t there… which would you rather eat… an OK chocolate cake or a totally perfect non-existentent super chocolate cake? I’m sure many people would choose the latter, myself included, but then I’m not a big fan of cake and could do to lose a few pounds.

The article goes on to say… It’s still unclear why some people may be more prone to developing procrastination behaviour, but some evidence suggests it may be genetic.… which suggests that there is some genetic advantage to being a procrastinator… imagine a super-race of procrastinators bred with procrastinators, imagine how they’d rule the world, but first do something else…

There is even a formula for procrastination, Utility = E x V/ÃD where…

  • expectancy a person has of succeeding with a given task (E)
  • the value of completing the task (V)
  • the desirability of the task (Utility)
  • its immediacy or availability (Ã)
  • and the person’s sensitivity to delay (D)

..which to me, smacks of hardcore usability and my If It Isn’t Easy It Won’t Get Done Theory, which simply states that small amounts of friction are multiplied in a task you don’t particularly want to do… for example, filling in a timesheet isn’t something anyone wants to do and there are a myriad of small friction points getting in the way of getting it done. For example,

  • firing up Excel (or remembering where it is on the intranet etc)
  • remembering to do it
  • remembering to log the data
  • recalling any odd codes etc.

… and many more. All of which points to a timesheet system which is more about supporting the users forgetfulness rather than the mechanics of entering the days tasks and hours (which is actually very simple). It makes me think of a IM-like app that pops up when you get back from lunch and says “Which of these projects that you have been working on have you been doing this morning?”

Looking again at the procrastination formula list, I see so many usability issues screaming out. Taking the timesheet app example… Ã is decreased by the app being proactive is asking for data rather than sitting in a web page where you have to either find it, click a bookmark (assuming you have remembered and you are on your own machine). There is no V in completing the task unless your companies profits are reflected in your wages. E is a problem when, for example, the activity list doesn’t map onto the task you are trying to log.

Maybe usability is procrastination analysis… maybe “It depends”…

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2 Responses to Procrastination and usability

  1. james says:

    What article? A link or title would enhance the post somewhat.

  2. tom says:

    Ooops… there you go….

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