When motivation becomes desperation | That moment when the shit is flying toward the fan


The haiku today is inspired by the time of year and my work at WPI. We are a little under 2 months from some major deadlines for graduation right now and the 80/20 rule as it is applied to project work has kicked in for many of the students that I interact with every day.

The 80/20 rule also known as Pareto’s Law tells us that 80% of the work don on a project is done in 20% of the time allocated.

Since college students are mostly human, like all other humans, they tend to procrastinate, which pushes the 20% of time to the end of the allocation. Over the past 30 years I’ve been observing this phenomenon in myself, my colleagues, and my students and I’ve postulated a corollary to the 80/20 rule.

The Apparent Skill Corollary tells us that when 100% of the time is available to complete our project, our apparent skill includes our current knowledge/ability and the knowledge/abilities we can acquire. It takes time to acquire new skills, which means that as the time compresses toward that 20% date, our apparent skill falls off exponentially. It is likely that when we get to that 20% date our apparent skill has fallen to what we already know. This means that when we get to that 20% date, we need to simply execute, we have no more time to learn, and any learning we think we do in that time impacts the quality of our end product.

When we get to the point that our apparent skill falls below the skill needed to complete the project motivation becomes desperation and we start making bad decisions! For a little advice on making better decisions when you have hit the desperation point (or for another reason to procrastinate on your current project) Check out my post in The professor’s Thoughts: Can you still make good decisions when deadlines are flying at you.

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