Procrastination is a type of behavior which is characterized by deferment of actions or tasks to a later time. Psychologists often cite procrastination as a mechanism for coping with the anxiety associated with starting or completing any task or decision. [ Cite book
publisher = Penguin Group
isbn = 9781585425525
last = Fiore
first = Neil A
title = The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt- Free Play
location = New York
date = 2006
p. 5
] Psychology researchers also have three criteria they use to categorize procrastination. They believe that procrastination must be counterproductive, needless, and delaying. [Schraw, G., Wadkins, T., & Olafson, L. (2007). Doing the things we do: A grounded theory of academic procrastination [Electronic version] . "Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol 99(1)", 12-25.]

For an individual, procrastination may result in stress, a sense of guilt, the loss of personal productivity, the creation of crisis and the disapproval of others for not fulfilling one's responsibilities or commitments. These combined feelings can promote further procrastination. While it is normal for people to procrastinate to some degree, it becomes a problem when it impedes normal functioning. Chronic procrastination may be a sign of an underlying psychological or physiological disorder.

The word itself comes from the Latin word "procrastinatus": "pro-" (forward) and "crastinus" (of tomorrow). The term's first known appearance was in Edward Hall's "The Union of the Noble and Illustre Famelies of Lancastre and York", first published sometime before 1548. [Procrastination. "Oxford English Dictionary", 2nd edition (1989).] The sermon reflected procrastination's connection at the time to task avoidance or delay, volition or will, and sin.

Causes of procrastination


The psychological causes of procrastination vary greatly, but generally surround issues of anxiety, low sense of self-worth, and a self-defeating mentalityFact|date=April 2008. Procrastinators are also thought to have a higher-than-normal level of conscientiousness, more based on the "dreams and wishes" of perfection or achievement in contrast to a realistic appreciation of their obligations and potential.Strub, R. L. (1989). Frontal lobe syndrome in a patient with bilateral globus pallidus lesions. "Archives of Neurology" 46, 1024-1027.]

Author David Allen brings up two major psychological causes of procrastination at work and in life which are related to anxiety, not laziness.Fact|date=September 2007 The first category comprises things too small to worry about, tasks that are an annoying interruption in the flow of things, and for which there are low-impact workarounds; an example might be organizing a messy room. The second category comprises things too big to control, tasks that a person might fear, or for which the implications might have a great impact on a person's life; an example might be the adult children of a deteriorating elderly parent deciding what living arrangement would be best.

A person might unconsciously overestimate or underestimate the scale of a task if procrastination has become a habit.Fact|date=May 2007

From the behavioral psychology point of view, James Mazur has said that procrastination is a particular case of "impulsiveness" as opposed to self control.Fact|date=September 2007 Mazur states that procrastination occurs because of a temporal discounting of a punisher, as it happens with the temporal discount for a reinforcer. Procrastination, then, as Mazur says, happens when a choice has to be made between a later larger task and a sooner small task; as the absolute value of the task gets discounted by the time, a subject tends to choose the later large task.Fact|date=September 2007.


Research on the physiological roots of procrastination mostly surrounds the role of the prefrontal cortex. This area of the brain is responsible for executive brain functions such as planning, impulse control, attention, and acts as a filter by decreasing distracting stimuli from other brain regions. Damage or low activation in this area can reduce an individual's ability to filter out distracting stimuli, ultimately resulting in poorer organization, a loss of attention and increased procrastination. This is similar to the prefrontal lobe's role in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), where underactivation is common.

Procrastination and mental health

Procrastination can be a persistent and debilitating disorder in some people, causing significant psychological disability and dysfunction. These individuals may actually be suffering from an underlying mental health problem such as depression or ADHD.

While procrastination is a behavioral condition, these underlying mental health disorders can be treated with medication and/or therapy. Therapy can be a useful tool in helping an individual learn new behaviors, overcome fears and anxieties, and achieve an improved quality of life. Thus it is important for people who chronically struggle with debilitating procrastination to see a trained therapist or psychiatrist to see if an underlying mental health issue may be present.

People who exhibit decreased impulse control and procrastination appear to be prone to internet addiction. cite journal | author = Yellowlees, P.M. | coauthors = Marks, S. | year = 2007 | title = Problematic Internet use or Internet addiction? | journal = Computers in Human Behavior | volume = 23 | issue = 3 | pages = 1447–1453
url = | accessdate = 2008-06-11 | doi = 10.1016/j.chb.2005.05.004


Traditionally, procrastination has been associated with perfectionism, a tendency to negatively evaluate outcomes and one's own performance, intense fear and avoidance of evaluation of one's abilities by others, heightened social self-consciousness and anxiety, recurrent low mood, and workaholism. Slaney (1996) found that adaptive perfectionists (when perfectionism is egosyntonic) were "less" likely to procrastinate than non-perfectionists, while maladaptive perfectionists (people who saw their perfectionism as a problem; i.e., when perfectionism is egodystonic) had high levels of procrastination (and also of anxiety).McGarvey. Jason A. (1996) [ The Almost Perfect Definition] ]

Academic procrastination

While academic procrastination is not a special type of procrastination, procrastination is thought to be particularly prevalent in the academic setting, where students are required to meet deadlines for assignments and tests in an environment full of events and activities which compete for the students' time and attention. More specifically, a 1992 study showed that "52% of surveyed students indicated having a moderate to high need for help concerning procrastination" [R P Gallagher, S Borg, A Golin and K Kelleher (1992), "Journal of College Student Development", 33(4), 301-10.] .

Some students struggle with procrastination due to a lack of time management or study skills, stress, or feeling overwhelmed with their work.

tudent syndrome

Student syndrome refers to the phenomenon that many students will begin to fully apply themselves to a task only just before a deadline. This leads to wasting any buffers built into individual task duration estimates.

The term originated in Eliyahu M. Goldratt's novel-style book "Critical Chain". The principle is also addressed in Agile Software Development.

For example, if a group of students goes to a professor and asks for an extension to a deadline, they will usually defend their request by noting how much better their project will be if they are given more time to work on it; they request this with the intent to distribute their work time across the remainder of the time until the deadline. In reality, however, most students will have other tasks or events that place demands on their time. They will often end up close to the same situation they started with, wishing they had more time as the new delayed deadline approaches.

This same behaviour is seen in businesses; in project and task estimating, a time- or resource-buffer is applied to the task to allow for overrun or other scheduling problems. However, with student syndrome the latest possible start of tasks causes the buffer for any given task to be wasted beforehand, rather than kept in reserve. Like students, many workers do not complete assignments early, but wait until the last minute before starting, often having to rush to submit their assignment minutes before the deadline. A similar phenomenon is seen every year in the United States and Mexico when personal tax returns are due, as large numbers of people queue until their post office closes, in order to get their tax return postmarked.

Types of procrastinators

The relaxed type

The relaxed type of procrastinators view their responsibilities negatively and avoid them by directing energy into other tasks. It is common, for example, for relaxed type procrastinating children to abandon schoolwork but not their social lives. Students often see projects as a whole rather than breaking them into smaller parts. This type of procrastination is a form of denial or cover-up; therefore, typically no help is being sought. Furthermore, they are also unable to defer gratification. The procrastinator avoids situations that would cause displeasure, indulging instead in more enjoyable activities. In Freudian terms, such procrastinators refuse to renounce the pleasure principle, instead sacrificing the reality principle. They may not appear to be worried about work and deadlines, but this is simply an evasion. [ Procrastination, How to Stop Procrastinating] ]

The tense-afraid type

The tense-afraid type of procrastinator usually feels overwhelmed with pressure, unrealistic about time, uncertain about goals and many other negative feelings. Feeling that they lack the ability or focus to successfully complete their work, they tell themselves that they need to unwind and relax, that it's better to take it easy for the afternoon, for example, and start afresh in the morning. They usually have grandiose plans that aren't realistic. Their 'relaxing' is often temporary and ineffective, and leads to even more stress as time runs out, deadlines approach and the person feels increasingly guilty and apprehensive. This behavior becomes a cycle of failure and delay, as plans and goals are put off, penciled into the following day or week in the diary again and again. It can also have a debilitating effect on their personal lives and relationships. Since they are uncertain about their goals, they often feel awkward with people who appear confident and goal-oriented, which can lead to depression. Tense-afraid procrastinators often withdraw from social life, avoiding contact even with close friends.

tigma and misunderstanding

Procrastinators often have great difficulty in seeking help, or finding an understanding source of support, due to the stigma and profound misunderstanding surrounding extreme forms of procrastination. The problem is often mischaracterised simply as laziness, a lack of willpower, or lack of ambition.Fact|date=October 2008

ee also

*Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder
*Deferred gratification
*"Getting Things Done"
*Temporal discounting
*Time management



* Cite book
publisher = Penguin Group
isbn = 9781585425525
last = Fiore
first = Neil A
title = The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt- Free Play
location = New York
date = 2006

* Cite book
publisher = P.H. Wyden
isbn = 0451134303
last = Lakein
first = Alan
title = How to get control of your time and your life.
location = New York
date = 1973

External links

* [ Procrastination Central] - A scientific summary of procrastination
* [ CalPoly - Procrastination] - analysis of procrastinating behavior and possible cures
* [ Article regarding studies on procrastination]
* [ Article about a possible cure for procrastination]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • procrastination — [ prɔkrastinasjɔ̃ ] n. f. • XVIe; du lat. procrastinatio, de pro et crastinus « du lendemain » ♦ Littér. Tendance à tout remettre au lendemain, à ajourner, à temporiser. « Mon indécision, ma “procrastination”, comme disait Saint Loup » (Proust).… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Procrastination — Pro*cras ti*na tion, n. [L. procrastinatio: cf. F. procrastination.] The act or habit of procrastinating, or putting off to a future time; delay; dilatoriness. [1913 Webster] Procrastination is the thief of time. Young. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Procrastination — Procrastination, lat. deutsch, Vertagung …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • procrastination — index cessation (interlude), deferment, delay, laches, neglect, pause Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton …   Law dictionary

  • procrastination — (n.) 1540s, from L. procrastinationem a putting off, noun of action from pp. stem of procrastinare put off till tomorrow, from pro forward (see PRO (Cf. pro )) + crastinus belonging to tomorrow, from cras tomorrow, of unknown origin …   Etymology dictionary

  • Procrastination — Cet article concerne la notion de psychologie. Pour le livre portant ce titre, voir Procrastination (Disque monde). La procrastination, du latin pro et crastinus qui signifie « demain »[1], est la tendance à remettre systématiquement au …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Procrastination — Aufschieben (auch Prokrastination, Aufschiebeverhalten, Handlungsaufschub) ist eine Bezeichnung für das Verhalten von Menschen, das Erledigen notwendiger, aber unangenehmer Dinge immer wieder zu verschieben. Das Phänomen des Aufschiebens berührt… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • procrastination — noun /pɹəʊ̆ˌkɹæstɪˈneɪʃə̆n/ The act of postponing, delaying or putting off, especially out of habitual carelessness or laziness. Procrastination is the thief of time; year after year it steals until all are fled …   Wiktionary

  • procrastination — see procrastination is the thief of time …   Proverbs new dictionary

  • procrastination — procrastinate ► VERB ▪ delay or postpone action. DERIVATIVES procrastination noun procrastinator noun. ORIGIN Latin procrastinare defer till the morning …   English terms dictionary

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