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Abstract

Procrastination refers to a prevalent self-regulatory failure that alludes to deferring necessary actions required to successfully complete tasks on time, and instead engaging in activities that are more rewarding with short term over long term gains (Aremu, Williams, & Adesina, 2011). Procrastination is identified as one of the least understood minor human miseries and a complex psychological phenomenon that not only leads to psychological distress, but also shows significant links to lower levels of health, wealth, and well-being (Balkis & Duru, 2007; Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Approximately, 20-25% of adult men and women living around the world are indulged in chronic procrastination in various domains like academic, social relationships, professional, and finance management (Balkis & Duru, 2007; Ferrari & Díaz-Morales, 2014). Some of the identified factors closely associated with procrastination include evaluation anxiety, task aversiveness, task delay, low self-efficacy, lack of persistence, dependence, fear of failure, negative evaluation, irrational beliefs, learned helplessness, and perfectionism (Schubert & Stewart, 2000; Steel, 2007; Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Procrastination tendencies also give rise to poor self-esteem, poor self-confidence, anxiety, public and private self-consciousness, and concerns over public image (Ferrari, 2001). The prevalence, predictors, causes, treatments, and implications of procrastination behavioral patterns in general, academic, and work settings are reviewed.
International Journal of Psychological Studies; Vol. 7, No. 1; 2015
ISSN 1918-7211 E-ISSN 1918-722X
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
59
The Prevalence, Predictors, Causes, Treatments, and Implications of
Procrastination Behaviors in General, Academic, and Work Setting
Irum Saeed Abbasi1 & Nawal G. Alghamdi2
1 San Jose State University, San Jose, USA
2 Department of Educational Psychology and Guidance, Program of Educational Graduate Studies, King
Abdul-Aziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Correspondence: Irum Saeed Abbasi, E-mail: irum.abbasi@gmail.com
Received: November 30, 2014 Accepted: January 6, 2015 Online Published: February 15, 2015
doi:10.5539/ijps.v7n1p59 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.5539/ijps.v7n1p59
Abstract
Procrastination refers to a prevalent self-regulatory failure that alludes to deferring necessary actions required to
successfully complete tasks on time, and instead engaging in activities that are more rewarding with short term
over long term gains (Aremu, Williams, & Adesina, 2011). Procrastination is identified as one of the least
understood minor human miseries and a complex psychological phenomenon that not only leads to
psychological distress, but also shows significant links to lower levels of health, wealth, and well-being (Balkis
& Duru, 2007; Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Approximately, 20-25% of adult men and women living around the world
are indulged in chronic procrastination in various domains like academic, social relationships, professional, and
finance management (Balkis & Duru, 2007; Ferrari & Díaz-Morales, 2014). Some of the identified factors
closely associated with procrastination include evaluation anxiety, task aversiveness, task delay, low
self-efficacy, lack of persistence, dependence, fear of failure, negative evaluation, irrational beliefs, learned
helplessness, and perfectionism (Schubert & Stewart, 2000; Steel, 2007; Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Procrastination
tendencies also give rise to poor self-esteem, poor self-confidence, anxiety, public and private self-consciousness,
and concerns over public image (Ferrari, 2001). The prevalence, predictors, causes, treatments, and implications
of procrastination behavioral patterns in general, academic, and work settings are reviewed.
Keywords: anxiety, conscientiousness, distress, ineffective time management, neuroticism, self-regulation,
self-efficacy
1. Introduction
Searching for a person who has never been guilty of voluntarily delaying a task to a later date is equivalent to
finding a needle in haystack. Most people would agree, either privately or publicly, that they have been guilty of
dilly-dallying or procrastinating at least a few times in their life. Procrastination is derived from Latin verbs,
“pro” refers to forward motion and “crastinus” refers to belonging to tomorrow (Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown,
1995). Procrastination is defined as a purposeful voluntary delay in beginning or finishing a task until the last
minute or after the predetermined deadline, or indefinitely that would have been ideally completed in the present
time (Freeman, Cox-Fuenzalida, & Stoltenberg, 2011; Gupta, Hershey, & Gaur, 2012; Rozental & Carlbring,
2013; Steel, 2007). Procrastination is also identified as a behavioral pattern that leads to ineffective time
management, reduced performance levels, delayed study behaviors, lowered levels of frustration tolerance,
maintaining task avoidance, ego depletion, speed-accuracy tradeoffs, and an inability to regulate negative
emotions (Ferrari & Díaz-Morales, 2014; Schubert & Stewart, 2000). The five identified categories of
procrastination behavior include (i) life routine procrastination, (ii) decisional procrastination, (iii) neurotic
procrastination, (iv) compulsive procrastination, and (v) academic procrastination (Balkis & Duru, 2007).
Procrastination is not a new phenomenon and comparable constructs have been reported throughout history;
nevertheless, those constructs had different and less negative connotations (Ferrari et al., 1995). Steel and Ferrari
(2013) note that, in recent years, the incidence of procrastination has mounted with many people admitting to
varying degrees of procrastination. Procrastination is deemed as extreme when people are delinquent in visiting a
doctor or getting treatment done for ailments, until treatment is no longer an option (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
Procrastinators are not only unable to manage time wisely, but also are uncertain about priorities, goals, and
objectives; thereby, neglecting attending to necessary responsibilities in a timely fashion despite of good
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intentions or inevitable negative consequences (Balkis & Duru, 2007). Procrastination and poor performance are
strongly connected because procrastinators make more errors, work slower, and miss more deadlines as
compared to non-procrastinators; therefore, the myth that procrastinators work best under time pressure is
confronted (Skowronski & Mirowska, 2013). A person manifesting high procrastination may lose work, drop out
of school, and may jeopardize his/her marital life (Balkis & Duru, 2007). It is interesting to note that people who
consider themselves as procrastinators often intend to reduce their behavioral delay by setting realistic goals and
keeping acceptable time frames for task completion (Gupta et al., 2012). Notwithstanding the negative
connotation attached to procrastination, Skowronski and Mirowska (2013) suggest that procrastination may work
in certain circumstances where time pressure created by postponing a task may actualize as a challenge begetting
energized performance while also mitigating boredom. Students also use procrastination as a way of balancing
between social and academic activities, adjusting their study schedule to work in study groups, or creating time
pressure for motivational purposes (Skowronski & Mirowska, 2013).
2. Academic Procrastination
Milgram and Marshevsky (1995) report that academic procrastination is considered an endemic problem among
college students, which has received increased research and professional interest than other types of
procrastination such as decisional, neurotic, and life-routine procrastination. Academic procrastination is defined
as involving both behavioral delay and personal discomfort or upset about the delay (Milgram & Marshevsky,
1995). The prevalence of procrastination among college students is estimated to be 80% and is also reported to
be one of the most common problems among post-secondary students varying in estimates from 10% to 70%
(Schubert & Stewart, 2000, Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Additionally, results from a general population survey
suggests that approximately one third of people recognize procrastination as a major problem in their educational
endeavors (Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Prevalence of academic procrastination in American college students was
reported to be 95%; while survey results also yielded that 46% of students reported procrastination on academic
tasks at least half of the time (Balkis & Duru, 2007). Student procrastinators postpone academic assignments and
instead focus on unproductive activities that lead to lowered performance as well as negative emotional reactions,
which eventually negatively affect their academic achievement (Schubert & Stewart, 2000).
3. Workplace Procrastination
Procrastination at workplace is often considered a sub-optimal behavior that increases employer costs due to
sapped individual and organizational productivity (Gupta et al., 2012). Nguyen, Steel, and Ferrari (2013) report a
negative association between procrastination and workplace values. Procrastination approximately consumes
more than one fourth of most people’s working days, which in turn cost employers an estimated $10,000 per
employee per year. Nguyen et al. investigated procrastination at an occupational level and found consistent
support for the gravitational hypothesis suggesting that employers are less likely to retain procrastinators for jobs
requiring high motivation. Procrastinators also tend to keep jobs that are compatible with their self-disciplinary
behaviors, as well as those jobs that do not require definitive work styles such as social influence requiring
energy, conscientiousness requiring dependability, achievement requiring planning, and adjustment requiring
self-control. Thus, procrastinators tend to work in jobs that are lower in inherent rewarding attributes, that is,
those providing less motivation while also fostering procrastination (Nguyen et al., 2013).
Gupta et al. (2012) refer to three major dimension that influence work place procrastination including
intrapersonal factors, situational factors, and task characteristics. The first dimension is related to one’s
personality. Numerous studies have shown that neuroticism is positively associated with procrastination;
whereas, conscientiousness is negatively associated with procrastination. The second major dimension is based
on situational factors suggesting that procrastination behaviors may be due to some situations beyond one’s
control like ill health or a family problem that leads a non-procrastinator to delay tasks. The third major
dimension is related to task characteristics, for example, employees may demonstrate procrastination when they
face tasks that are impossible to achieve or have no clearly set dead line for completion (Gupta et al., 2012).
Skowronski and Mirowska (2013) inform about the effects of procrastination on group behaviors. They suggest
that delaying behaviors not only negatively influence group morale and group cohesion, but also negatively
affect the whole group through second-hand procrastination. Consequently, the co-worker shave to bear the
consequences of delayed task completion and work harder to make up for loss productivity. Skowronski and
Mirowska report a group study where employees were asked to evaluate various hypothetical work place
procrastination scenarios. The results produced overwhelmingly negative responses towards fictional
procrastinating colleagues. Interestingly, employees who self-identified themselves as procrastinators gave
harshest opinions against fictional procrastinators. Therefore, it appears that procrastinators see their delaying
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behaviors as inappropriate, problematic, and in need of change (Skowronski & Mirowska, 2013).
The relationship between procrastination and workplace variables was investigated by Nguyen et al. (2013)
through an internet survey conducted on 22,053 individuals. Their survey included questions related to gender,
employment status, employment duration, income, occupational attainment, and degree of procrastination. The
results indicated that high levels of procrastination is linked with low salaries and short employment durations
along with a greater chance of being either unemployed or under employed instead of working full time.
Procrastination also moderated the relationship between gender and work place variables such that women
reported less procrastination, which also gave them an edge over men in the workforce (Nguyen et al., 2013).
4. Chronic Procrastination
Chronic procrastination is a deliberate and repetitive postponement of either starting or finishing a task such that
the delay leads to subjective discomfort (Ferrari, 2010). Conceptually, chronic procrastination is a self-regulatory
failure that serves as a handicap such that procrastinators fail to steer their goal-directed activities toward healthy
lifestyles (Ferrari & Díaz-Morales, 2014). Moreover, chronic procrastination can also denote chronic stress
(Burka & Yuen, 2008). Ferrari (2001) notes that self reported chronic procrastinators engage in delaying
behaviors by strategically managing their impression, acting in a perfectionist manner, and suggesting severe
reprimands for peers who demonstrate poor task performance. They also spend less time in task preparation, task
research, and underestimate the time needed for timely task completion. Furthermore, chronic procrastinators
maintain negative expectations about their present and future task performance and often choose environmental
obstacles that hamper timely task completion just to protect their self/social-esteems and also to avoid blame
(Ferrari, 2001). Furthermore, chronic procrastinators report higher levels of stress and anxiety, weak impulse
control, lack of work discipline, lack of persistence, an inability to work methodically, lack of time management
skill, and also suffer poor health due to the stress caused by working too close to deadlines (Ferrari, 2001; Ferrari
& Díaz-Morales, 2014). Ferrari (2001) further reports a series of studies where the effects of cognitive load,
objective self-awareness, and time limitation on self-regulation of performance, speed, and accuracy were
explored in a sample of procrastinators and non-procrastinators. The results suggested that when participants
worked “under pressure” (operationally defined as high cognitive load, objective self-awareness, and self
imposed time limitations), the chronic procrastinators ineffectively controlled their performance, speed, and
accuracy as compared to non-procrastinators (Ferrari, 2001).
5. Common Causes of Procrastination
According to Balkis and Duru (2007), several possible causes of procrastination behaviors have been revealed
through research, which include poor time management, feelings of being overwhelmed, lack of motivation, lack
of organizational skills, inability to concentrate on work, fear and anxiety related to failure, negative beliefs
about one’s capabilities, personal problems, unrealistic expectations, and perfectionism. Furthermore,
procrastination is also considered being rooted in three basic cognitive styles that involve unrealistic views about
self, others, and the world. These cognitive styles include: self-downing (negative and disparaging self talk), low
frustration tolerance, and hostility. Cognitive variables that correlate with procrastination include irrational
beliefs, external attribution styles, and beliefs with regards to time. Increased procrastination in everyday
non-academic activities is significantly predicted by high anxiety and low self-efficacy (Balkis & Duru, 2007).
Additionally, procrastination may also be viewed as a coping mechanism that is used to conserve the feelings of
self-worth (Schubert & Stewart, 2000).
6. Predictors of Procrastination
The link between procrastination and predictor variables was explored in various research studies (Steel, 2007;
Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Some of these predictors include sex, age, education, marital status, culture/nationhood,
personality, genetic and neurobiological factors, conscientiousness with its facets of self-control, achievement
motivation, distractibility, organization, etc. Steel and Ferrari (2013) suggest that a prototypical procrastinator is
an urban young man who dropped out of school and belongs to a country where low self-discipline is reported.
Furthermore, on reaching adulthood such a man would more likely stay single or separated rather than staying in
a committed relationship and also postpone having kids.
The epidemiological international web based study by Steel and Ferrari (2013) surveyed 16,413
English-speaking adults (58.3% women; 41.7% men: Mage=38.3 years, SD=14) to ascertain various
characteristics of prototypical procrastinators based on relevant self-reported demographic variables such as sex,
age, marital status, family size, education, community location, and national origin. Procrastination tendencies
were mostly linked with sex, age, marital status, education, and nationality. The survey results indicated
procrastinators to be young single men with lower education levels and residing in countries with reported lower
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levels of self-discipline (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
The interplay of education and gender with procrastination. Steel and Ferrari (2013) inform that men are
reported to procrastinate more than women because the identified key determinants of procrastination including
higher levels of impulsiveness and lower levels of self-control are found to be more prevalent in men than
women. The mediating role of procrastination in the relationship between education and gender was explored in
various studies. For example, research conducted on Turkish adults indicated that people with higher education
levels reported low procrastination. Also, men were found to lag behind women academically due to lower
self-regulatory skills. This relationship causally contributed to the educational gap between men and women;
women earned majority of university degrees and were far more likely to graduate than men (Steel & Ferrari,
2013).
Steel and Ferrari (2013) cite result of the 2009 US Census Bureau survey that indicates that 55% of 18 to 29
years old graduates that earned a bachelor’s degree or higher were women. They also report that in Belgian
universities, men again showed less success rate in earning degrees than women with procrastination being one
of the explanatory contributing factors. Men’s lower ability to succeed academically is associated partly with
their poorer self-regulatory skills, specifically their inclination towards procrastination. Other studies on
kindergarten to grade12 age group suggest that a higher prevalence of behavioral problems among boys may also
be responsible for their low success rate in college and women’s lead in college (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
Age and procrastination. Developmentally, the prevalence of procrastination rises significantly during the four
years of undergraduate schooling and seems to peak in the mid-twenties (Schubert & Stewart, 2000). Steel and
Ferrari (2013) report studies that point to a strong negative relationship between conscientiousness and
procrastination, and also between age and procrastination. With growing age and maturity, conscientiousness
increases and the neurobiological development reaches completion; while on the other hand, young people lack
self-control and show low conscientiousness due to still developing prefrontal cortex (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
Marital status and procrastination. Results from an epidemiological study by Steel and Ferrari (2013) indicate
that procrastination has a strong relationship with marital status as procrastinators show a high tendency of
putting off starting and ending relationships. It is estimated from a general survey result that 24% of
self-reported procrastinators have been in a substantial problem regarding romance including delaying asking
someone out and/or about ending a relationship (Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Research examining marital status and
family size achieved mixed results; procrastination may show up in putting off having kids or it may also be a
cause of delay in using effective birth control. Furthermore, lack of conscientiousness and impulsivity are also
associated with unplanned pregnancies and/or risky sexual behavior (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
Personality correlates of procrastination. Steel and Ferrari (2013) report that procrastination can be examined
not only at a state or behavioral level, but also can be studied as an enduring personality attribute. Generally,
personality is found to mediate the stress process beginning from the assessment of stress experience to the
choice of coping strategies and lastly to the emotional outcome or affect (Abbasi, 2011). Researchers identify
procrastination as a dispositional trait that has cognitive, behavioral, and emotional components (Aremu et al.,
2011; Schubert & Stewart, 2000). The most identified personality traits linked to procrastination reported by
psychotherapists include fear of failure, passive-aggression orientation, task aversiveness, and low frustration
tolerance (Milgram, 1987).
With regards to an association between procrastination and the Five-Factor Model of Personality, literature
suggests that procrastination is consistently related with two major underlying personality types namely
neuroticism and conscientiousness (Balkis & Duru, 2007; Schubert & Stewart, 2000). Procrastination is
positively correlated with neuroticism, perfectionism, and has a strong inverse relationship with
conscientiousness (Balkis & Duru, 2007; Milgram & Tenne, 2000; Schubert & Stewart, 2000). These personality
factors influence the procrastinator’s need to protect academic self-concepts leading to varying styles of
procrastination (Schubert & Stewart, 2000). Moreover, decisional procrastination is found to be associated with
neuroticism; while, task avoidance procrastination is linked with conscientiousness (Milgram & Tenne, 2000).
Steel and Ferrari (2013) cite results from a meta-analytic and theoretical review on procrastination suggesting
that procrastination is a personality trait that shows moderate to strong correlations with personality traits such as
impulsiveness and also conscientiousness. Strong associations are found between procrastination and lack of
persistence, low conscientiousness, and high impulsiveness. Conscientiousness that refers to a person’s self
discipline, organization, and need for achievement is a stronger personality predictor of academic performance
even when compared with intelligence (Steel & Ferrari, 2013). Also at the work place, job performance is
predicted by conscientiousness, which is significantly associated with job search attitude and employment end
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result (Nguyen et al., 2013).
Aremu et al. (2011) report that procrastinators are publicly self-conscious and highly self-critical along with
lacking self-efficacy and self-esteem. They conducted a study to explore the influence of academic
procrastination and personality types on the academic achievement and efficacy of 200 in-school adolescents in
Ibadan, Oyo state. The results revealed that extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, and
conscientiousness are not only positively linked, but also predicted academic achievement and efficacy of
adolescents in the study (Aremu et al., 2011).
Neurobiological correlates of procrastination. The research that examined the neurobiological basis of
procrastination revealed anointer play between limbic system and prefrontal cortex (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
Procrastination also shares some attributes with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which include
distractibility and disorganization; therefore, procrastination is often considered a symptom of ADHD (Nguyen
et al., 2013). Burka and Yuen (2008) note that the prefrontal cortex controls brain’s executive functions such as
attention-control, cognitive flexibility, information processing, and goal setting. A person with poor executive
function capacities may face many challenges and struggle with procrastination despite possessing other mental
strengths. Burka and Yuen emphasize that acting in harmony with body’s natural rhythms such as circadian
rhythms, hormonal rhythms, and the need for quite versus social time is helpful in boosting performance; while,
fighting against the natural body rhythms may lead to procrastination.
7. Implications of Procrastination Behaviors
Burka and Yuen (2008) inform that procrastination can produce stress, and stress can also produce
procrastination. The transactional stress theory suggests that stress is neither grounded in the environment nor in
the person, but is a reaction of their ongoing transaction (Abbasi, 2011). According to Ferrari and Díaz-Morales
(2014), various studies have linked procrastination with negative physical and mental health outcomes and also
with greater stress vulnerability. Procrastination is a behavioral pattern that is mediated by a behavioral pathway
such that poor health of procrastinators is a result of stress caused by procrastination, their use of ineffective
coping style, and also putting off important health behaviors (Ferrari & Díaz-Morales, 2014). Holden (1997)
suggests that procrastination in all of its manifestations is a maladaptive way of coping with life stressors.
Rozental and Carlbring (2013) report that approximately half of the student population and 15%-20% of the
adult population are considered having significant difficulties from chronic and recurrent procrastination, in their
everyday life. Balkis and Duru (2007) report that high procrastinators experience increased psychological
distress as the deadlines approach due to the lack of sense of self-perceived personal ability, lack of sense of
personal control, and self-worth. Procrastination is associated with negative effects such as low grades, low
self-esteem, low self-discipline, and low self-efficacy; as well as ineffective learning skills, fear of failure,
irrational thinking, cheating, ineffective time management, instant gratification, boredom, anxiety, and
depression (Balkis & Duru, 2007).
In a study, Ferrari and Díaz-Morales (2014) recruited 104 psychology students in Spain and administered a
survey comprising of Spanish version of the measure of coping behavior linked to mental health along with a
procrastination inventory involving various everyday situations. The results indicated that procrastinators
reported significantly lower positive actions as well as lower expressions of feelings and needs than
non-procrastinators. Ferrari and Díaz-Morales concluded that chronic procrastination might impact
mental/physical health due to greater perceived stress, negative and ineffective coping behaviors, and omission
of important adjustment behaviors. Holden (1997) cites a series of research studies and informs that
procrastinators suffer more stress and report greater health problems. In one study, 44 health psychology students
were given daily-symptom checklists and weekly measures of stress and work requirements for a month. The
self-reported procrastinators handed in their course papers later than non-procrastinators and also received lower
grades. Moreover, in another study involving 60 students, procrastinators experienced more stress and reported
more health symptoms such as colds and flu at the end of term. Nevertheless, procrastination works to some
extent because procrastinators apparently reported less stress and fewer health symptoms earlier in the term, than
those students who worked hard from the start (Holden, 1997).
According to Skowronski and Mirowska (2013), procrastination is particularly problematic in the work
environment where timely performance is usually required; thus, employers face real financial consequences
when their employees squander the most important and scarce resource such as time. Gupta et al. (2012) add that
procrastination is negatively associated with willingness to enroll in job enrichment programs and procrastinators
tend to be less efficient and show less commitment for job search behaviors. Furthermore, employees who
procrastinate are more prone to be agitated, anxious, disheartened, and gloomy in the long run (Gupta et al.,
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2012). Also, putting off planning for retirement and/or initiating personal retirement plans can have far reaching
implications on people’s financial security (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
8. Treatment
Various treatment methods are adopted to minimize the damage caused by procrastination behaviors in work,
academic, and home environments (Ferrari, 2001). Rozental and Carlbring (2013) report that procrastination is
associated with psychological distress and causes psychological suffering, nevertheless it is still not considered a
psychiatric condition. However, due to the apparent link between procrastination and a variety of societal
problems, it becomes crucial to identify risk factors and at risk populations to help carve out preventative public
policy (Steel & Ferrari, 2013).
Ramsay (2002) lays down specific clinical strategies for conceptualizing procrastination and avoidant behaviors
that uses case conceptualization to understand patient’s difficulties, appraising the patient’s readiness for change,
and setting up realistic goals. Traditional cognitive therapy (CT) identifies people’s distorted cognitions by
helping them in reassessing their circumstances, while also modifying their misconceptions and faulty
informational processing (Ramsay, 2002). Balkis and Duru (2007) inform that treatment methods showing
improvements with procrastination behaviors include general counseling and psychotherapy techniques. Also,
other more specific behavioral and cognitive-behavioral techniques including systematic desensitization,
relaxation training, rational emotive therapy, and stress inoculation training showed better results in reducing
procrastination (Balkis & Duru, 2007).
Rozental and Carlbring (2013), report that cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is considered the treatment of
choice for procrastination even with lack of clinical trials supporting its effectiveness. The presumption that CBT
may be beneficial in combating procrastination is primarily based on face validity and single case studies.
Cognitive therapy techniques are used to focus on changing the rigid and dysfunctional thought patterns and pair
them with behavioral techniques that facilitate re-evaluation of work methods and assumption about one’s ability
to achieve certain goals. Other cognitive and behavioral techniques that work well with psychiatric disorders are
also utilized in treating procrastinators, such as behavioral activation. Behavioral activation is often employed in
situations where distress and decreased well-being is remarkable due to a high degree of avoidance. This
technique teaches individuals to change delaying behavioral patterns so that tasks and commitments are
addressed rather than avoided because procrastination is often reinforced by an unwillingness to experience
distress; therefore graded exposure to avoided task is required to change the behavior pattern (Rozental &
Carlbring, 2013).
In academic settings, some common core strategies that help in reducing academic procrastination include
structured goal setting, breaking assignments down, and changing cognitive styles such as perfectionism and
fears of failure or success (Balkis & Duru, 2007). Rozental and Carlbring (2013) cite recent research findings in
cognitive neuroscience and industrial psychology that promote the importance of stimulus control that allows
forming an effective work environment inhibiting multitasking, reducing the number of distractions, and
preventing ego-depletion. Stimulus control is proven effective with people who are easily distracted by
environmental stimuli causing anxiety due to unfinished tasks. Other interventions that may also work for people
suffering from procrastination include addressing values and rewards, obtaining stimulus control, raising
goal-setting skills, and employing success-spirals (Rozental & Carlbring, 2013).
9. Conclusion and Future Directions
Procrastination is pervasive and people suffer from it at varying degrees with visible negative consequences
appearing in many facets of life such as academics, work place, marriage, social relations, and financial
management. Procrastinators avoid tasks and commitments that they see as unpleasant and also do not accept
blame for the delay by justifying it with excuses. Procrastinators hold unrealistic expectations, lack effective
time management, and organizational skills that cause anxiety and fear about the task at hand, leading to
negative beliefs about their personal and professional capabilities. On the whole, procrastination is seen as a
self-perceived problem that negatively affects people’s general, social, academic, professional, and marital life.
Due to widely accepted prevalence and potential implications of procrastination in academic, work, and general
settings, it is crucial to systematically explore and understand procrastination behavioral patterns and devise
effective treatment methods to reduce their negative effects on people’s lives. Future studies may explore the
potential role of climate and weather conditions on delaying behaviors. Exploring the influence of other
environmental characteristics such as illumination, space, and sound present at the work place can provide a
better understanding of the contributing factors. Moreover, exploring the types of food consumed by people who
are habitual procrastinators may also give useful insights into how delaying behaviors get nourished by
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consumed food. Future research may explore new treatment methods as well as preventative measures to help
people develops good work habits and live meaningful lives.
Previous research suggests that professionally skilled employees (white-collar workers) demonstrate higher
procrastination than middle to lower-class unskilled employees (blue-collar workers) (Gupta et al., 2012). Ferrari
et al. (1995) report that in societies with higher industrialization, procrastinations becomes more prominent as
compared to less industrialized societies. One reason may be that skilled workers enjoy greater access to smart
phones and computers, making them more susceptible to distractions. With the advent of social media and its
incessant distractions, treatment options may include running workshops to educate people about the nuisance
cost of a “tweet” or a “like” during work hours. Therefore, information sharing may be key to reducing first and
second hand procrastination. Also, blocking distractions by installing effective softwares on work computers and
internet connections may reduce the cognitive load on employees and provide them with greater mental freedom
to work. There are some applications that claim to help increase productivity and curb delaying behaviors. Some
of them are available for Android and Apple user including “iprocrastinate”, “procraster”, “do it”, “due”,
“priorities”, etc. These applications can be further improved based on assessment and evaluations from
procrastinators in order to determine what works best for them.
For preventive measures, future studies may explore ties of parental upbringing and later adult delaying
behaviors. Longitudinal studies comprised of both parents and children can give a clear picture of the familial
roots of procrastination. Procrastination can surface growing up in a family that doubts children’s ability to
achieve their targets and also is demanding at the same time (Burka & Yuen, 1983). Notwithstanding that an
estimated 22% of variation in the procrastination trait is linked with genetic factors (Steel & Ferrari, 2013), it is
worth exploring if procrastination can be instilled or imposed by innocuous parental behaviors. For example,
investigating that role of incessant parental demands of taking “rest” and to “finish up later” may be useful in
designing meaningful preventative measures. Researchers may also investigate if demanding responsibility at an
early age and offering purposeful periodical tasks can lower procrastination behaviors. The cultural aspect of
procrastination may also be explored as different nations vary on levels of procrastination based on self-reported
accounts of self-discipline (conscientiousness) (Steel & Ferrari, 2013). As the axiom suggests, “old habits die
hard”, the best way to avoid raising future procrastinators may be by educating parents, teachers, and children
about the pros and cons of delaying behaviors so that delaying habits are crushed before they develop.
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... The dichotomy of adaptive and/or harmful procrastination has been labelled as 'arousal' and 'avoidant' (e.g., Ferrari, 1992;, 'active' and 'passive' , or 'intentional' and 'unintentional' . Procrastination, at least in its harmful form, has been extensively discussed in terms of personality, self-efficacy, self-regulatory failure, impulse control, task interest, task complexity, availability of distractors, and duration before required task completion (Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015;Bullard & Manchanda, 2017;van Eerde, 2003a). The range of tasks, goals, and behaviours that are vulnerable to delay are many and varied. ...
... To mitigate the impact of individual delay sensitivity or impulsivity, the management of potential distractors (Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015; and the use of short productivity 'sprints' (Cirillo, 2013;Tambini et al., 2010) have both been recommended. The suggestion of removing potential distractions, particularly modern ones such as email, social media, and unfettered internet use, before one has a chance to be distracted by them, is common (Meier et al., 2016;Reinecke et al., 2016;Wieber & Gollwitzer, 2010). ...
... To combat this, Ferrari recommended that instead of focusing on the whole forest, the procrastinator should consider only the first tree, and if the first tree is too large a task, then consider only a branch. Breaking a task (i.e., a 'forest') down into smaller achievable steps (i.e., 'trees' or 'branches') is likely to lead to the experience of quick wins, potentially overcoming some of the distractibility experienced by those who are more impulsive and building momentum (Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015). This strategy has been referred to as chunking , success spiralling, or island hopping . ...
Thesis
Full-text available
Procrastination is the volitional delay of an intended task, despite believing that delay will be harmful. While not all delay is attributable to procrastination, procrastination is fundamentally characterised by delay. As much as 90% of the population have experience with procrastination, with around 20% in the general population and 50% of university students reporting problematic levels of chronic procrastination. Compared to their non-procrastinating peers, chronic procrastinators report lower levels of wellbeing, higher rates of depression, higher rates of alcohol and other drug use for coping, and poor health adjustment. Procrastinators tend to have lower salaries, shorter durations of employment, and a greater likelihood of being unemployed or underemployed. There is also a direct economic impact on the workforce, with office workers found to spend an average of 1.5 hours per work day procrastinating. Despite its prevalence, the variability of tasks, time available, subjectivity, and individual differences render procrastination difficult to observe as it happens. Consequently, while correlates, antecedents, effects, and types of procrastination have been widely investigated, progress in this field is limited by several factors. In particular, few studies have accurately quantified delay associated with procrastination over time. As a consequence, there is limited evidence supporting the ability of trait measures of procrastination to predict delay, and few interventions aimed at reducing procrastination have been clearly associated with reduced delay. Recent developments in smartphone technology and Experience Sampling Method (ESM) applications have enabled intensive longitudinal observations of such dynamic phenomena with relative ease; however, such methodology and statistical modelling of delay have yet to be reliably applied to the study of procrastination. To address the challenge of observing delay associated with procrastination, I conducted three studies of students enrolled in a 1st year psychology course: a small pilot study (N = 24) and two larger scale replications (Ns = 80 and 107) focusing on intensive longitudinal measurement of delay, procrastination scale validation, and an intervention to reduce procrastination respectively. Participant ages ranged from 17.38 to 65.85 years (M = 23.85, SD = 9.49) and 75% identified as female. Each study included a baseline survey of demographic and trait procrastination and personality variables, an ESM phase comprised of 28 SMS surveys over 14 days in the lead-up to submission of an assignment worth 30% of the course grade, and the collection of assignment submission date and mark from the course convenor. Participants in the ESM phase were randomly allocated into either an intervention or control condition, with participants in both conditions reporting their assignment progress, completion intent, and affect regarding their assignment progress. Participants in the intervention, but not the control, condition were messaged at the end of each ESM survey with open reflection prompts designed to reduce procrastination. Studies 1 and 3 also included follow up interviews with a small subsample of participants (N = 8) to garner first-hand perspectives of participation in the ESM component of the studies. Through the application of multilevel model analyses, the presence of quantified delay curves in all three studies provides firm evidence that regular self-reporting of task progress using ESM is a robust and reliable method for measuring behavioural delay. The use of multilevel modelling in quantifying delay enabled the inclusion of mixed effects, where the predictive ability of several procrastination scales could be assessed. A trait measure of passive procrastination was found to reliably predict behavioural delay, whereas no association was found between a measure of active procrastination, a type of procrastination purported to be adaptive and deliberate, and delay. The intervention prompting regular reflection on factors thought to be related to procrastination that was embedded into the ESM phase of each study was found to significantly reduce delay in Studies 1 and 3, but not in Study 2. Between-study differences in this intervention effect were likely related to contextual differences as participants in Study 2 were aware that the research pertained to procrastination whereas those in the other studies were not informed of the focus on procrastination. In the follow-up interviews, participants reported that regularly reporting task progress, as well as the intervention reflection prompts, may have assisted with the reduction of procrastination. Analyses conducted into the relationships between trait procrastination, neuroticism, and state affect and delay revealed that neuroticism (emotional stability) moderated the relationship between trait procrastination and affect, and affect mediated the relationship between trait procrastination and task delay. Moreover, cross-lagged panel model analyses of inter-temporal changes in affect and delay showed that participants who reported greater task progress at an earlier time were likely to report higher positive affect at a subsequent time, whereas those reporting higher positive affect at an earlier time tended to report lower progress at a subsequent time. Overall, the research offers three specific unique contributions to the body of knowledge. First, the use of ESM surveys of task progress is demonstrated to be a reliable method for measuring behavioural delay associated with procrastination. This is evidenced by the presence of accelerating delay curves, where assignment progress increases in a hyperbolic trajectory prior to a submission date. The reliable observation and modelling of delay is an oft-cited limitation of the field; thus, the replicated validation of this as a reliable method constitutes a valuable contribution. Second, multilevel mixed effects modelling is used to assess the ability of scales measuring different aspects of trait procrastination to predict behavioural delay, indicating that some trait procrastination measures are more predictive of behaviour than are others. The statistical method employed, and the use of task progress rather than study duration as the outcome, enabled the construct validity of the contentious ‘active’ form of procrastination to be challenged. This approach is proposed also to be a suitable method for assessing the behavioural efficacy of targeted interventions for reducing procrastination. Third, sending regular reflection prompts to randomly selected ESM recipients resulted in a significant reduction in behavioural delay in two of the three studies. This use of low-intensity reflection prompts delivered at a high frequency demonstrates smartphone use can be an effective medium for reducing procrastination without the need for intensive approaches requiring considerable commitment from both practitioners and participants. This intervention design sets an example for reducing delay in academia, with the method likely capable of being extended, with adaptation, to procrastination in other areas such as health behaviour change, personal finance, and collective action.
... Research into procrastination has recently attracted a lot of attention because the phenomenon is associated with serious negative consequences, typically expressed in study-and work-related performance and, subsequently, manifested through a lack of adequate satisfaction. Procrastination can be defined as a pathological, intentional, undesirable, and pointless habit, typically characterised by a tendency to delay the beginning or completion of inevitable tasks until later, associated with unpleasant conditions (anxiety, depression, shame, guilt, etc.), and representing an obstacle to goal achievement (Abbasi, Alghamdi 2015;Brownlow, Reainger 2012;Deepti, Muktiashupragya, Trapti 2017;Grunová 2015). In lay terms, procrastination is synonymous to putting off, hesitation, and laziness. ...
... As far as personality traits are concerned, recent research has focused on the correlation between procrastination and the Big Five. For example, several studies suggest a negative relationship between procrastination and conscientiousness (Schweigerová, Slavkovská 2015;Steel, Ferrari 2013in Abbasi, Alghamdi 2015Steel, Klingsieck, 2016). When seen as a form of emotional regulation, procrastination brings about a conflict between present and future selves (Pychyl, Sirois, 2016), which is ultimately reflected in the individual's wellbeing. ...
... The research presented here focused on selected self-concept elements (self-control and self-efficacy) in relation to procrastination, the target sample being two groups of university students characterised by two different levels of conscientiousness. Our decision to use conscientiousness as a differentiating criterion was led by the fact that many authors consider this variable to be a significant predictor -negatively associated with procrastination (Kőverová, 2017;Abbasi, Alghamdi, 2015;Lee, 2005;Schweigerová, Slavkovská, 2015;Khan et al., 2014;Johnson et al., 1995). Our research shows that less conscientious students generally manifest a higher rate of procrastination -as corroborated by findings presented in a number of previous studies. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
"Given its significant negative consequences for university students, procrastination has been studied extensively and shown to be associated with conscientiousness as a personality trait. Involving 333 university students doing teacher training programmes (68.5% female; Mage=20.51 (SD=1.61); 83.48% undergraduates doing a bachelor’s degree), our study aimed to explore the association between procrastination among more/less conscientious students and selected self-concept variables (self-control, self-efficacy, etc.). Our questionnaire was based on the Ten-Item Personality Inventory (Gosling, Rentfrow, Swann, 2003), the Self-Control Scale (Finkenauer, Engels, Baumeister, 2005), the Self-efficacy Scale (Ko?š, Hefteyova, Schwarzer, Jerusalem, 1993), and the Procrastination Scale for Student Populations (Gabrhelík, 2008); our control variables were gender and well- being (Subjective Well-Being Scale, Chan-Hoong, Soon, 2011). The sample was divided into two groups – (1) less conscientious and (2) more conscientious) – using the method of visual binning in SPSS 20. A t-test for independent samples and linear regression were used for data analysis. The less conscientious students in our sample reported a higher level of procrastination (t=6.479; df=310; p?0.001; Cohen's d=0.681). A linear model was conducted for both groups (the dependent variable being the level of procrastination, the independent variables being gender and the levels of self-control, self-efficacy, and well-being). Both models were significant ((1) F=8.449; p?0.001; R2=32.6; (2) F= 7.277; p?0.001; R2=25.7). Among the less conscientious students, the levels of self-control (?=-0.546; t=-5.262; p?0.001) and self-efficacy (?=-0.238; t=-2.092; p?0.001) were negatively associated with procrastination. Among the more conscientious students, the level of self-control (?=0.404; t=-3.929; p?0.001) was negatively associated with procrastination and “being a man” (0–man; 1–woman) (?=-0.307; t=-3.219; p?0.05) was significantly associated with the level of procrastination. The results of our study show trait and personality differences in the level of procrastination, highlighting the importance of self-control and self-efficacy development among university students. Interactive programmes with an impact on students’ self-concept can be a significant contribution to students’ ability to cope with their study requirements effectively. It could be argued that the limits of this study include cross-sectional and self-reported data."
... Procrastinarea este definită, în sens larg, ca o amânare voluntară și intenționată în a începe sau a finaliza o sarcină de lucru (Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015). Această amânare se poate extinde pe termen nelimitat, deși sarcina de lucru s-ar fi putut realiza la timp. ...
... În context organizațional, procrastinarea înseamnă sustragerea de la îndatoririle impuse de post și angajarea în activități ce nu au legătură cu postul (Metin, Taris & Peeters, 2016). Ea este considerată un comportament indezirabil deoarece duce la creșterea costurilor angajatorului în urma scăderii eficienței forței de muncă și, implicit, la scăderea productivității organizaționale (Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015). ...
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The article presents the relation between procrastination, considering the soldiering and cyberslacking dimensions and work satisfaction. Differences in procrastination are identified based on sociodemographic variables such as gender, age, and work seniority of the employees. The levels of procrastination of the employees do not differ based on the type of organisation (public or private sector).
... Procrastination can be defined, based on a summary of the definitions of several authors, as intentional, undesirable and unnecessary postponement of the start or completion of necessary tasks until later, which results in negative emotions (anxiety, depression, shame, guilt) and is an obstacle to achieving goals (Abbasi, & Alghamdi, 2015;Brownlow, & Reasinger, 2012;Grunová, 2015). In this research, we will look at procrastination as a negative phenomenon, although several authors also point to the positive consequences of active procrastination, as a justified, planned and functional strategy, which results in better performance of the individual (Sharma, Sharma, & Sharma, 2017;Nábělková, & Ledajová, 2013;Schraw, Wadkins, & Olafson, 2007). ...
... Academic procrastination is associated with poorer learning outcomes (Tice & Baumeister 1997;Kertechian, 2018), stress, anxiety (Grunová, 2015;Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015), and less self-regulation of learning (Hussain, Sultan in Khan et al., 2014;Van Eerde, 2003). Special attention should be paid to undergraduate teachers. ...
... Several personal factors have been identified as root causes of procrastination. These factors range from gender and age to behavioral aspects, including negative beliefs, personal problems, and unrealistic expectations (Abbasi and Alghamdi 2015). Interestingly, while men are more likely to procrastinate than women, this phenomenon decreases with age . ...
Article
Procrastination is one of the critical psychological behaviors affecting labor productivity and can occur throughout a project’s life cycle. Several factors cause this phenomenon, from various personal to environmental factors. Affected by such diverse factors, employees often spend a significant amount of time procrastinating by engaging in nonproductive activities in the workplace, which adds to project costs without adding value. To effectively manage worker procrastination, project managers need to control its root causes throughout the project life cycle. However, the current project management literature lacks a holistic approach to addressing the roots of procrastinationThis study conducts a synthesis review to identify the root causes of workplace procrastination. Then a holistic framework is proposed to assist construction project managers in monitoring and managing procrastination throughout projects. The proposed framework is flexible enough to apply to any project organizational structure and provides several strategies for different phases of project life cycles. The main contribution of this paper is to strengthen our understanding of the procrastination phenomenon (i.e., its root causes and consequences) and recommend preventive practices. The implementation of the proposed life-cycle approach is demonstrated in the context of addressing potential procrastination among foreign construction workers, whose cultural and immigrant background often causes them to procrastinate more.
... Procrastination is the conscious prorogation of the beginning or completion of an obligation despite the expectation of harmful consequences due to delay (Abbasi & Alghamdi, 2015;Gupta et al., 2012;Milgram et al., 1998). Procrastination is a form of behaviour associated with adverse physical and mental health outcomes such as greater stress vulnerability, non-effective time management, reduced performance levels, delayed study obligations, high levels of frustration, and problems regulating negative emotions (Ferrari & Dí az-Morales, 2014). ...
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Full-text available
Academic procrastination is one of the main problems in the private higher education sector associated with a high rate of abandonment of higher education and delays in fulfilling student obligations. In an effort to detect some of the personal predictors of this phenomenon, we examined associations between personality traits, psychological distress, academic procrastination, and academic achievement among students in private higher education. A sample of 369 participants (145 men, 224 women, 23 years on average) was taken. Participants self-reported their academic achievement and anonymously completed several questionnaires: The Studying Procrastination Scale, The Depression Anxiety Stress Scales – 21, the HEXACO Personality Inventory-Revised - 60. In line with prediction, the HEXACO dimensions explained an additional 24% of the variance in academic procrastination after controlling for psychological distress. In addition, Conscientiousness and psychological distress predicted academic procrastination, and Conscientiousness uniquely significantly predicted academic performance. Our results suggest that academic procrastination and academic performance are influenced by personality. Also, this study indicated that the impact of psychological distress on academic outcomes depends on the constellation of personality traits. Current findings could help to better understand personal factors associated with negative academic outcomes and prevent negative emotional states associated with student procrastination and poor academic performance.
... The result of the work productivity survey also confirmed a positive response. The result of the study is in congruence with the ideas of Abbasi and Alghamdi (2015), procrastination is unavoidable, and people suffer at changing degrees with adverse consequences. In relation further, Kovacs et al., (2019) introduced that productivity behavior change systems help us decrease time on unproductive activities. ...
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Procrastination in the academic institution is not new since it prevails from students even to staff. This might create problems, especially in the individual’s output. This study analyzed the relationship, procrastination level, and the work productivity of academic staff from a tertiary education institution in Central Luzon, Philippines. Using a convenience sampling technique, 70 academic staff took part in the survey. This study used a descriptive-correlational design with an adapted questionnaire from McCloskey (2011) and Buuri (2015) as an instrument. For the statistical analysis, the study used SPSS 23 to analyze the gathered data. The study found that the academic staff “often” subject themselves to procrastination, and they “agree” that they are productive in their work. There were significant differences found in the procrastination level and work productivity of the academic staff when grouped according to sex, civil status, and years in service. In terms of relationship, the study confirmed a low direct relationship between the level of procrastination and work productivity of the academic staff. Based on the aforementioned results, the researcher provided some implications for the institution to consider.
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Procrastination is a self-regulatory failure, whose costs are debated. Here, we establish its impact in the workplace. Using an Internet sample, we assessed 22,053 individuals in terms of their sex, employment status, employment duration, income, occupational attainment and level of procrastination. High levels of procrastination is associated with lower salaries, shorter durations of employment, and a greater likelihood of being unemployed or under employed rather than working full-time. Also, procrastination partially mediates sex's relationship with these work variables. Women tend to procrastinate less than men, evidently giving women an employment advantage. If women procrastinated the same as men, there should be 1.5 million fewer women in full-time employment in the US. alone. Determining the causes of procrastination in the workplace, we also examined it at an occupational level. The results strongly support the gravitational hypothesis: jobs that require higher levels of motivational skills are less likely to retain procrastinators. However, there was some support that jobs can foster procrastination. Procrastinators tend to have jobs that are lower in intrinsically rewarding qualities.
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The study examined the influence of academic procrastination and personality types on the academic achievement and efficacy of In-school adolescents in Ibadan, Oyo state. Two hundred participants were randomly selected from four schools in Akinyele Local Government area of Oyo state. Multiple regression analysis was employed to determine the relationship among the variables as well as the joint and relative contributions of the independent variables to the prediction of the dependent variables. The results showed positive relationship between extraversion, openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and academic achievement of the students. Extraversion, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness were also found to correlate with the efficacy of in-school adolescents. A joint contribution of the independent variables on the dependent variables was recorded for this study. This study, also conclusively found that conscientiousness, openness, extroversion and agreeableness contributed relatively to the prediction of academic achievement and efficacy of the in- school adolescents. Implications for adolescent counseling are discussed in the study.
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Procrastination is a common form of self-regulatory failure with substantive connections to lower levels of health, wealth and well-being. Conducting an epidemiological study, we determined the characteristics of prototypical procrastinators from a global sample based on several relevant self-reported demographic variables. Using an internet sampling strategy, we surveyed 16 413 English-speaking adults (58.3% women; 41.7% men: M age = 38.3 years, SD = 14), specifically on the variables of sex, age, marital status, family size, education, community location, and national origin. Almost all the results were statistically significant because of our large sample size. However, procrastination tendencies were most prominently associated with sex, age, marital status, education and nationality. Procrastinators tended to be young, single men with less education, residing in countries with lower levels of self-discipline. Notably, procrastination mediated the relationship between sex and education, providing further support that men are lagging behind women academically because of lower self-regulatory skills. Given procrastination's connection with a variety of societal ailments (e.g. excessive debt, delayed medical treatment), identifying risk factors and at risk populations should be helpful for directing preventative public policy. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Article
Effects of cognitive load, objective self-awareness and time limits on the self-regulation of performance speed and accuracy were investigated between procrastinators and non-procrastinators. In experiment 1 chronic procrastinators completed fewer items (slow speed) and made more errors (less accuracy) than non-procrastinators under high but not low cognitive load conditions when the time span was limited and brief. In experiment 2 chronic procrastinators performed slower than non-procrastinators under a 2 second, but not under no limit, 1 second, or 4 second time limit conditions. Chronic procrastinators compared to non-procrastinators also performed more slowly and made more performance errors under objective self-awareness conditions regardless of the length of time. These experiments indicate that chronic procrastinators regulate ineffectively their performance speed and accuracy when they ‘work under pressure’ (defined by high cognitive load, objective self-awareness, and imposed time limitations). Copyright © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.