Redefining the Classroom

The Tendency to Procrastinate

Many students are afflicted with the procrastination tendency. Up to 70 percent of them identify as procrastinators, according to Psychology Today (Oct. 28, 2003). It’s what keeps them up all night cramming or finishing papers. It’s what causes them to tell you they’ll do something but not follow through. It’s an affliction with both mental and physical impacts.

Procrastination isn’t just a form of laziness. It comes about for a variety of reasons, including:

  • avoiding negative experiences
  • depression
  • self-judgment
  • anticipating the worst
  • a need for love
  • perfectionism
  • a rigid identity
  • fear of others’ response
  • a lack of training
  • low tolerance for frustration
  • being passive
  • hostility
  • not feeling like life is fair
  • being overextended

While many of us have procrastination tendencies, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are full-fledged procrastinators. Some of us may simply be putting way too much on our daily To Do lists. Dr. Joseph Ferrari, an associate professor of psychology at DePaul University (IL), told Psychology Today (Oct. 28, 2003) that real procrastinators do five telltale things:

  • Underestimate how much time it’ll take to get something done.
  • Overestimate the amount of time they have left to get something done.
  • Overestimate how motivated they’ll feel the “next time” when they expect they’ll get something done.
  • Mistakenly believe that working when they’re not in the mood is less than optimal.
  • Mistakenly believe that, in order to succeed at a task, they need to feel like doing it.

We’ve all seen procrastinators do everything but what they need to be doing, whether it’s checking email, going out, taking on other projects or finding people and tasks to distract them.

This semester, resolve to help the procrastinators in your life. You’ll be helping them develop skills that will serve them well into the future.

Sources: “Ending Procrastination,” Psychology Today, Oct. 28, 2003; “Procrastination and Time Management,” University of Oregon Counseling and Testing Center,; The Procrastinators’ Support Center at Ohio State,

Procrastination Resources

  • University at Buffalo—Counseling Services
  • Rock Valley College—Student Services
  • Kalamazoo College—Student Development
  • Xavier University—The Learning Assistance Center
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—Counseling Center
  • University of Oregon—Counseling and Testing Center