Skip to content



Procrastination is very common in many areas of life. You can’t get started on a task, even if you want to and are aware that it is important and needs to be completed. This creates challenges for time management.

Procrastination differs from ordinary delaying in that it increases stress and anxiety levels. Also, the longer you put off starting a task, the higher the threshold to start it becomes.

In student life, procrastination is often linked to studying for exams and doing written work. Many people also procrastinate when applying for a summer job or making contacts.

The tendency to procrastinate may differ for different types of tasks: for some, starting an essay is the most difficult; for others, starting to read for an exam is the most challenging. Starting even pleasant tasks is sometimes difficult when they are accompanied by uncertainty and fear of failure.


Procrastination is characterised by

  • repeatedly putting off doing the same thing
  • feeling anxious when things are not progressing
  • different activities involved before starting a task: e.g. “I’ll check these off”; waiting for inspiration, different substitute activities that could wait (cleaning, exercise, anything that might delay getting started)

What distinguishes procrastination from laziness is that laziness does not cause suffering. Procrastination increases stress and anxiety levels. Laziness, on the other hand, can be enjoyable and relaxing.


The main cause behind procrastination is that humans are characterised by a constant struggle between a long-term reward (such as finishing a thesis) and a short-term gain (doing something fun). Often the quick gain and sense of satisfaction win this battle. Priority is given to the easiest task and to doing something fun, such as watching YouTube videos. So, the day is often filled with quick tasks that offer a quick reward and a sense of satisfaction.

We are also more motivated to do things we are confident we can succeed in. The more challenging the task, the harder it is to stick with it because of feelings of disbelief and fear of failure. This is why we often choose the easier task, which provides us with an experience of success. A more difficult task, such as writing an essay, ends up being put off.


Research shows that 90% of American students report being unproductive, and about one-half suffers from procrastination. Just under a third of the population describes procrastination as causing unpleasant feelings. The tendency to avoid things has nothing to do with memory or intelligence.

In higher education students, procrastination is more common than in the general population. There are factors in higher education that predispose us to it: freedom of study, large tasks where it can be difficult to estimate the time needed, a critical atmosphere, and help and feedback not always being available when needed.

One’s tendency to procrastinate can be fuelled by black-and-white thinking and absoluteness, idealism, and perfectionism.