Procrastination: Causes & Cures

ticking clock
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  • Rebellion: I donít want to do it!  I donít have to do it!  You canít make me do it!  I wonít do it!
  • Fear of Failure: No matter how much I study I still wonít do very well, so Iím just going to study enough to get by.
  • Fear of Success: If I do well in this class, they will expect me to do well all the time.  That's too much pressure.
  • Perfectionism: What if I try and I don't get an "A." 
  • Lack of enjoyment: I donít like this class, this book, these problems, this paper.  So I turn to more enjoyable, immediate activities, i.e. T.V., the paper, cleaning my desk, talking on the phone.
  • Being too tired: After going to school, working, playing or participating in extracurricular events, Iím just too tired to study.  Iíll get up real early tomorrow, or I have all day Saturday, or Iíll study tomorrow night, Iíll be fresher then.



How About You - Do You Procrastinate?

Step 1 Answer these questions and run a copy of your answers so you can self score your results as described at the bottom of the page.

Step 2 Submit your answers to get additional information from a counselor.


1.   I often find myself performing tasks that I had intended to do days before.  


2.   I often miss concerts, sporting events, etc. because I don't get around to buying tickets on time.


3.   When planning a party, I make the necessary arrangements well in advance.


4.   When it is time to get up in the morning, I most often get right out of bed.


5.   A letter may sit for days after I write it before mailing it.


6.   I generally return phone calls promptly.


7.   Even with jobs that only require sitting down and doing them, I find they often don't get done for days.


8.   I usually make decisions as soon as possible.


9.   I generally delay before starting on work I have to do.


10. When traveling, I usually have to rush to arrive at the airport or station at the appropriate time.


11. When preparing to go out, I am seldom caught having to do something at the last minute.


12. In preparing for some deadline, I often waste time by doing other things.


13. If a bill for a small amount comes, I pay it right away.


14. I usually start doing my homework within a day or two after it is assigned.


15. I sometimes have my assignments done before they are due.


16. I always seem to end up shopping for birthday or Christmas gifts at the last minute.


17. I usually buy even an essential item at the last minute.


18. I usually develop a plan to do my homework and get it done when I plan.


19. am continually saying, "I'll do it tomorrow."


20. I usually do my homework before I settle down to watch TV or go out with friends.



To score the questionnaire, give yourself one point each for questions, 1, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 12, 16, 17, and 19 that you answered true.  Give yourself one point each for questions 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 14, 15, 18, and 20 that you answered false.  Total the points.  Here are the results.


13+ Extreme procrastinator
9 -12 Above average procrastinator
7 - 8 Average procrastinator
Below 7 Your aren't a procrastinator

Select the category that best describes you.



Let's work on overcoming procrastination. 

Step 1 - Select a Task. 

This should be a small task, something of value.  Here are some suggestions: writing papers, studying, choosing a major, making an appointment with a professor or counselor, returning library books, etc.

What is your task?

Step 2 - Setting a Goal. 

Make sure your goal is specific, measurable,  realistic, and something you really want and need to do.

What is your goal?

Getting confused about the difference between a task and a goal?  Let's work on that in a little more detail by completing Step 3.

Step 3 - Complete the Task Worksheet

Copy your task from Step 1.
Estimate the time it will take to complete the task.
What is your deadline for completing the task?
What excuses have you used for not getting it done?
What techniques will you use to complete it (baby steps).
What benefits will you receive from completing the task?
How will you reward yourself when you complete the task?
The goal is what will happen when the task is complete.  What is your amended goal.




  • Getting a bite sized mentality:  When confronted with 150 pages to read or 50 problems to solve, I feel overwhelmed.  However, if I decide to study for 20 minutes or read 30 pages I can do that.  I can endure for that amount of time.  Maybe Iíll even continue onómaybe NOT.  The most significant barrier in procrastination is getting started.
  • Set up a reward-punishment system: If I read for twenty minutes I get to call John Ė if I donít I need to do the dishes.  These rewards and punishments only matter if I keep faith with myself.
  • Study in a place reserved for study ONLY: Joan always promised herself sheíd study in her room after she ate.  However there were always too many distractions and she rarely studied in her room.  When she went to her favorite place in the library, she was always more successful.
  • Become a groupie: When possible study with a group of dedicated students.  Others can be an inspiration to keep up and learn and support your efforts.

It's evaluation time!

The deadline you set for completing your goal has arrived.  How did you do?  Grade yourself!

A - I was a smashing success

B - I came very close

C - I got about half way there

D - I made little effort and it shows

F - Ugh, I didn't even try, let me give it another shot