Procrastination: What’s Your System?

Posted by | May 2, 2018

Everyone puts things off. We avoid doing the things we dread, the things that are boring, and the things that can wait. We promise ourselves that we’ll do it tonight, tomorrow, or on the weekend. If it’s important, it will get done; if it’s not, it may just fall by the wayside.

But while all procrastination is delay, not all delay is procrastination (Pychyl, 2013). Procrastination refers to the voluntary, needless postponement of an intended act despite expecting negative consequences for that delay, and it is strongly associated with emotions such as guilt (Pychyl et al., 2000) and shame (Fee and Tangney, 2000; Wohl et al., 2010).  Rather than delaying a task in order to facilitate a goal or adapt to delays beyond a person’s control, procrastination represents a failure to self-regulate (Sirois and Pychyl, 2013).

An estimated 90 percent of college students engage in procrastination at least one hour a day (Klassen et al., 2008). Students coping with ADHD and executive function challenges also frequently rely on the rush of adrenaline created by a looming deadline in order to concentrate their attention.

How can students work to counter procrastination and focus on strengthening their approach to starting and finishing important tasks? At Evoke, our Coaching for Students Who Procrastinate summer program uses successful interventions to help our clients move away from setting goals that may be unattainable and instead focus on finding a process that helps them schedule and complete important work every day. Coaches discuss the myths and brain science behind procrastination, explain how to self-advocate, work with students to set realistic and concrete objectives, increase motivation and hope, encourage self-reflection and self-control, review how to manage setbacks, and recommend customized strategies. Each of us responds to different motivators and feedback. Coaching can help the student build a personal system that moves them into action.