Psychological Bulletin 2007, Vol. 133, No.

1, 65–94

Copyright 2007 by the American Psychological Association 0033-2909/07/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/0033-2909.133.1.65

The Nature of Procrastination: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review of Quintessential Self-Regulatory Failure
Piers Steel
University of Calgary
Procrastination is a prevalent and pernicious form of self-regulatory failure that is not entirely understood. Hence, the relevant conceptual, theoretical, and empirical work is reviewed, drawing upon correlational, experimental, and qualitative findings. A meta-analysis of procrastination’s possible causes and effects, based on 691 correlations, reveals that neuroticism, rebelliousness, and sensation seeking show only a weak connection. Strong and consistent predictors of procrastination were task aversiveness, task delay, selfefficacy, and impulsiveness, as well as conscientiousness and its facets of self-control, distractibility, organization, and achievement motivation. These effects prove consistent with temporal motivation theory, an integrative hybrid of expectancy theory and hyperbolic discounting. Continued research into procrastination should not be delayed, especially because its prevalence appears to be growing. Keywords: procrastination, irrational delay, pathological decision making, meta-analysis

Procrastination is extremely prevalent. Although virtually all of us have at least dallied with dallying, some have made it a way of life. Estimates indicate that 80%–95% of college students engage in procrastination (Ellis & Knaus, 1977; O’Brien, 2002), approximately 75% consider themselves procrastinators (Potts, 1987), and almost 50% procrastinate consistently and problematically (Day, Mensink, & O’Sullivan, 2000; Haycock, 1993; Micek, 1982; Onwuegbuzie, 2000a; Solomon & Rothblum, 1984). The absolute amount of procrastination is considerable, with students reporting that it typically occupies over one third of their daily activities, often enacted through sleeping, playing, or TV watching (Pychyl, Lee, Thibodeau, & Blunt, 2000). Furthermore, these percentages appear to be on the rise (Kachgal, Hansen, & Nutter, 2001). In addition to being endemic during college, procrastination is also widespread in the general population, chronically affecting some 15%–20% of adults (J. Harriott & Ferrari, 1996; “Haven’t Filed Yet,” 2003). Procrastination also appears to be a troubling phenomenon. People most strongly characterize it as being bad, harmful, and foolish (Briody, 1980), and over 95% of procrastinators wish to reduce it (O’Brien, 2002). Justifying this viewpoint, several studies have linked procrastination to individual performance, with the procrastinator performing more poorly overall (Beswick, Rothblum, & Mann, 1988; Steel, Brothen, & Wambach, 2001; Wesley, 1994), and to individual well-being, with the procrastinator being more miserable in the long term (Knaus, 1973; Lay & Schouwenburg, 1993; Tice & Baumeister, 1997). For example, a survey by H&R Block indicated that procrastinating on taxes costs people on average $400 because of rushing and consequent errors, resulting

I would like to sincerely thank Henri Schouwenburg for his enthusiasm in this endeavor as well as his willingness to share and translate his considerable research on procrastination. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Piers Steel, 444 Scurfield Hall, 2500 University Drive Northwest, Human Resources and Organizational Dynamics, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4. E-mail: 65

in over $473 million in overpayments in 2002 (Kasper, 2004). Similarly, the medical field reported that procrastination on the part of patients is a major problem (e.g., Morris, Menashe, Anderson, Malinow, & Illingworth, 1990; White, Wearing, & Hill, 1994); this is also reflected in the meta-analytic work of Bogg and Roberts (2004). A variety of other fields repeat this theme, that procrastination is dangerous. In economics, Akerlof (1991) and O’Donoghue and Rabin (1999) considered the relative lack of retirement savings behavior as a form of procrastination, in which many start preparing for their later years far too late. In the political arena, procrastination has been used to describe both presidential decisions (Farnham, 1997; Kegley, 1989) and the banking practices of nations (Holland, 2001), in which important decisions are disastrously delayed. At larger levels of analysis, Gersick (1989) described how teams consistently delay the bulk of their work until deadlines approach. Unfortunately for such an extensive and potentially harmful phenomenon, much has yet to be learned about the causes of procrastination, although there have been some notable reviews. Ferrari, Johnson, and McCown’s (1995) book on the topic is extensive but focused primarily on measurement and theory, with less emphasis on empirical findings. On the other hand, Van Eerde (2003) did conduct a meta-analysis on procrastination; although statistically solid, it was also limited in scope. Based on 88 articles, it did not incorporate environmental variables (e.g., task effects) or noncorrelational findings (e.g., experimental or survey results), did not consider several personality facets (e.g., extraversion or impulsiveness) or theoretical foundations, and did not include a moderator search or account for attenuation effects. Finally, a book by Schouwenburg, Lay, Pychyl, and Ferrari (2004) reviewed the topic but focused primarily on technical expositions of procrastination treatment programs for academic counselors. Consequently, there is a need for a comprehensive and detailed examination of the research on procrastination. With such a review,



researchers can better elucidate the nature of procrastination, understanding when and why it occurs as well as how to prevent it. The goal of this article, then, is threefold. The first goal is to establish the nature of procrastination conceptually. Exactly what is it that is being examined? This step involves integrating the many different descriptions of procrastination into a single coherent definition, showing that this definition is consistent with the history of procrastination, and then placing procrastination among related concepts. With this conceptual foundation, the second goal is to explore broadly the causes and correlates of procrastination, that is, to establish its nomological web. These relationships are subsequently tested through meta-analytic review and consideration of relevant descriptive and experimental studies. Finally, these necessarily wide-ranging results need to be integrated. The findings are evaluated with respect to temporal motivation theory (TMT; Steel & Konig, 2006), a recent integrative motivational model that ¨ seeks to explain self-regulatory behavior in a way that is consistent with a wide variety of theoretical perspectives (e.g., economics, personality, expectancy theory, goal setting).

nal entails choosing a course of action despite expecting that it will not maximize your utilities, that is, your interests, preferences, or goals of both a material (e.g., money) and a psychological (e.g., happiness) nature. Combining these elements suggests that to procrastinate is to voluntarily delay an intended course of action despite expecting to be worse off for the delay.

History of Procrastination
Readers interested in the history of procrastination might seek a book by Ringenbach (1971), cited by Knaus (1979), but this search is not recommended. Aitken’s (1982) investigation revealed that the work was never actually written. Her correspondence with Paul Ringenbach and the publisher revealed that it was actually an elaborate joke (i.e., a book on procrastination that was never completed). See also Kaplan (1998) for a similar well-conducted academic article/ prank on procrastination (i.e., note the reference to the Stilton and Edam authors who “researched” using cheese to assess procrastination in mice). The first actual historical analysis on procrastination was written by Milgram (1992), who argued that technically advanced societies require numerous commitments and deadlines, which gives rise to procrastination. Consequently, undeveloped agrarian societies are not so afflicted. In their book, Ferrari, Johnson, and McCown (1995) took a similar although softened stand. They contended that procrastination has existed throughout history but that it only acquired truly negative connotations with the advent of the industrial revolution (circa 1750). Before then, procrastination was viewed neutrally and could be interpreted as a wise course of (in)action. On balance, there may be some truth to the notion that procrastination is a modern malady, as self-reports of procrastination have indicated that it may be on the rise (Kachgal et al., 2001). Despite this increase, historical references have indicated that views about procrastination have been reasonably constant over the ages: It is and has long been a prevalent problem. Starting from the industrial revolution, Samuel Johnson (1751) described procrastination as “one of the general weaknesses, which, in spite of the instruction of moralists, and the remonstrances of reason, prevail to a greater or less degree in every mind.” A contemporary of Johnson, Phillip Stanhope (1749/1968), Earl of Chesterfield, advised, “No idleness, no laziness, no procrastination; never put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” Clearly preceding the industrial revolution was a sermon written by a Reverend Walker (1682), who made it quite clear that procrastination is extremely sinful, that he and other ministers had rallied their congregations against it repeatedly, and that other texts were available that spoke similarly.1 John Lyly, an English novelist patronized by Queen Elizabeth I, was known for his 1579 work Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit (as cited in Gales’ quotations, 1995), a book that relied heavily on proverbs for its content. In it Lyly noted, “Nothing so perilous as procrastination.” A search of classical texts yields several illuminating references to the nature of procrastination. In 44 BC, Cicero was the consul of Rome, its highest political office, and an infamous orator who
1 For example, a reasonably close contemporary of Reverend Walker was Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) who wrote the sermon Procrastination, or The Sin and Folly of Depending on Future Time (Hickman, 1998). Also, interestingly enough, the topic has continued to be of religious significance up to present day (see

Definition of Procrastination
Procrastination is occasionally used in a positive sense. Several writers have mentioned it as a functional delay or as avoiding rush (e.g., Bernstein, 1998; Chu & Choi, 2005; Ferrari, 1993b). For example, Bernstein (1998) explained, “Once we act, we forfeit the option of waiting until new information comes along. As a result, no-acting has value. The more uncertain the outcome, the greater may be the value of procrastination [italics added]” (p. 15). However, the positive form of procrastination, as the subsequent historical analysis indicates, is secondary in usage. The focus of this article is on the primary negative form of procrastination. Like many common-language terms drafted into scientific study, definitions for procrastination tend to be almost as plentiful as the people researching this topic (see Ferrari, Johnson, & McCown, 1995). Initially, such definitional variation may seem to obscure the nature of procrastination, but it may also serve partially to illuminate it. Different attempts by researchers to refine understanding can be complementary rather than contradictory. In addition, any common theme likely reveals a core or essential element. It is evident that all conceptualizations of procrastination recognize that there must be a postponing, delaying, or putting off of a task or decision, in keeping with the term’s Latin origins of pro, meaning “forward, forth, or in favor of,” and crastinus, meaning “of tomorrow” (Klein, 1971). Building on this base, one procrastinates when one delays beginning or completing an intended course of action (Beswick & Mann, 1994; Ferrari, 1993a; Lay & Silverman, 1996; Milgram, 1991; Silver & Sabini, 1981). This is a useful distinction, as there are thousands of potential tasks that one could be doing at any time, and it becomes cumbersome to think that one is putting them all off. The distinction also separates procrastination from simple decision avoidance (C. J. Anderson, 2003), with which people’s original intention is to delay. In addition, procrastination is most often considered to be the irrational delay of behavior (Akerlof, 1991; Burka & Yuen, 1983; Ellis & Knaus, 1977; Silver & Sabini, 1981), which reflects the dictionary definition: “defer action, especially without good reason” (Oxford English Reference Dictionary, 1996). Being irratio-



spoke against several political opponents, such as Marcus Antonius (i.e., Mark Antony), who later had Cicero killed. In one of a series of speeches denouncing Antonius, Cicero stated, “In the conduct of almost every affair slowness and procrastination are hateful” (Philippics, 6.7). Roughly 400 years earlier, Thucydides also wrote about procrastination. An Athenian general who wrote extensively on the war with the Spartans, including various aspects of personalities and strategies, Thucydides mused that procrastination is the most criticized of character traits, useful only in delaying the commencement of war so as to allow preparations that speed its conclusion (Histoires, 1.84.1). Finally, writing around 800 BC, Hesiod, one of the first recorded poets of Greek literature, provided one of the earliest possible citations. His words are worth repeating in full:
Do not put your work off till to-morrow and the day after; for a sluggish worker does not fill his barn, nor one who puts off his work: industry makes work go well, but a man who puts off work is always at hand-grips with ruin. (Works and Days, l.413)

items strongly reminiscent of procrastination itself (e.g., “Before working, I waste time”). Similarly, Schouwenburg (2004) concluded:
Various studies show a very distinct clustering of related traits: trait procrastination, weak impulse control, lack of persistence, lack of work discipline, lack of time management skill, and the inability to work methodically. In this constellation, there seems little justification for viewing procrastination as a separate trait. It is possibly more fruitful to label this cluster as (lack of) self-control. (p. 8)

The Bhagavad Gita (Gandhi, Strohmeier, & Nagler, 2000) provides an additional Eastern reference. Written in approximately 500 BC, it is considered the most widely read and influential spiritual text of Hinduism. Within it, Krishna maintains, “Undisciplined, vulgar, stubborn, wicked, malicious, lazy, depressed, and procrastinating; such an agent is called a Taamasika agent” (18.28). Of special note, Taamasika people are considered so lowly that mortal rebirth is denied to them; rather, they go to hell. Given this consistency of opinion, stretching thousands of years, procrastination must be considered an almost archetypal human failing. Therefore it is rather surprising and ironic that science did not address procrastination sooner.

Despite this overlap, conscientiousness is a broader construct. It has been defined with terms as varied as conformity, socially prescribed impulse control, achievement orientation, cautiousness, morality, organization, thoroughness, and reliability (Costa, McCrae, & Dye, 1991; Goldberg, 1993; Hogan & Ones, 1997). Recent work by Parish (2004) as well as Roberts, Chernyshenko, Stark, and Goldberg (2005) has tried to clarify the nature of conscientiousness with focused exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses along with criterion validation. In each case, a comprehensive list of conscientiousness-related items was administered to over 700 participants, revealing that the conscientiousness trait is composed of as many as six factors. From both of these lists, the first major factor best represents procrastination. For the work of Roberts et al., the first major factor was labeled Industriousness and represented rationality, efficiency, and hard work. For Parish, the factor was labeled Responsibility, and its connection to procrastination was explicit; it was defined as the “the diligent fulfillment of objectives” (p. 11). Furthermore, Responsibility (i.e., procrastination) also has the most uniformly strong association with workplace deviance and academic performance. Consequently, procrastination may be considered to be the most central facet of conscientiousness, but it is not conscientiousness itself.

Procrastination as a Personality Trait
Whether procrastination can also be considered a trait is an empirical question: Does people’s level of procrastination show consistency across time and situation? There has been sufficient research to address this issue, and it suggests procrastination has sufficient cross-temporal and situational stability. To begin with, there appears to be a biological or genetic component to procrastination. A recent study by Arvey, Rotundo, Johnson, and McGue (2003) asked 118 identical and 93 fraternal male twins reared in the same family to indicate the degree to which they were procrastinators. The intraclass correlations for this item were .24 for identical twins and .13 for the fraternal twins, suggesting that approximately 22% of the variance on this item was associated with genetic factors.2 Nine short-term studies (N 928) were located that had test–retest reliability data. After an average span of 42 days between assessments, the average correlation was .73. In addition, Elliot (2002) managed to obtain long-term test–retest data for 281 participants who took the Adult Inventory of Procrastination. With a hiatus of 10 years, the correlation was .77, a further indication that procrastination is sufficiently stable to be a trait. Given that procrastination reflects personality, the focus then moves to where it fits in the nomological web, particularly the five-factor model. Conceptually, there is also considerable overlap with conscientiousness. For example, Costa and McCrae’s (1992) self-discipline scale, a facet of conscientiousness, contains several

The Causes and Correlates of Procrastination
The amount of empirical work that has been done on procrastination is considerable. Researchers have been prolific in exploring different possible connections and correlates. This body of work is ideal in establishing procrastination’s nomological web, but summarizing this extensive body of work is a challenge. Initially, the results are divided into four major sections: task characteristics, individual differences, outcomes, and demographics. Task characteristics indicate possible environmental causes of procrastination. The section on individual differences deals with relevant personality traits and is organized into the traditional five-factor model. Outcomes indicate the proximal effects of procrastination. Finally, the section on demographics reviews possible physical and cohort moderators. Each section is then subdivided into more specific constructs, which are reviewed along with their relevant theory. The relationships covered are then subsequently considered in the meta-analytic review.

Task Characteristics
Procrastination involves the voluntary choice of one behavior or task over other options. Consequently, one cannot irrationally
2 The equation for calculating the heritability coefficient is simply the correlation for identical twins minus the correlation for fraternal twins then multiplied by two. In this case it is (.24 .13) 2, or 22%.

the trait extraversion is reviewed along with three of its facets: positive affect. 1990). Two predictable environmental factors have been suggested: timing of rewards and punishments. Neuroticism is very similar to worrying. perfectionism. (p. it primarily predicts only task avoidance. & Rosenbaum. Although this is the predominant opinion. cognition. or negative affect. Knaus (1973) argued that only two are closely related to procrastination: believing oneself to be inadequate and believing the world to be too difficult and demanding. and evaluation anxiety. researchers have organized traits into the traditional five-factor model (Digman. research has indicated that they are indeed more likely to put it off. Of note. Similarly. Petzel. Ellis & Knaus. Because these beliefs create anxiety. Given this foundation. Intelligence/aptitude is also discussed alongside openness to experience but is analyzed separately. self-handicapping. it refers to actions that one finds unpleasant. task aversiveness needs the previous concept. Beck.68 STEEL delay all of one’s tasks but can simply favor some over others. it is not surprising that it has also been used to explain procrastination. Neuroticism is considered along with four of its facets: irrational beliefs. 3 . 1989) or the dominant economic model of intertemporal choice or discounted utility (Loewenstein & Elster. Ellis & Knaus. who used the economic discounted utility model to describe various forms of human procrastination. to account for procrastination. and task aversiveness. boredom proneness. Because the field of personality lacks definitive terminology at the facet level (John & Sanjay.. if people do find a task unpleasant. Also. In his essay on procrastination. several researchers have focused their work on a single facet of a trait. Schlenker & Weigold. Individual Differences Attempts to specify the relationship between procrastination and individual differences have been abundant.g. they make certain tasks increasingly unpleasant.g. achievement motivation. Aitken (1982) explained. others argue that the depiction is too simple. the nature of the task itself must then have some effect upon their decisions. whereas Loewenstein (1992) traced its roots from a predominantly economic standpoint in terms of temporal discounting. By itself. the more likely one is to avoid it (e..g. Since even thinking about the project evokes feeling of anxiety. and the intention–action gap. conscientiousness is considered along with several constructs related to self-regulation: distractibility. Its relationship is predictable. 1983). Agreeableness is considered only at the trait level. this situation generates an unwieldy number of relationships and creates some confusion about what facets should be associated with any specific trait. Consequently. this preference for the present has been resurrected by O’Donoghue and Rabin (1999). 2000. have grouped together for discussion facets that share a similar theoretical association with procrastination. Researchers have followed in Ellis’s (1973) and Knaus’s (1973) footsteps by investigating among procrastinators the prevalence of irrational beliefs as well as four specific manifestations. Particularly close attention has been paid to fear of failure. not task delay. By definition. L. 1988) or task appeal (Harris & Sutton. or thought is a broad term that includes several dysfunctional or anxietyprovoking worldviews. then those who are more susceptible to experiencing stress should procrastinate more (e. and depression. 1977).. procrastinate). self-efficacy and self-esteem. such as impulsiveness. 1992). intrinsic motivation). Ellis (1973) characterized them as (a) almost certainly hindering the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment of desires and (b) almost completely arbitrary and not amenable to proof or disproof. Neuroticism Similar in etiology to task aversiveness.. Burka & Yuen.g. Typically.3 Irrational beliefs. 32) Task Aversiveness Task aversiveness is almost a self-explanatory term. 1935). To help organize the suspected correlates. Although the extent to which people dislike a task may be influenced by a variety of personal characteristics (e. and consequently. Support for this effect is bountiful. & Milgrim. Finally. 1991. Koons. organization. Still. such as our tendency to save inadequately for retirement. 1983. Timing of Rewards and Punishments It has long been observed that the further away an event is temporally. Unless people procrastinate randomly. Also known as dysphoric affect (Milgram. results are clustered into the following groups. Ainslie (1975) gave a historical account of this phenomenon from a predominantly psychological perspective under the rubric of impulsiveness. about 50% of people responded that their procrastination was due to some task characteristic. the less impact it has upon people’s decisions (e. the timing of rewards and punishment. T. the more aversive the situation. Lewin. their relationship to procrastination is similar to that of neuroticism. as is openness to experience. Sroloff. self-consciousness. The higher the possibility of rejection (real or imagined). all reasons that are related to worry about receiving harsh appraisal (B. one seeks to avoid aversive stimuli. 1983. the highly anxious. who can find cataclysmic interpretations in benign events. 1990). with sufficient research to place it formally as one of the psychological laws of learning (Schwartz. Samuel Johnson (1751) posited temporal proximity as a cause in that it is natural “to be most solicitous for that which is by its nearness enabled to make the strongest impressions. it is equally plausible that neurotics would be extremely prompt so as to remove the dreaded task as quickly as possible. neuroticism has also been explored as a source of procrastination. the consequences of facing a deadline unprepared may be so terrible that anxious people work exceedingly hard to avoid ever confronting such circumstances. researchers have argued that if people procrastinate on tasks because they are aversive or stressful. and Rupert (1987) discussed. True to this conclusion. trait anxiety. Brown. As McCown. 1999). and sensation seeking. in Briody’s (1980) study.” More recently. should be irrationally putting off many of life’s large and little duties. Irrational belief. 1977. I Of all possible irrational beliefs. the more likely it is that the individual will experience anxiety as he approaches the task. Consequently. Burka & Yuen. To reduce redundancy and illuminate potential patterns. R. the procrastinator starts an alternate task or distraction. impulsiveness.

delays due to procrastination or to self-handicapping should be behaviorally similar. Colvin. Costa and McCrae (1992) went so far as to include depression as a facet of neuroticism in their personality scale. Judge & Bono. Saklofske. A particularly well-researched form of this emotionfocused. intellectual curiosity. 1989). Note that the exact definition of impulsiveness and its structure wanders somewhat. both theoretically and empirically (Abramson. D. when people are tired. however. Consequently. expressive. Depression.e. and should not be considered an irrational delay. they tend to use an emotion-oriented rather than a taskoriented style (Berzonsky. Although pessimism and low energy level are aspects of depression. In keeping with this inconsistency. and low self-efficacy or self-esteem. Given that this is a nuanced point. dysfunctional self-regulation is self-handicapping. no significant results are expected for extraversion. Self-handicapping is also associated with a diffuse/avoidant identity style (Berzonsky. and unconventional attitudes” (p. impulsiveness indicates spontaneity and a tendency to act upon whims and inclinations. seen in vivid fantasy. Burka & Yuen. 1992). self-efficacy and self-esteem have also been argued to have direct links to procrastination and performance (Bandura. low self-esteem). they start work early (e. and researchers can expect them to be empirically related. people are directed to procrastinate. but also one of the more complicated. placing obstacles that hinder one’s own good performance. Shoham-Salomon. These preliminary findings demonstrate some of the complexities of extraversion. By delaying work and starting it on one’s own schedule. No direct relationship has yet been posited between openness or intelligence and procrastination. hostility. low energy. The possibility of this etiology has led to the development of paradoxical treatments. & Martin. Knaus. all symptoms that make task completion difficult. 2001). and impulsive (Brand. 1995. T.” As energy wanes. Fleming. openness shows the strongest relationship with intelligence and scholastic aptitude (Beier & Ackerman. and Petzel (1989) conducted a principal components analysis on several psychological inventories administered to a group of procrastinators. it is to their benefit not to make an unambiguous bid at succeeding. Guilford. & Neeman. Smith. indicating that collectively they could represent at least one of the causes of procrastination. Typically.g. which are consequently summarized here. Similarly. Independent of fear of failure. Several researchers have argued that learned helplessness and pessimism are strongly connected to depression. In addition. for example. C. and accordingly.PROCRASTINATION 69 Low self-efficacy and low self-esteem. a personality type that seeks to avoid relevant information about oneself. none is expected. Beck & Beck. & Handelsman. 1977).e. . 1983. and disagreeableness are thought to be major motivations for procrastination. Extraverts are usually described as sociable. low self-efficacy) and believe that any failure to perform to standard suggests inadequacy as a person (i. optimistic. or need for cognition.. Johnson. 1978.. Openness to Experience: Intelligence/Aptitude Openness to experience is sometimes referred to as culture. Snyder. 1997). although at the risk of significant shame and humiliation if they fail. for example. 1992. 1979). & Gottschalk. people suffering from irrational beliefs may doubt their ability to do well (i. whereas impulsiveness suggests an abundance of the trait. learned helplessness. Peterson. Both lethargy and impulsiveness are expected to predict procrastination. 1992). From a conceptual standpoint.. Brown and Marshall (2001) discussed. 1994). 1995). to cope. several studies have shown that neuroticism greatly increases susceptibility to depression (Ruiz-Caballero & Bermudez. 1997). described depression as being due to irrational beliefs that result in pessimism and self-dislike. as procrastination’s hypothesized relationships with these facets conflict. it is debatable whether self-handicapping could potentially cause or reflect procrastination. irrational beliefs. 1989. one also reasserts one’s autonomy. Clinical depression has several characteristics that make it a likely suspect for causing procrastination. neuroticism. of the big-five personality traits. McCown. Given their bounded although perhaps faulty worldview. Also. Agreeableness According to the clinical literature (Burka & Yuen. and diminished feelings of control over the situation tended to load together. & Tice. & Alloy. tend to lack energy. as well as which personality trait it best represents (Revelle. E. A. 1997. Flett. They found that depressed affect. especially as measured by positive emotionality or affect (Watson & Clark. T. so it has been connected with both low self-efficacy and low self-esteem (Ellis & Knaus. outgoing.” if one fails to do well (E. intellect. & Lin. 1994). Extraversion Extraversion is one of the more interesting possible causes of procrastination. and pessimism are closely related to each other and to neuroticism. Beck (1993). Mulry. 1982). “Openness is a broad and general dimension. exciting. depth of feeling. 2001). it is harder for them to initiate tasks. they are also a central part of extraversion. Depression. 1994. and thus they concentrate instead on managing their emotional reactions to the situation. 1995). and when they rebel against this directive. 323). Metalsky. Blankstein. Kelly. As fear of failure was associated with neuroticism. working apparently becomes painful or more difficult (Baumeister. Burka and Yuen (1983) also discussed the fact that. Depressed people are often unable to take pleasure in life’s activities. Heatherton. & Janzen. Avner. Some aspects of extraversion have already been discussed. 1972) even includes an item reminiscent of procrastination: “I put off making decisions more than I used to. Their procrastination is then done purposefully. Self-handicapping. an honest attempt at the task for people with low self-efficacy and selfesteem promises the gain of a little pride if they succeed. artistic sensitivity. Those with these personality traits are more likely to experience externally imposed schedules as aversive and thus to avoid them. behavioral flexibility. As J. an “out. 1983. 1977). Procrastinators may feel that their actions will not change their situation. that is. 1997. The motivation for self-handicapping is often to protect one’s selfesteem by giving oneself an external reason. The Beck Depression Inventory (A. Jones & Berglas. but lethargy indicates a lack of extraversion. Specifically. As McCrae (1996) described it. and have problems concentrating (American Psychiatric Association. energetic. to maximize their overall utility. rebelliousness.

Brass. and Kuhl (2000) have maintained this view. As Van Hooft. Impulsive people may be more likely to procrastinate. Ainslie (1992) argued that the habit of sensation seeking may also become addictive. and planning one’s life. Consequently. impulsiveness is similar to the construct of present-time orientation. 1990). as is their theoretical connection to procrastination. 1999) indicated that changes in flow of thought are preceded by an emotionally arousing cue. or BAS (Pickering et al. van der Flier. Tice & Baumeister. Mood Procrastination has long been viewed as a way of temporarily evading anxiety that unfortunately becomes compounded when later faced (Mayers. 2000). it should show strong associations with these variables. Conscientiousness As mentioned. 1890b) spoke to this point. thus the rationality of this strategy. without it. gap reflection (Oettingen. 1997). 1981). work could become tedious and slogging. Conceptually. this tactic could actually add significant pleasure and increase performance (Revelle. 1983). an overactive BAS should result in characteristics such as rapid decision making and shorter attention spans. It has long been noted that attention is critical to self-control. procrastination should be associated with distractibility. is debatable. in terms of both mood and performance. Performance Although it is argued that procrastination leads to poorer performance. 1996). almost the definition of low self-control. procrastination is strongly related to conscientiousness. Sensation seeking. Ideally. 1997. and it may incorporate extrinsic elements as well. which itself is consistently linked to better performance (Barrick & Mount. 1946. 1967). However. trait procrastination can be viewed as a moderator in the relation between implementation intentions and behavior” (p. neglecting or ignoring longer term responsibilities. As with mood. but do so to the contrary of their original intent—an “is” versus “ought” scenario. and thus they may intentionally put off work in order to feel the tension of working close to a deadline. However. For example. like impulsiveness. Another aspect of conscientiousness that should be strongly related to procrastination is achievement motivation. Those high in achievement motivation set more difficult goals for themselves and often enjoy performance for its own sake (Costa & McCrae. 1997). Spence & Helmreich.70 STEEL Impulsiveness.. “If the delay in action were intended. and consequently whether it should be considered procrastination. That each of these constructs represents low conscientiousness or self-regulatory failure is reviewed in the following.g. it is important to note that achievement motivation is not limited to intrinsic motivation. and Blonk (2005) summarized the issue. Consequently. Klinger (1996. Organization. they often pursue immediate gratification. we would not regard it to be procrastination. The intention–action gap refers to the degree to which people follow up on their original work plans. However. if procrastination is irrational as well as representative of low conscientiousness. Whereas trait anxiety is perceived as representing the behavioral inhibition system. or automatic habits that preclude the decision to do otherwise (Bargh & Barndollar. Sommer. poor performance . 1992. procrastinators should tend to be worse off in terms of both how they feel and what they achieve. They believe that procrastinators do not purposefully put off their chores. 244). impulsiveness is primarily seen as representing the behavioral activation system. which in turn may increase procrastination. However. organization may contribute to goal setting (Locke & Latham. Most procrastination researchers suppose that delaying is not only irrational but also unintentional (e. However. Sigmund Freud (1923/1961) and William James (1890a. management of distracting cues could facilitate the prevention of procrastination so that one either fails to encode these cues or limits their processing so that they are not fully valued. Silver & Sabini. Born. Consequently. Failing to act upon one’s intentions is quintessentially selfregulatory failure (Rachlin. & Thomas. Organization refers to ordering. a poor mood itself may not only result from procrastination but also create it. or BIS. 1990). Distractibility. this “last-ditch” effort should tend to be less successful than efforts made well before the last minute. Simon (1994). Hurtz & Donovan. and more recent prominent researchers such as Austin and Klein (1996). People high in this trait are easily bored and long for excitement. it helps get them to marshal their resources to cope with an oncoming deadline (Chissom & IranNejad. Feasibly. Taris. Solomon & Rothblum. Ultimately. poor organization. Thus procrastination may initially improve mood but should worsen it later. 1984). Sensation seeking. 2000). is also interpreted as the result of an overactive BAS. Achievement motivation may affect procrastination by making work intrinsically engaging and thus necessarily less aversive. Each of these outcomes is discussed in more detail. Consequently. and an intention–action gap. 1996). Therefore. Their delays may be more purposefully planned than those of the purely impulsive.. The BAS acts to motivate people in their pursuit of rewarding experiences and is a necessary cognitive component for proper functioning. low achievement motivation. resulting in everincreasing delays as one begins to relish ever-increasing risks. Given that depression may lead to procrastination and can be characterized as an extended period of negative affect. Intention–action gap. sensation seekers may find that their pleasure has been bought with substantially diminished performance and long-term regret. several other constructs should also demonstrate substantive relationships. specifically a depression spiral (Lindsley. This opens the possibility of a deviation-amplifying loop. Outcomes To the degree that people are self-interested. It is a key self-regulatory technique that can reduce procrastination in several ways. some people report using procrastination as performance-enhancing strategy. procrastination is conceptually representative of low conscientiousness and self-regulatory failure. self-regulatory failure is associated with diminished overall utility. By way of an explanation. 1992. as they are likely beset with desires of the moment and focus their attention upon them (Blatt & Quinn. 1995). 2003. structuring. Achievement motivation. Given that thoughts of the future do not weigh heavily in their decisions.

Tom likes to socialize. Wadden. prospect theory. integration of this type has been proposed by several authors (Loewenstein & Prelec. gambling. people prefer their punishers to be distant.. “A more comprehensive theoretical framework of procrastination is still needed” (p. that have a short delay. TMT As Van Eerde (2003) concluded in her review. 2002. 1994). task aversiveness). 2006) and because procrastination may be susceptible to environmental influences (e. until faced. That is. Similarly. Walton. Demographics It is unlikely that any personality trait is homogenously distributed throughout a population. This would be consistent with the increase in other forms of self-regulatory failure (e. the more likely one will be to put it off. “Many people who procrastinate only moderately do so not because of intrinsic selfcontrol.4 Elements of TMT are derived primarily from expectancy theory and hyperbolic discounting. To demonstrate TMT’s validity. because the positive component of socializing is perpetually in the present. excessive debt) over the last 25 years (Griffiths & Parke. As O’Donoghue and Rabin (1999) concluded. It is evident that people can learn to avoid procrastination. although it can be applied to need theory. and writing becomes increasingly likely. 8). & Van Hulle. which in turn leads to more procrastination. Brownell. Also. The reward of writing is initially temporally distant. and small. well-established motiva¨ tional formulations that include time as a fundamental term. it maintains a uniformly high utility evaluation. need for achievement For further integration of TMT (i. Sivy. One promising candidate is TMT (Steel & Konig. although self-reports provide the best available data for studying the historical prevalence of procrastination. refers to the person’s sensitivity to delay. Ainslie (1992) and Baumeister et al. each of its four components should show strong correlations with procrastination. However. and the larger becomes. 2002). 4 . It maps the changing levels of utility. including Akerlof (1991). the switch in motivational rank occurs on December 3rd. Second. In other words. 1412). Boekaerts. This synthesis addresses a major problem in psychology. Men may score higher. Enjoyable activities that are immediately realizable (D). Because cohort effects in personality do appear to exist (e. However. gender. D Gender The anticipated influence of gender on procrastination is difficult to predict. value is represented by three major variables. which is a broader but closely related concept (Bandura. expectancy is most strongly represented by self-efficacy. the Nobel Prizewinning economist. merely take its reciprocal. He is a college student who has been assigned an essay on September 15th. leaving just 12 days for concentrated effort. when the course ends. due on December 15th. and goal setting theory.PROCRASTINATION 71 permits the possibility of reciprocal relationships. The denominator of the equation captures the element of time. 1992. To begin with. 1997). utility necessarily shrinks. As the numerator of the equation indicates.g. as Staats (1999) concluded: “The huge task facing psychology—the task that will not go away and that. meta-analytic results do show that girls score higher on effortful control than boys (ElseQuest. an expectancy value-type theory) within a control theory framework. it is always possible that any observed trend represents changes in cultural response sets (e. such an increase is a definite possibility. people pursue whatever behavior has the highest utility. psychobiology. activities that are high in expectancy (E) and value (V) should be more desirable. (1994) reviewed considerable research showing that people tend to procrastinate less with repeated practice. but because they have developed schemes to overcome procrastination” (p. & Viechtbauer. or the same as women depending on the measure. In this example. Rachlin. It is directly expressed by task aversiveness. the greater is the sensitivity. To simplify matters. By definition. diminishing its utility. procrastination may lead to poorer performance. a synthesis of traditional. On balance then. However. will sentence psychology to the ranks of ‘would-be science’—is that of unification. should be more highly valued. obesity. Fortunately. Only toward the deadline do the effects of discounting decrease.g. see Vancouver and Day (2005). 753). unlikely. as Zeidner. An Utility refers to how desirable a task or choice is for an individual. of weaving threads together” (p. the desire to perform. such as selfefficacy-related failure spirals (Lindsley et al. “The fragmentation and disparate. but he likes to get good grades even more. As is typical in the procrastination literature. as shown in Table 1. researchers have consistently provided the information needed to evaluate three possible demographic moderators of procrastination: age. 1995). lines of research within the self-regulation domain have made any attempt at furthering our knowledge an arduous task” (p.. 2006). Hyde. for Thomas Delay...e. the start of a semester.. selfefficacy is assessed primarily for the academic and work domains. and year. Its simplest formulation is Utility E V . 807). and Pintrich (2000) indicated specifically for the self-regulatory literature. but overlapping. The more unpleasant a task. which lowers self-efficacy. lower.g. Goldsmith. one could expect procrastination to be weakly associated with males. a greater willingness to admit procrastination) rather than reflecting a true change in underlying behavior. Roberts. Age People should procrastinate less as they age and learn. 1997). Kachgal et al. Schouwenburg & Groenewoud. 2000. Year As previously mentioned.g. Tom has two choices over the course of his semester: studying or socializing. 2006). 1990. Figure 1 illustrates how TMT can account for procrastination. To apply the equation to punishments rather than rewards. & Foster. (2001) believed that procrastination is on the rise.. As delay becomes large. Previous investigation into gender differences and the related construct of self-control has found mixed results (Feingold.

Table 1 Expected Procrastination Relationships With Variables Related to Expectancy. Graph of a student’s utility estimation for socializing versus writing an essay over the course of a semester. and Delay That Further Validate Temporal Motivation Theory Construct Expectancy Self-efficacy Value Task aversiveness Need for achievement Boredom proneness Sensitivity to delay Distractibility. according to TMT. leaving the intersection between the two lines unchanged. Emphasizing the focus of past research. Of note. Represents a failure to later act upon intentions. Those high in the need for achievement are more likely to enjoy working for its own sake. neuroticism is not expected to affect procrastination. free-floating anxiety will decrease the utility of writing but will also drop the utility of socializing by an equal amount. Value. By definition. unpleasant tasks have low value. should be negatively associated with procrastination. Increases the likelihood that a broad range of life’s tasks will be found tedious. it must differentially affect some tasks and not others. Helps with the creation of proximal goals. For the example of Thomas Delay (see Figure 1). impulsiveness. For anxiety to have an effect. delay is operationalized as the delay for rewards. Relationship Negative Positive Negative Positive Positive Negative Positive Negative Positive . lack of self-control Age Delay Timing of rewards and punishment Organized Intention–action Gap Theoretical connection Represents the belief that one has the capability to successfully complete a range of tasks.72 STEEL Figure 1. Helps to create more pleasure in accomplishment. Sensitivity to Delay. Sensitivity to delay tends to decrease with age. Similarly. because boredom makes work less pleasant. boredom proneness should be positively associated. All three of these variables are empirically related to sensitivity to delay.

Second. if an author was found to have published more than one article on procrastination. Furthermore. Preference reversal between spending and saving as a function of time remaining to cash bonus and hyperbolic discounting. Our decisions.PROCRASTINATION 73 Third. After exclusion of those studies that mentioned procrastination peripherally or failed to provide data (e. the likelihood that they will procrastinate should increase. a necessary outcome of hyperbolic time discounting is an intention–action gap (e. 2006). 1999). First. once procrastination-focused references were obtained. & de Wit. and Tuckman Procrastination Scale (Tuckman.g. The individual difference variables of distractibility. Adult Inventory of Procrastination (McCown & Johnson. 1992. “file drawer” problem). Madden.g. There are strong theoretical traditions suggesting that procrastination is due to neurotic or rebellious elements. In addition. When choices are made regarding distal courses of action. Procrastination Self-Statement Inventory (Grecco. As time progresses. where t1 and t2 represent when the benefits of spending and saving can be respectively realized. Badger. Although admirably extensive. thus increasing work effort. 1997. 3 unpublished papers.. Method Article Search Explorations into procrastination have cut across a variety of fields. however. chapters. This was done to uncover individual research programs on procrastination (i. Usable data included effect sizes involving a measure of procrastination that are expressed as bivariate correlations or as a statistic from which a correlation is derivable (e. As an initial resource. Loewenstein & Elster. and Myerson (1994) found that temporal discounting tends to decrease with age. Specifically. when the requisite author was reachable and responsive. and their effects become more pronounced. EconLit. Hocevar. Aitken Procrastination Inventory (Aitken. primarily with the keywords procrastination.. Decisional Procrastination Questionnaires (DPQI. 691 independent correlations are reported. MEDLINE. 1984). Procrastination Assessment Scale—Students (Solomon & Rothblum. and the Academy of Management’s online Article Retrieval System were explored. this review considers 216 separate works: 7 book chapters. 1996. ProQuest Digital Dissertations. Aside from this convergent validation. sociology. consequently. impulsiveness. organization. the computer databases of ABI/INFORM. Mann. Fry.. 1982. Consequently. books. In total. Richards. & Bickel. and self-control are all associated with (Ainslie. Consequently. may effectively ¨ shorten the delays by the creation of proximal goals. people’s original intentions can suddenly change. Foreign-language articles were also included. 1989). In total. Measures were sorted into their appropriate traits and categories through analytic discussion (e.g. 7 conference proceedings. and economics. Masters and doctoral dissertations were included in this review as well as unpublished works. 1984). ERIC. 1975. the Social Sciences Citation Index and the Web of Science were searched for all publications that cited an article regarding procrastination assessment. political science. the Procrastination Research Group (2006) has attempted to maintain a list of articles. Petry. Ostaszewski. To supplement this list. each publication’s reference list was also examined for other publications. Procrastinators should work very hard. shows how intentions to spend or save money (as represented by the utility concept along the y-axis) can switch merely as a function of delay. Zimmer. Mitchell. Third. & Ford. Fourth. counseling case studies of procrastination). 2001). including psychology. delay is directly expressed by timing of rewards and punishments. especially in regard to articles from the fields further from psychology. upon which much of clinical practice is based. 1991). dynamic inconsistency. tend to be more rational. this list is incomplete. For all available years to present. 1982). Procrastination Log—Behavior (Lopez & Wambach. positing a lack of a relationship is also a strong test of the theory.g. PsycINFO. because Green. . Mann. 1997. d score or F score). 141 journal articles. using TMT. Figure 2. 1997). but only just before the deadline.. 5 electronic sources. and dissertations on procrastination and maintains a copy on the Web. Test Procrastination Questionnaire (Kalechstein. I took the following steps.. these measures included Academic Procrastination Scale (Milgram & Toubiana. As people become more impulsive or distractible. General Procrastination Scale (Lay. delays shorten. Figure 2. especially as represented by goal setting (Steel & Konig. and they can find themselves pursuing smaller but more readily realizable rewards. 1982). Petry. t score. and 53 theses. Also. Burnett. Zhang. 2001.e. t1 and t2 represent when the benefits of spending and saving can be respectively realized. this meta-analysis provides considerable discriminant validity for TMT as well. TMT indicates that these other variables should not be associated or at most be weakly associated with procrastination. Fourth. DPQII. 1986). by reviewing the scale description and items). the author was contacted when possible. & Kalechstein. and discrepancies were resolved to ensure accuracy. and hyperbolic discounting. temporal discounting. 1999). 553 sources were initially identified for review. All studies were double coded. requir- ing a broad search to gather the appropriate publications. reflecting just the magnitude of reward. Read. the effect of delay is minimal. several variables should be associated with sensitivity to delay. 1989). Radford. age should be negatively correlated with procrastination. several databases were searched.

would give a less biased finding. and range restriction. Most of the results here are based on a relatively straightforward correlational design. two typographical errors were detected in which the sign of the correlation had been reversed in print. surveys). consistent with the random effects model. which reflects substantial similarity. extraversion versus positive affect. Meta-Analytic Method The summary of the results primarily follows the Hunter and Schmidt (1990) psychometric meta-analytic procedure. neuroticism and irrational beliefs.e.g. 1989). perfectionism versus irrational beliefs. Finally. the heterogeneous form is used here (Whitener. In this way. When a study used multiple measures of procrastination or of another target variable. the average disattenuated correlation among the procrastination measures was . measures were excluded. 2001). Their equation for estimating SDr (i. analysis is limited to when there are at least five cases (K) per moderator variable. and F scores when necessary and possible.e.e.. This body of research provides further insights and is incorporated in this review. usually sampling error and unreliability. with categorical variables dummy coded. the more intrinsically unpleasant a task is. the degree of generalizability. extreme correlations were examined to determine if they represented outliers. I conducted a moderator search on the basis of age of participant. it can be substantially reduced through a moderator search. Because the difficulty of estimating study quality is extreme (Wortman. in this study. although Two task characteristics are thought to affect procrastination.. moderator effect. Campbell & Fiske. When no study provided the needed reliability. For example. Consequently. most of the studies used young university students.g.. for estimating the effects of unreliability. 1998). as per Huffcutt and Arthur (1995). indices were grouped together to reduce redundancy. Hall & Brannick. Wortman (1994) has recommended. these were averaged so that only one independent correlation was included in the analysis. Where consensus could not be reached. only task aversiveness proved amenable to meta-analytic summary. However.e. . This correction is used. Hunter and Schmidt (1990) suggested that the reliability of scales may be obtained from studies other than those used in any specific analysis. and quality should not have a substantial impact. Studies that had a sampleadjusted meta-analytic deviancy of four or higher were excluded from the analysis.. self-reports generate very similar results to other reports). which is similar to range restriction except that one selects only extreme scores. Steel et al. In addition. 2002. Recent work by Steel and Kammeyer-Mueller (2002) indicated that weighted least squares (WLS) regression provides the most accurate results. Publication bias was detected. First. 2002). Also reported in these subsections are the results from other methodologies (e. Consequently. It is designed for estimating the mean effect size and the amount of residual variance in observed scores after considering artifacts. WLS is used here. uneven splits.. There was one other detectable source of variance: the measures used. consequently requiring the conversion of t scores.g. d scores. Results are reported where statistically significant ( p . which. as well as statistical techniques such as structural equation modeling and factor analysis. than unpublished. This leads to the possibility of system-wide monomethod bias (i. 1990). justifying aggregation. It is based on the residual variance after sampling error (i. although at times it was possible to check and correct such extreme scores with the lead author. In addition to study results that can be reduced to single bivariate correlations and consequently meta-analytic summary. between-studies variance). This bias is primarily due to use of the sample size-weighted mean correlation in place of true . Brannick (2001) has offered a simple fix to this problem that is consistent with the random effects model and other variance estimates (e. This is a common issue during meta-analysis (Doty & Glick. sample sizeweighted. Neither age.. Also. For all variables. with effects ranging from none to weak depending upon the variable examined (e. unreliability (i. Also used was survey research regarding why people procrastinate and hypothetical scenarios regarding where and how people typically would report procrastination. SDr) and. respectively. nor group significantly moderated any relationships. As is typical. 1994). the impact of methodological differences was minimal..70. that is. Task Nature and Procrastination Moderator Search Although it is unlikely that all of the variance in results can be accounted for. people tend to favor tasks that are more pleasant in the short term. experiments. To address whether this is a limitation to the generalizability of the findings. I conducted the following moderator searches: impulsive versus nonimpulsive neuroticism. but also possible differences. which determines the width of the credibility intervals. on average. This allowed the reliability correction to be conducted on an individual study level rather than through artifact distribution. investigating differences in methodology. the standard deviation): multiply the original variance figure by K/(K 1). These include longitudinal and experimental research designs. and its results are reported in Table 2. as similar.. Mean effects sizes are expressed as correlations. nor journal status. SD ) are accounted for. As recommended (Tabachnick & Fidell. tends to underestimate as the number of studies decreases (Cornwell & Ladd.74 STEEL this has been addressed in specific studies (e. if it could be obtained. The confidence interval refers to the precision with which the expected mean effect is measured. the sample size-weighted average of similar measures was used. Still. 1993.09 higher correlations for neuroticism and irrational beliefs. It is also possible that some studies were conducted more carefully than others. corrections were used for dichotomizing a continuous score. Large credibility intervals indicate the presence of moderator effects.. Scher & Osterman. with the expectation that journal and published articles. the studies were coded according to whether the samples represented student. at a minimum. mean effect size. even if they are detrimental to themselves in the long term. Steel & Kammeyer-Mueller. Published works tended to have . are of better quality. Results The meta-analytic results are reported in the same subsections used in the literature review and are summarized in Tables 2– 6. There are a variety of techniques for detecting these possible moderators during meta-analysis. study results were coded as being from journals and nonjournals as well as published and nonpublished. the more likely people are to avoid doing it. boredom proneness versus sensation seeking. 2002. several methodological variables can be considered. 1959). general.06 and . On this point there is little variance. the reliability of each measure for each study was based upon the sample size-weighted average of all studies using that scale within this meta-analysis. but for only two of the relationships. with most studies using a correlational design based on self-reports. Second. The credibility interval refers to the limits within which an observed effect will likely be in any particular population. procrastination has been examined with a wide variety of other methodologies. A list reflecting how all measures were sorted is available on request.01). as well as range enhancement. The meta-analytic method used here does differ from that of Hunter and Schmidt (1990) in one respect.g. and need for achievement versus intrinsic motivation. refers to the reliability-corrected. or adolescent/child populations. To determine whether different scales or tests used had a substantive effect. Still. As is typical in many research venues. it is fortunate that this issue is more relevant for experimentally based meta-analyses. although not identical. Ultimately.

069 r . boredom (Ackerman & Gross.72 . 1990).67 . and job search behaviors. in particular.” endorsed by 45% of the respondents (Kachgal et al. the more people dislike a task. When students were asked how much they would procrastinate under various conditions. 2000. Second. Kruglanski. and. The correlation between trait procrastination and finding tasks aversive in general is also strong and stable (r . Ackerman & Gross.14. Strongman & Burt. 1984). 1992). 1987. E.. . 2000). 2005. To this end. several researchers administered the Procrastination Assessment Scale—Students (Solomon & Rothblum. Briody. Haycock. 2001. Despite generating a weak positive correlation (r . Solomon & Rothblum.73 Note. 2001. Tables 3–5 metaanalytically summarize all of these findings. 1980. 1987. although they were less related to behavioral procrastination (Coote-Weymann. behavioral ´ procrastination was most strongly associated with the aversive task components of frustration. 1990). 2000. Instead. Sarason. . the more they consider it effortful or anxiety producing. self-report methodology has indicated the importance of temporal proximity. Ellis. Part of this instrument asks respondents to indicate why. 5 Ottens (1982) made this observation early on. Rawlins. a weak positive correlation between neuroticism and procrastination should be expected because of method effects alone. . 2000). dealing with the results for a wide range of variables. Task Aversiveness The importance of task aversiveness in triggering procrastination has received strong support from a variety of research methodologies. 1993). “Really dislike writing term papers. 1995. 2000). Puffer. but are not necessarily poorer performers (Carver & Scheier. noting that “Procrastinators perceive task situations in such ways so as to exacerbate their aversiveness” (p. see also Somers. Trait procrastination refers to whether procrastinators find more of life’s tasks (e. including the more rigorous formats of time sampling and daily logs (Ferrari & Scher. Jobs characterized by lower autonomy. Those who are more anxious or have more negative affect tend to be harsher judges of their own behavior. Similar results were found with experimental methodology (Senecal. Galue. academic tasks (such as publication). K. paying bills) aversive. Interestingly. 1993..17. the more likely people were to delay doing it. 1989. Also. Neuroticism The results for neuroticism and its facets are summarized in Table 3. First.g. . . 2000).36. including personal projects. daily tasks.24. or fear of failure. the more they procrastinate (r . . it has not been correlational and thus is not summarized meta-analytically. 1990.19.PROCRASTINATION 75 Table 2 Summary of Procrastination’s Correlational Findings: Task Aversiveness r 95% interval Construct Task procrastination Trait procrastination K 8 10 N 938 1. & Fyock.57 Credibility .44 .31. finding that pigeons will indeed put off doing a small amount of work now for a delayed reward. Mazur (1996. In addition. Factor analysis of responses consistently generates a dimension best described as “aversiveness of task. 1997. Sarason. 1990). Individual Differences Individual differences is the largest of the sections. . resentment. 1989. and feedback were likely to increase decisional procrastination (Lonergan & Maher. Haycock. Strongman & Burt. 1998) experimentally investigated procrastination in animals.13 . the results do support a strong relationship.40 .. with low conscientiousness apparently increasing the effect of task pleasantness on procrastination (Lay & Brokenshire. out of 26 possible reasons. 1984). 1987. . 2001. 1997. That neuroticism appears to be essentially unrelated to observed procrastination (Steel et al.. 1988. .46 SD . Ferrari (1993a) elicited a similar reason why people shopped late for Christmas: They disliked shopping. Consistently and strongly. it is at best very weakly associated with procrastination. aversiveness has been investigated for several different types of tasks. 1980. Pychyl et al. Timing of Rewards and Punishments Although research has been performed on temporal effects specific to procrastination.5 Finally. Task procrastination refers to whether anyone would procrastinate about performing a specific task if it was aversive. K 10). Briody. & Koestner.40. This research has used a variety of methodologies. 2001. 2000). they might procrastinate in writing a term paper.12 Confidence . Froehlich. Still.14 . Blunt & Pychyl.40 SDr . Using an openended format. To begin with.” with its most popular item.55 . task significance. Anderson. ´ Lavoie. they indicated that their procrastination would diminish as the task neared completion or as a deadline approached (Schouwenburg & Groenewoud. K 59). 371). this relationship between procrastination behavior and task aversiveness is moderated by conscientious- ness. two moderators of this effect have been reported. This correlation indicates that one possible reason why some people procrastinate more is simply that they find more of life’s chores and duties aversive. Using comparable formats. several researchers have considered what type of task adversiveness is best correlated with procrastination. in favor of having to do much more work later for the same result. washing dishes. & Pierce. Peterson. Sigall.49 Credibility . several researchers found that two top-rated reasons for procrastinating before performing a task were that the task was unpleasant or that it was boring and uninteresting (E.32. M.15. K 8).40.51 . aversiveness effects intensify if the projects are short term (Lay.63 . The more boring and difficult a task was made.30.14 95% interval Confidence . 2005) supports this assertion.

.33 .10 Confidence .34 . & Sadeh.28 .20 .02. only 7% of people surveyed reported perfectionism as contributing to their procrastination.18 .384 10. 1995. 2001. results have been irregular and often weak. . whereas examination of those that used the impulsive measures suggests a mean correlation of .44 . . 1984). Johnson & Bloom.19 . specifically fear of death.14.35.03. Harrington. 2000b. Although clinical work has stressed that irrational beliefs are a major source of procrastination.37 .02.39.10 .28 . . This discrepancy between correlational and frequency data likely indicates a form of counterbalancing.49 .09.36.62 .57. McCown.46 . .68 . A typical item is “Were concerned you wouldn’t meet your own expectations.31 Credibility . . . & Trippi.42 . With WLS regression.42 . 2001).21. 1993).” Generating a similar finding.884 6. . and the Big Five Inventory (John. there are two other anxiety-related issues. p .748 2. .16.04 .26.03. Rice.09 .23 .46 . .09 . Unfortunately.51 . . Schouwenburg & Lay. analyzed with other fear of failure constructs). . 1995) and that it added little unique variance over conscientiousness. Onwuegbuzie. WLS regression indicates that somewhat stronger results were obtained with more general irrational belief scales. neuroticism’s connection to procrastination appears to be primarily due to impulsiveness.14 .15.02.. E. .12. Rawlins. .03 . Testing this.28 between procrastination and the Death Anxiety Scale.44 .45 b Includes fear of failure. which is not significantly different from the results obtained for general anxiety. significantly weaker as well as stronger results have been obtained with two different specific forms of irrational beliefs. Blatt and Quinn (1967) argued that procrastination was due to a form of anxiety. In addition. Self-efficacy showed the strongest rela- . .720 2. people may also cite fear of failure as a reason for not procrastinating.11. . .00 . although using an open-ended questionnaire.53. L.70. Both variables were associated with procrastination.34 . social perfectionism.06 .18. 1995. .19.14. .14 . Donahue. . the Almost Perfect Scale (Slaney. 1964). . perfectionists generally scored the same or lower than nonperfectionists on procrastination. Johnson & Bloom. the exception being perfectionists who were also seeking clinical counseling. 1987.27 .40 .27.46. Donovan (1995) found a correlation of . Peterson.76 STEEL Table 3 Summary of Procrastination’s Correlational Findings: Neuroticism and Related Traits r 95% Interval Construct Neuroticism Impulsive unrelated Impulsive related All irrational beliefs Irrational beliefs Fear of failurea Perfectionismb Self-efficacy Self-esteem Self-handicapping Depression a 95% Interval SD .19 . Meta-analytic review indicates that the average correlation is . p .48 .12 .24 . This is an extremely strong finding but is not equally robust. 1992) or the Eysenck Personality Inventory (Eysenck & Eysenck.26 .18. 67) 11.38 Credibility . Kelly.31. 1975).35 .19 .and other perfectionism proved to be much lower. 67) 5. Examination of the studies that used the nonimpulsive-related measures suggests a mean correlation of only . and perfectionism.37 .001.22 .03 .34 .08 Confidence . 2000.42. . Senecal et al.31. this is a significant difference.38 .33.10. . . F(1. . G.04. However. and self-consciousness. p . p. evaluation anxiety. . .54 K 59 10 10 71 14 57 24 39 33 16 56 N 10. .24 .784 10.07 . both in the expected direction and to the expected degree.12. 1994). . Briody (1980) and Haycock (1993) found respectively that 16% and 7% of people gave fear of failure as a reason.16 . Petzel. 1995.33 . Marshevsky. Using an experimental design. Ashby. First.911 13.24 . .17 . 2006).12 . Steel et al. such as the Self-Critical Cognition Scale (Ishiyama & Munson. . According to Haycock (1993).16 . low self-confidence. and Ashby (2002).20 . 1992). . Segmenting the results specific to neuroticism by measure provides support for this conclusion: The Eysenck Personality Questionnaire (Eysenck & Eysenck. and Rupert (1987) reported a curvilinear relationship between neuroticism and procrastination that explained approximately 61% of the variance. Finally.16. Clark & Hill. L. 1991) do not nest impulsiveness with neuroticism to the same extent as do the NEO Five-Factor Inventory (Costa & McCrae. Only socially prescribed perfectionism. Furthermore.366 1.32 .17 (K 71).51.16 .14.19 . ´ Procrastinators are more likely to put off difficult and boring tasks when they expect to be evaluated. . . 1994.40.00 .11 .40 . is even weakly related to procrastination (r . Includes self and other perfectionism. . .54.31 . .84. in which people believe that significant others have set standards for them. More recently. . Solomon & Rothblum.26.36 .02 .26. structural equation modeling analysis indicated that neuroticism has no direct links to procrastination and that any relationship is fully mediated by conscientiousness (D.25.20 .28 SDr . . and the original work of McCown et al. 18) 47. than other forms of irrational beliefs.44 . F(1.17.728 r .06 .18 . Low self-efficacy and low self-esteem.26. . .21 .08 .31. 1995.28. Milgram.08 . Schouwenburg. not anxiety. As found by Enns and Cox (2002) and Slaney.19 . .64 . Lee. a finding that has been repeatedly replicated (Brownlow & Reasinger.04 . 2005. & Kentle.994 5.001. .87 .137 2. could be considered anomalous. Second.13 .22 . the Berkeley Personality Profile (Harary & Donahue. 488.32. With WLS regression. .24 .26. self.11 .73. Solomon and Rothblum (1984) extracted a fear of failure dimension from a factor analysis of 26 procrastination reasons. see also J. F(1. Irrational beliefs.37 . However. K. no supporting result has been reported in any subsequent work (J. (1997) found further support.08.10 . & Edwards.20.785 3.27 . Other research has also indicated that irrational beliefs do appear to be the source of at least some procrastination.07 .17. Its most popular item was endorsed by approximately 17% of respondents (Kachgal et al. 1995.. 1995) of perfectionism has four items related to procrastination.61 . The dimension consists of evaluation anxiety. Results analyzed at the facet level indicated that neuroticism’s connection to procrastination was “largely a matter of impulsiveness” (Schouwenburg & Lay.

28 (K 56). . with meta-analytic review giving its average correlation as . . with 26% highly endorsing this item. because positive affect emphasizes the energy rather than the impulsivity component of extraversion. . Agreeableness. lethargy or lack of energy. Sigall et al.33.15 .04 .03.10 .15 .38 (K 39). Self-handicapping. several studies have focused on one of its symptoms.21 .05 .11.37.10 . As additional evidence. . .04 . findings specific to positive affect may potentially show more consistent results.11. Aside from depression in general.04 . 1991c. whereas the opposite relationship was seen for nonprocrastinators (Lay.10 . However. Still.14.03 . .032 3.17 .51 .23. . Ferrari & Tice.27 (K 33). . it is marginally stronger. For self-esteem. This finding is similar to Day et al.23 . Although the results for pessimism were not significantly different from those for general depression.03 (K 16).08 .16. .. .41 . . who are confident in their ability to delay their work successfully until later. this item was also associated with others indicating task aversiveness.05 .21. Notably.77 tionship. They found that extremely optimistic participants were more likely to procrastinate in initiating an aversive task. Depression. . demonstrating an average correlation of .25 . 2001). than measures specific to trait extraversion (r . .06 . Also. Openness to Experience: Intelligence/Aptitude The results for openness to experience and intelligence/aptitude are summarized in Table 4. Other research regarding the relationship between procrastination and pessimism or optimism has indicated that this facet of depression may be too complex to be described in a general linear fashion. . . 1984). . the relationship for intelligence/aptitude is low at . 2000). they are extremely weak. .25.09 .58 . .40). but weaker at . they are different. 2000).27. F(1. .61 .13. Two other studies support the importance of self-efficacy. its most popular item.10 .12 .75 . 6 .41 . . using principal components analysis. Furthermore.24.60 . as per Table 4.07 .08 . self-handicappers are more likely to engage in other forms of self-handicapping (e.’s (2000) experimental investigation indicated that it is possible to be too optimistic.25.46 . Knish.08. . Micek (1982) found that procrastinators were more likely to give up on their efforts when encountering an obstacle (r .51 . . with a correlation of .05 .6 Extraversion The results for extraversion and its facets are summarized in Table 4.19. An examination of their expectations indicated that they thought they could delay and still finish before the deadline.12 .14.08 .07 .’s (2000) description of the socially active optimistics. Accordingly. Solomon & Rothblum.20 . and Extraversion r 95% Interval Construct Openness to experience: Intelligence/aptitude Openness to experience Intelligence/aptitude Agreeableness Extraversion Extraversion Extraversion Positive affect Impulsiveness Sensation seeking Boredom proneness K N r SDr Confidence Credibility SD 95% Interval Confidence Credibility 16 14 24 27 18 12 22 11 3 3.69 . . K.g. the average correlation was similarly negative.24 . avoid practicing for a test). . .08. 28) 4.11.21 . Rawlins (1995) found that this was a more popular reason for very young adolescents. Agreeableness Meta-analytically.40 .54 .11 .46.055 408 .934 4.17 .. there appear to be aspects of extraversion that lead to procrastination. Solomon and Rothblum (1984) did extract through factor analysis a dimension called rebellion against control when they examined reasons for procrastinating. Similarly. Briody (1980) found 8% of respondents stating that low self-confidence was a cause of procrastination.03 (K 14). As WLS regression indicates. and Zanatta (1992) found several divergent relationships between self-handicappers and procrastinators.03. Peterson. the average correlation of agreeableness is . 2001. (1989).21. . E.19.07 .09 . . . indicating that although the two overlap conceptually.14 .PROCRASTINATION 77 Table 4 Summary of Procrastination’s Correlational Findings: Openness to Experience. .11 .28.03 .20 .03 . Galue ´ (1990) and Aldarondo (1993) extracted procrastination dimensions similar to rebellion.01 .01.12 (K 24).23.17 (K 12).. procrastinators tended to spend more time on projects if they were likely to fail.02. . procrastinators were experimentally shown to enter voluntarily into conditions or to engage in activities that self-handicapped their performance on evaluative tests (Ferrari. . p . . Similarly.001 5.10 .46 (K 16). “You resented people setting deadlines for you. Lay.52 .12 .08 . For extraversion specifically.14 .151 5.04 . As summarized. Openness to experience shows a scant correlation of . .18.11 .30.12 (K 27).03 . .18.15.10 . Approximately 28% of students indicated “Didn’t have enough energy to begin the task” as a source of procrastination (Kachgal et al. On the other hand.17.27. confining the meta-analysis to positive affect reveals a correlation of .12 . The average correlation between selfhandicapping and procrastination is . Although both self-handicappers and procrastinators may delay their efforts. .04 .08 . McCown et al.13 .07 .32.32 .07.17 . that is autonomy and passive aggressive respectively.951 1.15 .04. 1987.09. described a type of Of note.03.005 2.14 . depression is associated with procrastination.” was endorsed by less than 5% of respondents (see also Kachgal et al.612 2.34. 1990). K 18).03 . Tiredness is one of the top three reasons that students give for putting off work (Strongman & Burt. .06 . However.

81. . As expected. as indicated by the credibility intervals.51. .25 .32 . and neuroticism.03 .73.21 .80 .” However. organization demonstrates a strongly negative relationship. .26 .45 . .22 .64 . .39 . . Haycock (1993) identified the availability of distractions as one of the top reasons contributing to procrastination.59 .37.50. “Looked forward to the excitement of doing this task at the last minute. and Guay (2003) found a correlation of .62.39. with only 6.43 . .81 .06 . Briody (1980).73 .00 Confidence .53 .31 . 1998.62 .09 . .38 Credibility .35 . ´ Julien.66. Vodanovich & Rupp.0. . procrastinators typically choose to start with the more pleasurable tasks.07 .31 . Researchers have studied selfdiscipline using a wide variety of self-control. indicate an average correlation of .” Likewise.29.41 (K 22).09 . F(1.14 . Of note. Results.36 . and Strongman and Burt (2000) all indicated that a common distraction. Evidence has suggested that impulsiveness plays a solid role in procrastination. Evidence has suggested that perhaps some procrastination is motivated by sensation seeking. there is one caveat.45 .40. In addition. Nonscreeners are more sensitive to the pleasantness of tasks and are thus more likely to be impulsive.38. Similarly. Wessman.10 . while nonprocrastinators prefer to sequence those last (Konig & Kleinmann.16.51.37. task aversiveness is strongly associated with procrastination.66 . Finally.18 . 1992). Senecal.44. which shows a significantly stronger relationship with procrastination according to WLS regression. 2000. . virtually none of them reached either practical or statistical significance (J. Results consistently indicated that Table 5 Summary of Procrastination’s Correlational Findings: Conscientiousness and Intention–Action Gap r 95% Interval Construct Conscientiousness Conscientiousness Self-control Distractibility Organization Achievement motivation Need for achievement Intrinsic motivation Intention–action gap Dilatory behavior Intention Intention–action gap K 20 21 13 25 34 17 19 16 8 6 N 4.08 .12 . It was not well endorsed. 2000) and tend to dislike structure or routine (Somers.14 . . As mentioned. Other supporting research includes Schouwenburg’s (1995a) factor analysis. Qualitative analysis of procrastination has also indicated that typically the decision to procrastinate is impulsive and unplanned (Quarton. .59.78.56 .52 . . Also. 1999) dealt specifically with boredom proneness.40.05 .60 . .62.31 SD .47 . L.76. conscientiousness. when asked how they prefer to structure their daily work.017 533 r .299 3. .22 .416 3.69.29 .03 .14 . As summarized. . 2000.27.65. Three of the studies on sensation seeking (Blunt & Pychyl. .4% of students responding positively to its most popular item.13.66 .00 95% Interval Confidence .22.58 . Results firmly support the importance of distractibility.14 . These studies extracted a risk-taking dimension by examining the reasons for procrastinating. .09 .57. whereas those related to neuroticism loaded on a separate dimension. . .28.059 1.28 .79.62 . Specter & Ferrari.72 .51 .48.75 .53 . As reviewed.62 1.31.58 (K 21). Finally.31 .78 STEEL procrastinator as extraverted and outgoing. . Impulsiveness.06 .68 .14 .16 . Froehlich (1987) found that one of the lowest rated reasons for procrastinating was “I like the excitement and challenge of doing things at the last minute. . Johnson & Bloom.’s (2001) and Solomon and Rothblum’s (1984) factor analyses suggested that sensation seeking has only marginal importance. Self-control/self-discipline.32. facilitates procrastination. .17 (K 11). organization. Scher and Osterman (2002) found a virtually identical relationship when using other instead of self-reports.13 .001. reflecting a core component of poor selfregulation (Tice & Baumeister. the average correlation with procrastination is .57.48.38 .06 .171 3. 2004). Additional findings in Kachgal et al. they tend not to be stimulus screeners (Lay. . Distractibility. .08 . . ¨ Sensation seeking.29 SDr . .757 6.012 3. Schouwenburg & Lay. . 1992). . procrastinators tend to choose short-term benefits over long-term gains. 1987). . but not very much.40. Conscientiousness The results for conscientiousness and its facets are summarized in Table 5. Other research using related criteria has provided additional confirmation. 1997). More recent investigations using conscientiousness from the five-factor model of personality have indicated that the average correlation is . and planning scales.26 . Organization. the average correlation between procrastination and impulsiveness is .39.55 . . . 1973).24.232 4. which suggested that self-discipline may be equivalent to trait procrastination or that it is at least a proximal cause of procrastination behavior.840 2.11 . p . with r .31.48. Froehlich (1987). Ferrari. particularly if the task is boring.69 . 9) 20. 1989.45 (K 13) as well as extremely consistent.36 Credibility . . Also. 1995. Similarly. Haycock (1993). . social activities with friends.41.71. Its average correlation is large at .62 (K 20).13 .15 . The procrastination and conscientiousness variables loaded together.11 . . .11 . Procrastinators tend not to have a future temporal orientation (Lasane & Jones.46 . Schouwenburg (1995a) factor analyzed several measures related to procrastination.88. 1995). . .30 between procrastination and a measure of role conflict because of interpersonal relationships. . once conscientiousness had been partialled out of the correlations between procrastination and the other four trait factors.19 . Several early studies have shown that there was some connection between procrastination and competitiveness or superego strength (Effert & Ferrari.39 . as reported in Table 5. .38 .44 .

Achievement motivation. specifically a poorer mood and worse performance.52 with procrastination (K 16). Sarason et al. & Murakami. Outcomes Outcomes refer to the expected effects on utility. Steel et al. Moods have the potential to show a relationship with procrastination where none may exist. 2005). Solomon. the gap decreases and even reverses as the deadline begins to loom (Steel et al. 1990. As Table 5 indicates. 2001).. Given this typical lack of difference. As meta-analytically summarized.90. however. researchers have focused on how consistently procrastinators act upon these intentions. the average correlation was . Results dealing specifically with need for achievement suggest an even higher correlation of . this study is less than decisive. 2004).PROCRASTINATION 79 organization is antithetical to procrastination. F(1. Student procrastinators tend to be more anxious across the entire semester (Rothblum. It operationalized procrastination as delay in conjunction with negative affect. 1960).44 (K 17).31. 2000. an online poll by the Procrastination Research Group (2005) that surveyed over 9. countering Lay and Schouwenburg’s (1993) results. Accordingly. Lay & Schouwenburg. .e. several researchers investigated this topic by measuring the disparity between intended and actual work habits.. However. 1993) or as a decrease at the course beginning (Towers & Flett.29 (K 6).. need for achievement combined with intrinsic motivation has an average correlation of . indicated no significant relationship between mood and procrastination. dilatory behavior correlates on average . Consequently. Tice and colleagues reported that procrastination could be motivated by mood repair (Tice & Bratslavsky. Froehlich (1987) and Haycock (1993) asked students retrospectively how they felt after procrastinating. but more stress later on and more stress overall (Tice & Baumeister. the long-term success of this strategy seems doubtful. and thus procrastinators usually intend to work as hard as anyone else or harder (r .89. Other research supports this assertion. thus virtually guaranteeing this effect. One way this has been assessed is by administering procrastination measures in conjunction with a self-report intention– action discrepancy measure. To begin with. with Pychyl (1995) having found a correlation of . 1994). moods change. Finally. On the other hand. Edwards. for example. Similarly. a previously undetected mood difference could easily appear. 2000. 1989. with over 80% of the responses categorized as negative. with procrastinators typically agreeing with the statement.36 (K 25). Lay & Silverman. Because most of the studies have examined mood over different sections of the timeline. Beswick et al. achievement motivation is a broader construct than intrinsic motivation. Specifically.35 (K 34). I still put things off ” (r . Tice. Parker. employee procrastinators tend to continue worrying about their work after leaving the office (r .03. those in poorer moods are more likely to indicate that they procrastinate. More support for the importance of mood comes from researchers who have used repeated measures of state anxiety or mood over the duration of an academic course. it is the procrastinator who is doing more work than intended. the direction of the relationship is expected to be inconsistent. (1988) reported that the problem versus anxiety versions of their inventory correlated at .000 respondents indicated that 94% find that procrastination has some negative effect on their happiness. Students who were experimentally manipulated into an unhappy mood were more likely to try lifting their spirits before practicing for an informal math test. WLS regression confirms that results are significantly different depending upon whether they deal with need for achievement or intrinsic motivation. anxiety) was observed but only either as an increase at the course end (Assur. 2003. Intention–action gap. with 18% indicating that the effect is extremely negative. & Baumeister. 1990. K 8). In the final hour.. On the other hand. 1996). several studies have compared procrastination with selfreported work intentions over several time periods. Supporting the importance of mood. 34) 22. if researchers tested more frequently or possibly over longer time periods. Van Eerde. In addition. 2001). Bratslavsky. 1986)7 and tend to experience less stress early on. 2000).42). and meta-analytic aggregation does not appear to be advisable. 2001. Lay. the size of this gap is highly contingent on the time separating intention and action..46 between project guilt and project procrastination. where the relationship between procrastination and state agitation (i. perhaps even after the experimental session or academic semester has ended. 1998). Finally. 7 Unfortunately.. Steel. Similarly. Other researchers. Stainton. procrastinators may feel remorse for their inactions at any time. As Table 5 indicates. a study using experience-sampling methodology over a 5-day period did not find any significant relationship between procrastination and negative mood (Pychyl et al. Stainton.e. despite a strong guilt relationship (r . with an average correlation of . no relationship was detected between it and procrastination (Lay. Effect on Mood The empirical evidence concerning mood is not definitive. One of the first findings in the field of procrastination is that procrastinators tend to have lower achievement drives (Lum. student procrastinators did not become more agitated or dejected after recollecting their study habits. The two variables are almost completely independent. Of note. Similarly. such as Kuhl’s (1994) state-oriented hesitation scale or Schouwenburg’s (1992) dilatory behavior scale. & Flett.64. p . In addition. 1 week versus 2. 2002a). More important. Procrastination does appear to often be involuntary. 1993). This last finding has been replicated in part.. possibly increasing depression or decreasing selfefficacy. However. indicating that their relative lack of work was not particularly stressful to them (Lay. When the state anxiety of students was examined just before and then during exams. Van Hooft et al. regardless of their actual behavior (Carver & Scheier. Lay’s (1987) efforts in typology extracted a type of procrastinator that he termed the underachiever. Also. It is important to note that these outcomes may still represent more distal causes of procrastination.001. It increases the further ahead that procrastinators plan their actions (i. Somers (1992) found no significant association between mood and procrastination on the final day of class. “No matter how much I try. & Endler. 1997).

16 .09 .29.006. B . Brod.22 .54. Mehrabian (2000) found a significant correlation of .17 . This failure to replicate may be because range restriction was still intense at the group level.10 . .04 .81.21.20.. although the sample was divided among each result to prevent over weighting. R2 . 2002). . Procrastination Assessment Scale—Students).18.01 . p . Colman.08 .06 . dummy coded. After correction for uneven splits.11 . These procrastination measures were converted into a common five-point metric.027.. men do appear to procrastinate only slightly more than women (r .00 . However. . such as cohort effects. As the credibility interval indicates. U. . to that seen for conscientiousness and performance. p .756 2.21 . F(1. indicate a weak but consistently negative relationship between academic performance and procrastination.05 Credibility .77. and then entered first into a WLS multiple regression analysis.19 . and the results bear this out. to replicate at the group level (Steel & Ones. Other performance criteria confirm the dangers of procrastination.17 . 132) 4. age).25. F(1. 1994).50. this is not a necessary outcome (Ostroff.19 (K 41). . course GPA. though opposite in direction.52.21.02. Consistently.41.06. female . F(1. . .28 . the analyses are confined to this set. . .15 .70. Notably.g. were not significant.16 . which Table 6 Summary of Procrastination’s Correlational Findings: Poor Performance and Demographics r 95% Interval Construct Poor performance Overall performance GPA Course GPA Final exam Assignments Demographics Uncorrected age Corrected age Gender Note. . final exam scores.12 . . Moving away from academic indicators.21 .00 . allowing the statistical control of measurement differences.71. Elliot found an even stronger negative relationship ( . Potter.e. 88) .31.29.13 .248 3.5 years. Using publication year to indicate sample year.30.6. . White et al. The average correlation was . and assignment grades (see Table 6).21 . .22.12 .10 . The subsequent step was to enter the variable of interest (e.07 .S. F(1.48).06 . .13 .08.19 . p .06 .15 .54. Census Bureau.13 . year of publication had a significant effect for data up to 2003. The results.10 . .33. and by 2005 it no longer was significant.16 .. .35.51 . When a study used multiple procrastination scales.g.26 .973 3.32.07 .09 SD . . . . 1993). . Aitken Procrastination Inventory.16 and .37.11 1. .48 .17 . However. including 2004 data diminished this effect. Although individual-level data tend Year Publication year for the reported samples with mean data spans 23 years.26 between career/financial success and procrastination. Similarly.08.32. each mean was retained. K 44).03 .42) between procrastination and financial well being.29.18 . 2004.03 .29. there were 124 samples that reported the percentage of men that constitute the sample.32.47.15. .05 Credibility . After the different procrastination measures were controlled for.75. post hoc analysis indicates that they are due to nationality. Gender Only a weak relationship was expected between gender and procrastination. R2 .17 . 125) 1.12.03. however. Morris et al. procrastination is usually harmful. Mean levels of procrastination were reported for 136 samples that used one of six primary scales (e. . 123) 7.08 SDr . Age Initial uncorrected results are reported in Table 6. Buesching. Correcting with a standard deviation based on those of age 12 and up (i. F(1. R2 . r . I conducted several analyses.21 . finding significant negative correlations of . procrastination shows negative correlations with overall GPA. Meta-analytic results are summarized in Table 6. . R2 .20. .10 95% Interval Confidence .39. 19. . as summarized in Table 6. However..18 .23 . R2 .25 . although the results were not significant at this level of analysis. where the average mean age was 21.248 8.12.12 . respectively. . 1990. . from 1982 to 2005.g. male K 41 19 10 11 13 16 16 44 N 7.47.447 4. p . 135) 3. Demographics The demographic analyses are based on aggregating individual level correlations but also include an examination at a group level. & Rowland.07 . The effect of age on procrastination was also analyzed on a group level.86. 2000).19 .067 947 1.01. .075 2.25 .32..23.01.27 . K 16). the findings become extremely strong (r . If the data from the United States.03 .07 . these results suffer from extreme range restriction. showing that indeed procrastination appears to decrease with age (r . Sirois (2004b) as well as Elliot (2002) investigated the selfreported impact of procrastination on people’s health. sometimes harmless.15 .09 Confidence .27.24 . At a group level. .. There are several possible reasons for these results. For gender.13 . evaluation of success was based on peer rather than selfreport. .8 and the standard deviation was 4. but never helpful. Those in their senior years are putting off very little.01 . Poor Performance STEEL The relationship between procrastination and performance is similar in strength. Results. . p . One major reason is that procrastinators tend to postpone getting appropriate medical treatments and diagnostic tests (e.

e. this is particularly true for self-efficacy. The connection with neuroticism appears to be due almost entirely to impulsiveness. proneness to boredom. an intention–action gap) and tend to be younger rather than older. Regarding procrastination’s nomological web.001). and methodologies. both of which this article attempts to address. Similarly. 2001). Discussion Procrastination appears to reflect the human condition. procrastination in the rest of the world is increasing. Bandura (1997). sensitivity to delay.85. By performance accomplishments. need for achievement. Furthermore. of particular importance are neuroticism and its facets of irrational beliefs and perfectionism. several strong findings have emerged. 8 . Consistent with its conceptual foundation. By modeling. and most of these theories have been tested. Although there can be a connection. procrastination was strongly associated with a host of related concepts: distractibility. These results were confirmed with a wide range of samples.. because it is presently widespread and has been reported for thousands of years. procrastination is ideal for establishing self-regulation’s nomological web as well as for testing TMT. 1997).e. & Judge. Thus. below . and organization. 755). procrastination does not appear to be anxiety related. which does have a strong dependable connection. F(1. Given this connection between procrastination and conscientiousness. variables such as agreeableness and neuroticism. and an intention–action gap.75. generated low correlations. there is no theoretical framework explaining how personality traits are related to motivation and affect performance. were not significantly related. Expectancy-Related Interventions One way of decreasing procrastination for a given task is to increase one’s expectancy of success. Efforts to understand procrastination have been intensive. indicating that procrastinators are actually less likely. would be to shift its utility curve upward. the results are informative. although not entirely. the confidence interval widths (see Tables 2– 6) are narrow enough to confirm statistical significance. The effect. p . Consequently. Furthermore. contended that efficacy expectancy is somewhat susceptible to verbal persuasion and emotional arousal but is especially influenced by modeling and actual performance accomplishments. he was referring to completing the task successfully oneself.40 or greater with individual difference variables of self-efficacy. thus demonstrating discriminant validity. to be perfectionists. This indicates that procrastination largely. Of particular note. selfcontrol. are excluded. there is still an additional issue to be resolved. around the mid . as almost any self-help book or Web site on the topic will illustrate. procrastination is associated at a rho of . As the meta-analytic work here indicates. Repeatedly in the popular press and counseling resources.001. This makes procrastination especially important. As reviewed.8 However. “A major problem in exploring the self-regulation construct is mapping out the pattern of interrelationships between self-regulation and related individual constructs. p . TMT provides an excellent foothold toward furthering our knowledge of self-regulatory failure. achievement motivation. organization. Boekaerts. and the underlying processes to which they relate” (p. Importantly. several results have a conceptually and empirically unambiguous connection to procrastination. procrastinators tend to act against their original intentions (i. People tend to procrastinate when the task is aversive or when rewards rather than punishments are delayed. It is also particularly interesting in that voluntarily delaying an intended course of action despite the expectation of being worse off for the delay is inherently risky or negative behavior. Similarly. Similarly. procrastination is conceptually linked to the conscientiousness trait. not more. the diligent fulfillment of objectives). TMT indicates that there are four major variables on which to focus: expectancy. 43) 18. and delay itself. Finally. Agreeableness and sensation seeking. which other theories indicate should be associated with procrastination. These findings provide good convergent validity of TMT.. Mount. However. accounts for the relationship of conscientiousness to performance. impulsiveness.20s (Barrick. Corrected for unreliability. with hundreds of studies covering a wide range of situations and variables. How these variables can improve selfregulation is reviewed. where published works tend to report higher correlations for neuroticism and irrational beliefs than do unpublished works. even after familywise error is controlled for (i.. Depression’s connection appears to be due mostly to waning energy levels. Widiger & Trull. who provided some of the most extensive work in this area. distractibility. R2 . procrastination does appear to be representative of low conscientiousness and self-regulatory failure. This belief has been exacerbated by publication bias. its correlations were approximately . 1990. fear of failure appears to gain its relationship through lack of selfconfidence or low self-efficacy. comparable and even occasionally superior to correlations among conscientiousness measures themselves (Goldberg. As Judge and Ilies (2002) concluded.046. as Zeidner. the corrected correlation with performance was very close to that obtained by conscientiousness. and Pintrich (2000) stated. which is sometimes nested under that trait.20. In addition.30. it is not surprising that procrastination shows weaker correlations with other traits. as indicated in Figure 1. for example. For perfectionism. especially as they apply to procrastination. which make many tasks more aversive to pursue. ConseAs one reviewer noted. as every outcome that it predicted was obtained (see Table 1).e. TMT does appear to be a good model for integrating the general findings regarding selfregulation. Implications of TMT Because conscientiousness and procrastination are closely linked. there are theories suggesting a relationship between procrastination and almost every construct from perfectionism to rebelliousness. reflecting responsibility (i. Bandura was referring to vicarious experiences in which one observes other people completing the task successfully. B . they may still delay completing them as they strive to meet their own onerous standards. value. irrational beliefs and perfectionism are taken to be major causes of procrastination.PROCRASTINATION 81 constitutes 65% of the results. because it can provide insight into the relationship of traits to performance and motivation. measures. Although perfectionists do not appear to unduly delay initiating tasks.

1995). making sense and order of the world—may find work more immediately satisfying and thus easier if he or she pursues an academic rather than a business career. health. simply making e-mail less visible or delaying access to it should decrease procrastination. This follows directly from classical conditioning. in which as long as effort leads to success at least intermittently. and its access borders on instantaneous. rewards are experienced during the act. not afterwards. To address task aversiveness. praise. This is especially true if the task is considered boring or if it is attempted when energy levels are low. as long as it repeatedly predicts the reward. Wolf. Second.e. tasks should be constructed to be challenging but still achievable. effort will begin to be perceived as reinforcing in itself (i.. 1978). a conditioned punisher). people surround themselves with cues that confirm their goals and banish any sign that reminds them of temptation. Given procrastination’s association with distractibility and organization. There has been some success with treating impulse control disorders through psychopharmacology (e. it may be necessary to acquire or to improve various skills relevant to task completion in order to decrease procrastination later. a stronger and even more immediate urge is to gamble. a secondary reinforcer).. an effect referred to as learned industri- ousness. 2000). Though the exam may be far off. researchers may choose to make tasks more difficult. the miserliness is experienced more immediately and supersedes the desire to be charitable. Whether the stimulus is pictures. (1994). temptations to which the impulsive individual is especially vulnerable can be more easily affected. there are a variety of choices. Value-Related Interventions The review here strongly indicates that task aversiveness—that is. Of note. work can become intrinsically reinforcing. Consequently. permitting the desire for one outcome to be augmented by way of another. rewarding) under any given circumstance. It would be ideal to influence these characteristics directly. Murray (1938) spoke of a similar phenomenon labeled fusing. & McMahan. two methods of reducing distractions can be immediately recommended: stimulus control and automaticity.g. increasing task difficulty should reduce boredom and. many people would likely finish their taxes sooner if they were more confident about completing the task successfully. with over 90% of college computer users reporting that they use it to delay irrationally (Brackin. This result was largely replicated by Shoham-Salomon et al. a task with distal rewards may be paired with one that offers more immediate recompense. there should be differential procrastination depending on whether activities associated with work. Too much failure can bring about the opposite outcome of learned helplessness. First.. Someone who is high in the need for cognition—that is. However. they are very sensitive to delays. but this option is considered too severe to be appropriate for common selfregulatory problems. For example. a finding that might confirm the merit of offices. specifically the proximity to temptation and the prevalence of stimulus cues. However. Hollenbeck. Consequently. The more junctures that require choice. stimulus control helps to direct behavior by indicating what is appropriate (i. can increase the self-satisfaction that arises from completing the difficult rather than the easy (Wright. A more extreme instance of this strategy may be an entire career change. those with higher needs for achievement may be receptive to this tradeoff between expectancy and value. In particular. For example. Galue’s (1990) and Coote-Weymann’s (1988) ´ workplace investigations indicated that the most control over procrastination can be achieved by exploiting environmental contributors. 2001). Rosenthal. & White. Silver (1974) noted that one predictor of procrastination is the number of choice points that a task requires. the miser’s long-term interest in benevolent giving can find expression through the occasional indulgence of a casino night at the local church. or pennies. This conditioning need not be limited to effort. Research indicates that this approach is effective. procrastination becomes much less likely. that is. Consequently. For example. To begin with. or socializing are examined.g. McElroy. Eisenberger (1992) discusses how effort toward a goal can be conditioned to take on the reinforcing effects of the goal itself. some domain specificity with procrastination can be expected. especially in the early stages of learning. Cron. Unfortunately. In this way. distractible. Different needs may be satisfied through a single action. By pairing the two together. Such confidence is bought largely with empirical confirmation.. However. Sensitivity-to-Delay Interventions Procrastinators tend to be impulsive. 1998). Ainslie wrote about a miser who has a wish to give to charity. the more likely it is that one will procrastinate. (1989) as well as by Mulry et al. increasing the possibility of procrastination. in which effort would become increasing aversive (i. To prevent procrastination. Because there is no delay in the reward. researchers should be able to reduce procrastination by simply adjusting situational aspects. Note that the ratio of successes to failures is of critical importance. A good example is e-mail. the pleasant interaction with fellow students can be experienced in the present. People must demonstrate to themselves that they are capable of such success. Soutullo. In this way.e. & Goldsmith. although this runs counter to the previous suggestions regarding expectancy. Skelly. because they tend to take more pleasure in their accomplishments. and lacking in self-control.. one interesting way of changing the value of tasks is through classical conditioning. associations will build.82 STEEL quently. VandeWalle.e. our more distant goals can “piggyback” on more immediate concerns. Ainslie (1992) discussed how one might express a long-range interest by indulging in a short-range impulse. Other examples of impulse pairing or fusing can include the creation of study groups by those who enjoy socializing. Second. Given that people are unlikely to like all tasks equally. in which any aspect of work that provides differential contingency for success can be a candidate. as the goal-setting literature indicates. for example. McComas. & Chambliss. Finally. decreasing the value of a task—increases procrastination. although both used praise in conjunction with stimulus control. although as personality traits they are fairly stable. fostering automaticity is a powerful . Consequently. & Slocum. and Rehfeldt (2000) reviewed the more general technique of stimulus chaining. Stromer. thus. Such domain specificity is not uncommon to motivational traits (e. Ferguson. procrastination decreased for students who studied in the same location (Ziesat. Because the e-mail icon is perpetually within the field of view.

in a self-paced course. Nonlinear regression is necessary because TMT is itself a nonlinear equation. the decision to do otherwise is never made within a heavily automatized routine. . and empirically there is strong support. Lee et al. Each of these possibilities demands a very different response.PROCRASTINATION 83 self-control technique. if need be. there are a variety of reasons why people might irrationally delay a task. the availability of temptations. including people’s innate impulsiveness and need for achievement. 1992. Given that people’s reasons for procrastination may be multifaceted. However. 1994. 292). .. Future research. 1983). Future Research Extensive further research is needed that will fully explore procrastination and its underpinnings. A considerable amount of research has shown that goal setting does reduce procrastination. but there has yet to be a single compre- hensive study determining how well the variables work in conjunction. Kanfer. Although temporal discounting is evidently key to understanding procrastination. delay is related to procrastination. but only for a subset of the population and only when their lives are confined to specific situations.. Karoly. keep us going. Such a study could include structural equation modeling. they may be surrounded by easily available temptations. 1997) and thus can offer only limited contributions. As theory indicates. and maximum likelihood often helps to improve estimation involving a large number of people. as Gollwitzer (1996) noted. there is much interesting work to be done in the scientific fundamentals of description. should not immediately dismiss these traits but rather should determine whether they are more distally related. This goal-setting research can be supplemented by studies that have been conducted specifically on procrastination. clinical practice and self-reports do indicate that some may still remain as contributors to procrastination.g. Delay-Related Interventions Almost by definition. 2006). as they limit decision making to that relevant to the task at hand. Several researchers have spoken to this effect. Similarly. In a recent review. For Kuhl and Goschke (1994). fosters the formation of behavioral habits that circumvent conflicts with competing tendencies by establishing quasi-automatic trigger conditions” (p. “As long as the implementation of a chosen goal does not follow habitualized routes. The task itself may be seen as excessively risky or aversive. they may be important. Usually that executive function belongs to our prefrontal cortex. 1996. and until researchers can fully assess people’s procrastination etiology. When it is injured. the motivational literature has tended ¨ to not incorporate the notion (e. 2001) and can be specifically adapted to test TMT. Brooke and Ruthven (1984) as well as Lamwers and Jazwinski (1989) used contracts for periodic work completion to decrease procrastination. Such a venue has already been used for procrastination research (Moon & Illingworth. Ariely and Wertenbroch (2002) investigated goal setting (specifically. Also. people tend to lose initiative. As mentioned. For example. change what we are doing. 1990. and. several individual difference variables that were thought to give rise to procrastination proved to have low or practically nonsignificant correlations. Finally. “The repeated use of strict time schedules . Boice (1989) found that daily writing goals helped to keep academic writers on a healthy schedule of publications. Likely. For example. further confirmation would be desirable. an individual will have to make further decisions” (p. whereas those who are rebellious loathe externally imposed deadlines. Two particularly relevant findings are that the intention–action gap increases the further the two are temporally separated. thus providing a constant incremental goal to work toward. (p. Consequently. 45) So far the only investigation of the prefrontal cortex as a source of procrastination has been a doctorate thesis by Stone (1999). and control. and its use is widespread in the field of economics (see Loewenstein. but more effective when set by other people. They may be able to do things. Because of these confined parameters defined by the task. although this review strongly indicates that TMT provides an excellent description of procrastination. 2006). Steel and Konig (2006) suggested that a comput¨ erized personal system of instruction be used for further testing. They may be excessively impulsive. value. Each set of quizzes was repeated until students achieved mastery of a section. Also. regarding description. 422). as it can provide “a wide-range of people who are striving at their own pace towards an important goal in a standardized but realistic setting in which we can precisely but easily measure their behavior” (p. It refers to a habitualized course of action that can be conducted with little or no conscious attention (Bargh & Barndollar. those who fear failure dread evaluative events that lack the certainty of success. Of particular relevance to diagnosis is a connection between brain functioning and procrastination. Furthermore. researchers need a diagnostic procedure that identifies the most promising and pliable junctures in order to lay the foundation for treatment. The individual variables composing TMT have been assessed. impulsiveness. 1993). However. creating deadlines to prevent procrastination). and that those who are organized tend not to procrastinate. Steel et al. who . Steel & Konig. p. and delay to determine how well they predict observed procrastination using nonlinear regression with maximum likelihood estimation (Jorgensen. To begin with. finding that they were effective. and the frequency of encountering the tasks that they particularly dread. G. 2005a. these variables represent one of several avenues by which tasks are made aversive. Wesp (1986) used daily quizzes to diminish procrastination in a self-paced course. which can help eliminate “third variable” explanations (see D. These automatic routines can maintain goal pursuit. which is entirely consistent with goal setting theory. Skoyles and Sagan (2002) noted the following: Something in our brains has to give the inner cues that start us doing things. finding that preidentified procrastinators tended to respond especially well to this intervention. then. Whether these traits translate into chronic procrastination depends on their interaction with a host of internal and external variables. although the effect is often attributed to providing “additional specific information” (Latham & Seijts. a more advanced approach is also recommended. 1999. 906). prediction. Franken. Tuckman (1998) administered periodic quizzes in his class. These findings indicate that making proximal goals should increase motivation. efforts to help must necessarily be haphazard. 107). but they don’t get around to it. Researchers need to assess the critical variables of expectancy. Mitchell.. whereupon a new set was administered.

the anterior cingulate has a pivotal role in preventing impulsive behavior and maintaining attention to the task at hand. *Aitken. & Alloy..47 (Armitage & Conner. Revista Mexicana de Psicologia. 96. its mechanisms are not yet fully incorporated. Although the capacity of intentions for explaining behavior is debatable (e. but industrial-organizational interventions are limited primarily to goal setting and coping with stress (Karoly. (1991). the degree to which people are susceptible to an intention–action gap is largely influenced by the trait of procrastination (Van Hooft et al. is a broad integrative formulation based on past work.e. New York: Cambridge University Press.84 STEEL did not find a significant effect. our traditional treatments for procrastination should be more extensive. 128). the ability of intentions to predict behavior could increase significantly. it may continue to define us for a considerable period of time. Regarding control. have identified a host of promising neural systems that deal with the self-regulation of behavior (Robinson & Berridge. Dissertation Abstracts International. Mentions of procrastination have appeared in early Roman and Greek military documents and in ancient religious texts. such as construal level theory (Trope & Liberman. Consequently. 2004). V. 27. (1991). 1995)... appears particularly susceptible. D. (1999). 2001. 2001). A. 722. Specifically. 2003). once trait procrastination is considered. but there are still many other methods of regulation that are largely overlooked or whose efficacies are only beginning to be understood. personality. the opportunity for workers to procrastinate will concomitantly increase. However.52 with the assessment of perceived behavioral control (i. researchers need to focus their efforts on the role of time in decision making.e. (1992). 1999. agrarian guides. A. If our research perspectives fail to evolve. *Aguilar. At the same time. On the contrary. More recently. In particular.. 1995). 179 –211. alone and with others (Metcalfe & Mischel. 50. Journal of Marketing Education. University of Pittsburgh. including examination of other promising brain areas. Intentions form the crux of action theories. Some of the first written words. other forms of self-regulatory failure are becoming very widespread. Metalsky. researchers studying addiction. To deal more effectively with the ubiquitous problem of procrastination. Conclusion References to procrastination can be found in some of the earliest records available. the motivation field could continue to benefit from a continued detailed examination of temporal effects. Ajzen. L. G. Also. as TMT suggests. 1991). Ainslie. although time is now recognized as moderator. (2005). have lamented it as a substantial problem. and behavior. & Rodriguez. 82. Hopelessness depression: A theory-based subtype of depression. Greve. TMT. Finally. Ainslie. I. D. There are simply more activities with desirable features competing for our attention. Florida State University. should continue to exacerbate the problem of procrastination. Furthermore. 2003). particularly in the workplace. A few alternatives have already been mentioned. 1997). 1982). 1–19. Attitudes. Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes. A. Mischel. Locke & Latham. & Callan. Procrastination has plagued human beings since at least the birth of civilization. This absence of imposed direction means that the competent worker must create the order— he or she must self-manage or self-regulate (Kanfer & Heggestad. B. it and other problems due to temporal discounting should continue to grow in frequency. Abramson. for example. (1988). Furthermore. . 5–13. stretching back at least 3. For example. Psychological Bulletin. (1982). Y. Metaanalytic summary of the theory of planned behavior has shown that the intention– behavior correlation is on average . Of note. particularly the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen. S. in the forms of computer gaming or internet messaging. jobs are expected to become more unstructured or at least self-structured (Cascio. 463– 496. G. Terry. Particularly promising as a method of motivational control is altering one’s attention toward a temptation. Psychological Review. the prevalence and availability of temptation. & Valencia. Consumer behavior. A structural model of self-regulatory behavior and college student achievement (Doctoral dissertation. American Economic Review. My instructor made me do it: Task characteristics of procrastination. an expectancy-related variable).. 59. I. As structure continues to decrease. & Gross. Looking ahead. Specious reward: A behavioral theory of impulsiveness and impulse control. 1995. (1995). As an early example. 1989). IL: Dorsey Press. 358 –372. G. 2005). time itself will affect motivational intensity and thus behavioral direction (see Figure 2).. 12.” 1999). 81(2). 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