Fighting off Procrastination-Stop Waiting!

Posted by Sinead Cowins on April 21, 2017


Defined as the intentional delay of due or impending tasks, procrastination is a wide spread phenomenon at all levels of education. It can negatively impact learning and interfere with achievement, while synonymously decreasing our children’s beliefs about their abilities. Failures in factors such as planning, self-monitoring, and poor time management have all been linked to procrastination and its ill effects. Moreover, simply being uninterested or bored with the subject matter can also encourage procrastination. What studies have shown, is that the key to fighting off procrastination is linked to developing coping strategies against the factors that lead to it. So, one does not have to wallow in the misery and stress that surrounds procrastination. Students at all levels can learn subtle ways to avoid it.

Time Management, Planning and Self-Monitoring

            According to researchers Ariely & Wertenbroch (2002) students should try to “pre-commit” to their assignments way before they are due. Last minute attempts at doing work only increase stress and the likelihood of further procrastination. Pre-commitment can be optimized by having your child write down when, where, and how they plan on working on their assignments, monitoring their work, and having them implement reminders on when they should be working.

Perfectionism and Over-thinking

            When we set expectation too high for ourselves, these expectations can interfere with obtainable goals, stress us out and lead to further avoidance. This is also true about thinking too much about what we have to do. Studies have shown that people who think more about their achievement have lower levels of performance (Pham & Taylor, 1999). But this does not mean that students should not think about their responsibilities at all. Instead, their thoughts about their responsibilities should include visualizations about the behaviors that need to be done to achieve their goals. When this occurs, they will be more likely to engage in needed activities and even outperform others.

Use the Premack Principle

            When your child thinks that a subject is boring and they generally cannot seem to motivate themselves due to sheer non-interest, use the theory behind the Premack Principle to encourage them to push through. The Premack Principle is a behavioral technique that uses a liked behavior to reinforce a less liked behavior. For example, if your child hates math and always waits to the last hour of the night to finish it, you can tell them that they will get to play their video game for two hours before dinner if they finish their homework on time. More times than none, this works to encourage the accomplishment of a low interest activity.

In summary, procrastination occurs due to several factors and is worsened when we feel overwhelmed by our obligations. Using these strategies can aid them in becoming more motivated and help them win the battle against procrastination.


Ariely, D., & Wertenbroch, K. (2002). Procrastination, deadlines, and performance: Self-control by precommitment. Psychological science13(3), 219-224.

Pham, L. B., & Taylor, S. E. (1999). From thought to action: Effects of process-versus outcome-based mental simulations on performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25(2), 250-260. 

Topics: Parenting, Child Education, Child Development, Procrastination, Time Management Skills, Strategies for Success, Child Procrastination, Premack Principle, Self-Motivating, Positive Learning

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