To Procrastinate or Not To Procrastinate…

I recently attended the doctoral dissertation defense of a friend and fellow colleague whose research focuses on procrastination. I learned a lot, and found that understanding more about the research on procrastination has helped me conquer some of my own. Here is what I learned…

Why do we procrastinate?

Generally, procrastination is understood to be a gap between intentions and actions, or a needless delay despite knowledge of the consequences. Procrastination is often seen as a lack of being able to regulate our behavior (i.e., closing the intention—> action gap), but recent research presented by Dr. Sonia Rahimi on procrastination in undergraduate and graduate students suggests that procrastination can also be seen in terms of prioritizing the regulation of our emotions.

It wasn’t a shock to hear that anxiety about a task predicted procrastination, but I was interested to hear about effects of other emotions, such as boredom. I had previously been aware of the research linking procrastination to negative emotions and well-being but going to an entire talk on it really helped me have some perspective on my own behaviors.

Am I putting this off because it will be boring? How can I make it more interesting?

Am I putting this off because I am worried I don’t know how to do it? That I won’t do well?


A million questions later, I came to a few conclusions:

  • Learning how many people procrastinate made me feel better, and less like an imposter
  • Keeping my emotions in check when procrastinating has been key in managing my time
  • Knowledge is power! — Talking about it and sharing strategies with others has been helpful

Why does this matter?

While short-term benefits of procrastinating may be linked to better emotional well-being, the bigger-picture is often associated with more negative emotions and a poor well-being. Procrastination may not always be a bad thing, particularly if we delay a task when something truly more urgent comes up. Mental health and well-being are priorities too:) However, it appears that if you find yourself becoming or already sitting in the shoes of a chronic procrastinator, then you may want to tap into some motivational resources.

Did you know that McGill’s Counseling Services has a procrastination resource page?

-Rebecca Maymon


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