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Procrastination: Ways To Avoid Negative Effects

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Procrastination is a universal issue among scholars that hinders their academic performance. Many have wondered if it is possible to completely avoid procrastination. It is virtually not possible because everyone procrastinates at some point in time. However, you can reduce how much of it is done. By rewarding yourself or receiving rewards and clarifying your goals, it can be reduced significantly. We are conducting an experiment of three groups of college students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to see if it can be done to anyone. One group will begin the intervention that specializes in goal clarification at the start of the second stage. The other group will begin it towards the middle, while the third group does not receive any treatment. The participants will be rewarded based on how much effort they are applying and at what time it is applied. I expect to find the participants that receive treatment from the very beginning will experience long-term reduction in procrastination. I expect the participants that receive treatment towards the middle of the study will experience short-term reduction, while the last group will not experience any reduction at all. This study is important because procrastination is an international pandemic that will only hinder our best possible performance in life.

Can Procrastination Be Reduced to Avoid Negative Effects?

The ability to procrastinate lies within every human. According to Ainslie (2008), procrastination has been defined as postponing something unpleasant or difficult to do, and to end up doing it in a way that involves greater effort. Procrastination is done more frequently in academic settings. Steel (2007) reported that 80% of North American college students procrastinate of which 50% do so in a chronic manner. Ferrari, O’Callahan, and Newbegin (2005) reported that 61% of the population display some form of procrastination, of which 20% do so in a chronic manner. This study serves to attempt to reduce procrastination amongst college students using positive reinforcements and goal clarification to lessen the negative consequences that are associated with procrastinating.

Students who procrastinate on their academic tasks often exhibit more problems related to physical symptoms of disease and stress, and this generates the need to visit health units more often (Glick, Millstein, & Orsillo, 2014; Tice & Bauneister, 1997). Beutel et al. (2016) have highlighted associations between procrastination and higher levels of stress, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and reduced life satisfaction. According to Pintrich & Shunck (1993), students who demonstrate more skill in following their own instructions tend to be more academically motivated. A study carried out by Ariely and Wertenbroch (2002) with college students conducted an intervention on academic procrastination. The intervention consisted of a verification of the effect of prior commitments in meeting deadlines of task completion. The authors of the study found that participants with a tendency to postponing the deadline for their tasks procrastinated less. Only when they defined the completion date themselves, in advance, within ample time.

“This study aimed to test the effects of two treatment conditions - SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Related) academic goals clarification and instructions to abandon procrastination - and one control condition (waiting list) on measures of impulsiveness in academic procrastination, namely Hyperbolic Discounting (HD) and Total Academic Procrastination (TAP) score of the PASS (Procrastination Assessment Scale-Students) questionnaire. The results indicate that (a) the participants who received the academic goal clarification intervention had significant changes on HD posttest measures than did participants who received instructions to abandon procrastination; and (b) the participants who received the goal clarification treatment presented a significant reduction in academic procrastination when compared to subjects who were in the control condition (i.e., waiting list). These outcomes support the main hypothesis of the study: the group of students exposed to the SMART type of academic goal clarification had a substantial decrease in their tendency to academic procrastination and impulsiveness when faced with hyperbolic-discounting decisions” (Hurtado-Parrado & Munoz-Olano, 2016).

“We examined associations between procrastination and two proposed contributors to procrastination: psychological inflexibility and discounting of delayed rewards. We found a moderate negative correlation between psychological flexibility and academic procrastination: Students who reported lower psychological flexibility tended to report higher levels of procrastination. No other significant correlations were found, and delay discounting did not moderate the relationship between psychological flexibility and procrastination. We found that discounting of hypothetical money was not significantly correlated with discounting of experienced video clips. This replicates previous findings with a novel reinforcer type (Jimura et al., 2011; Horan et al., 2017), and, given the current sample size, suggests that these two measures are at most weakly correlated, and index different discounting domains. This underscores the importance of developing separate understandings of two crucially different types of decisions about delayed rewards: decisions about postponed outcomes as made in typical hypothetical money tasks, and decisions about waiting as made in experiential discounting tasks (see Paglieri, 2013)” (Hunt, Macaskill, Sedley, & Sutcliffe, 2019).

“In summary, academic procrastination is prevalent and harmful, and interventions to reduce its impact are needed. We examined two potential drivers of procrastination: psychological inflexibility and delayed academic rewards. In agreement with previous literature, we found evidence of a relationship between psychological flexibility and academic procrastination, suggesting that interventions to increase psychological flexibility are worth pursuing. We did not find evidence for a relationship between procrastination and delay discounting in experiential and hypothetical paradigms. This suggests that interventions focused on reward delay may not be the most fertile avenue of investigation for procrastination reduction. Rather, it would be most useful for therapists to develop interventions that aim to increase students’ psychological flexibility to reduce procrastination and enhance academic success” (Hunt et al., 2019).

“The aim was to explicate the motivational personality traits which may underpin this behavior. In our student sample, as predicted, all three forms of procrastination were significantly and negatively associated with GDP (Goal Drive Persistence), and positively with impulsivity. This suggests that students who are goal-driven are the least likely to procrastinate, whereas those who are impulsive are most likely, and this applies in terms of both their academic studies and procrastination more widely” (Bacon & Bennett, 2019).

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As has been detailed above, previous research has shown that goal clarification and positive reinforcement treatments are effective for reducing academic procrastination. The current proposal was designed to examine these researches a bit further. The experiment will consist of a multiple-comparison baseline design using three randomly assigned groups. We hope to view a reduction in procrastination and its negative effects on academic performance amongst college students using positive reinforcers. An examination of the effect of goal clarification treatment and positive reinforcement treatment on procrastination is proposed. It is hypothesized that positive reinforcement treatment will be just as effective as goal clarification treatment. This is because, as discussed above, findings from the articles indicate that rewards are particularly effective method for controlling behavior. It is likely that the effectiveness of this treatment would generalize to the student population that is of interest here. Can procrastination and its effects be reduced amongst college students using goal clarification and positive reinforcements?



90 undergraduate students from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette (45 male and 45 female) aged between the ages of 18-21 will be selected randomly from the most academically demanding colleges at the university (i.e., engineering, liberal arts, nursing, sciences, and business). The participants will be split into groups of three with 30 participants each. The participants will enter a room and be asked to sign a document that gives their consent to participate in the study. If the experiment causes a negative impact on the participants, they will be given free counseling sessions and a week of excused absences to work through the issues that may have arisen.


This experiment requires a computer room large enough for 31 people. There will be online questionnaires to complete. The participants will also be given the option to have the words read to them through the computer screen via headphones.


The researchers will be using a multiple-comparison baseline experiment. The participants will have two steps in the experiment. The first step is to take various tests, assessing their individual procrastination levels. The tests include: Procrastination Assessment Scale-Students (Solomon & Rothblum, 1984), Hyperbolic Discounting (Odum, 2011), and the Tuckman Procrastination Scale (Tuckman, 1991). Each test is designed to view any possible connections procrastination may have with delay discounting, conscientiousness, psychological flexibility, and impulsiveness.

The second step is to participate in interventions for five weeks that would focus on reinforcing goal clarification and receiving rewards (pizza parties, bonus points opportunities, outdoor class) for working on their academic assignments well before the due date. They will receive double the reward (no class along with bonus points actually being rewarded) if the assignment is completed before the deadline.

The interventions for Group A will begin the first week following the results from the tests. The interventions for Group B will begin towards the third week following, resulting in only two weeks of goal clarification. Group C will have no intervention and will be the control group.

Predicted Results

If the study were to be recreated or to be completed, the results would show that there will be a positive correlation with procrastination and psychological inflexibility, as well as a positive correlation between procrastination and poor mental and physical health. The results would also show a direct negative correlation between procrastination and psychological flexibility and procrastination and great mental health. It is unclear which statistical test I will be using in the study.


This study is to reinforce the idea that procrastination, no matter how chronic, can be reduced. College students procrastinate approximately 30% more than non-academic adults. If procrastination can be reduced using methods like goal clarification and positive reinforcements, then this study will serve as the brace that supports the information from previous research studies. There are no risks available at this time. The benefits would include things like getting to not have to go to class, getting bonus points, experiencing less anxiety and stress, and making better grades. There is a potential issue that is of concern is that the rewards given might be too rewarding and they won’t actually reduce their procrastination for good. It is concerning that it might only be for the duration of the study. There is also the potential issue of having the results influenced by some third factor that is unknown to the researchers. There could be some influence at home or with friends that could’ve reduced their procrastination.


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  3. Bennett, C., & Bacon, A. M. (2019). At long last—A reinforcement sensitivity theory explanation of procrastination. Journal of Individual Differences.
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Procrastination: Ways To Avoid Negative Effects. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
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