The Relationship Of Self-Control To Procrastination

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The general attitude towards procrastination is usually negative, and often viewed as a bad habit by society however, the idea of procrastination is not so shallow. Angela Chu and Jin Choi introduced the idea of Active Procrastination to the world in 2005 in an effort to encourage scientists to look deeper into procrastination and realize that there are differences between those who procrastinate passively and those who procrastinate in a calculated and purposeful way, (Chu & Choi, 2005). The idea of Active Procrastination and it’s relationship with Self-Control became very interesting to me after reading what Chu and Choi (2005) found. Self-Control is the ability to practice restraint especially in regards to emotions and behaviors, (Self-Control, 2019). Active Procrastination is not just putting off a task, but doing so purposefully in order to use time crunches as motivation, most importantly active procrastinators often still have a positive and successful outcome in the end, (Chu & Choi, 2005). Chu and Choi (2005) predict that active procrastinators possess similar qualities of non-procrastinators. Also that active procrastinators share in the same positive outcomes that non-procrastinators do versus the negative outcomes of a passive procrastinator. Chu and Choi (2005) hypothesize that both those who procrastinate actively and those who do not procrastinate at all will have a higher level of motivation as well as have no difference in reports of self-efficacy; both of which will be stronger than passive procrastinators overall, (Chu & Choi, 2005). In order to research these ideas, Chu and Choi (2005) conducted a survey with 230 college aged students, which asked questions about time use on a 7-point Likert scale. These questions are meant to evaluate the performance of each students based on 11 variables like academic procrastination, time use patterns, motivation, stress, and academic performance among others. Chu and Choi (2005) found those who purposefully procrastinate have similar attitudes and behaviors to those who do not procrastinate. In conclusion, active procrastinators are much different than non-procrastinators and are able to achieve positive outcomes despite procrastinating, (Chu & Choi, 2005). The conclusion from Chu and Choi (2005) fthat there is a need to re-evaluate the views on procrastination and redefine them from blanket statements of being unhealthy lead me to begin my research on Self-Control and Procrastination.

These concepts developed by Chu and Choi (2005) are further researched and expanded by Jin Choi and Sarah Moran, who developed a new scale which is discussed and validated in their article. This is in an effort to shed a more positive light on active procrastination and to encourage others to conduct research on the topic, (Choi & Moran, 2009). Choi and Moran define four characteristics that help define Active Procrastination, including not only working better under pressure, but preferring it. Choi and Moran found that the pressure feels like challenge and therefore serves as a motivator. According Choi and Moran active procrastinators must make the decision to do so purposefully. This also shows the ability to adapt and change tasks around their schedules, (Choi & Moran, 2009). Active procrastinators are able to determine the amount of time needed to complete a task and therefore, know when to start it in time to still meet the deadline and have a positive outcome to whatever task they are doing, (Choi & Moran, 2009). Choi and Moran used a Likert scale type survey, which was administered to Canadian undergraduates studying business. There were approximately 185 participants of varying demographics who answered questions intended to measure four dimensions that include passive procrastination, time use and perceptions, the big five personality characteristics, and individual outcomes. Choi and Moran used the responses to their survey to then create the 16-item measure for active procrastination and in order to be defined as an active procrastinator one must able to multi-task, be able to practice self-control over one’s use of time, as well as the ability to be independent and flexible, (Choi & Moran, 2009). The development of this scale and relationship between certain personality characteristics and active procrastination begins to explore the idea of how self-control effects the way in which an individual procrastinates and the outcome.

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In order to study similar concepts, researchers Kim and Seo find the importance of flow and the ability to regulate one’s own learning to get a successful outcome in academics, (Kim & Seo 2013). Flow can be defined as the being completely focused on a single activity, (Kim & Seo, 2013). Kim and Seo found that there are qualities that serve as predictors for successful Active Procrastinators, this was done by utilizing the Active Procrastination Scale developed by Choi and Moran (2009) in conjunction with a scale developed by Kim, Tak, and Lee (2010) to measure flow and a questionnaire developed by Pintrich, Smith, Garcia, & McKeachie (1993) to determine various strategies students used to perform, (Kim & Seo, 2013). The result of this study found that flow and self-regulated learning are more important contributors to successful outcomes within academics than that of active procrastination. However, the study also provided a better understanding of active procrastination and also helped explain how an active procrastinator is able to get successful results with the influence of flow and to a smaller extent self-regulated learning strategies, (Kim & Seo 2013). The concept of flow and it’s importance to active procrastination are particularly interesting because of how the ability to focus on one task at a time can have a large effect on the outcome.

In order to bring more than survey studies into the research on active procrastination Seo (2012) conducted a study to find the relationship between active procrastination and academic achievement when cramming for an exam, (Seo, 2012). To do this Seo gathered data from 172 undergraduates. These participant were separated into three groups that were determined by how many days they spent studying before the exam. This varied from no-cramming, light cramming, and heavy cramming, (Seo, 2012). Post examination the undergraduates were given a questionnaire in order to obtain a measure of active procrastination as well as how much, if any, cramming they did for the exam. Seo then used the active procrastination scale developed by Choi and Moran (2009) to measure active procrastination. In order to assess academic achievement Seo asked the instructor for the examination scores for the participants. While the questionnaire was self-report, gathering the exam scores from the instructor allowed for a more reliable method of measuring academic success. The results indicated that among active procrastinators the amount of time spent studying made no difference in scores, and in all cases active procrastinators scored higher on the exam than passive procrastinators and active procrastinators scored the same as those who studied at least 48 hours before the exam, (Seo, 2012). Active procrastination had a bigger effect on the student’s achievement than the amount of time spent studying and active procrastinators can get more successful results than passive procrastinators despite studying the same amount of time, (Seo, 2012). As a result, Seo finds that active procrastination is unique to traditional passive procrastination and active procrastinators do their best work under stressful situations which further builds on the dynamic between self-control and the ability to stay motivated and focused on a task and why active procrastinators are able to get better results than passive procrastinators, (Seo, 2012).

Chu and Choi (2005) found that there is a difference between Active Procrastinators and Passive Procrastinators, research that lead to the creation of a new scale to measure Active Procrastination created by Choi and Moran (2009) who found that there were four dimensions of procrastination and that Active Procrastinators prefer working under the pressure of a time crunch. Kim and Seo (2013) were able to determine that flow, or the ability to focus fully on one task at a time had a bigger influence on successful outcomes than Active Procrastination, and that Seo (2012) found that those who were Active Procrastinators were able to score better on an exam despite having crammed the same amount as the Passive Procrastinators. I intend to conduct a study by conducting a survey with a group of undergraduates enrolled in a Psychology class and to determine the relationship between self-control and procrastination. I hypothesize that those who show signs of being Active Procrastinators will also show signs of having higher Self-Control than those who are Passive Procrastinators.

Participants and Procedure

The participants were 39 undergraduates at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville who were enrolled in a Psychology statistics course. The sample included 19 males (50%) and 20 females (50%) between the ages of 18 and 36. These participants took part of a class project that included participating in each groups studies within the course for course credit. Each participant provided consent during the Lab style class before participating in each survey. Instructions were provided at the top of the survey, which can be seen in Appendix. The participants were divided into three groups, passive procrastinators (n=13) active procrastinators (n=13) and non-procrastinators (n=13). For all groups a Likert type scale was used to answer survey questions to determine which group each participant belonged in. The active procrastinator group used questions referring to ability to meet deadlines, satisfaction, and the ability to work under pressure. Questions that referred to passive procrastination, such as the inability to work well under pressure, inability to meet deadlines, dissatisfaction or disinterest in successful outcomes and questions that referred to non-procrastinators such as spreading tasks throughout the week or beginning studying more than 48 hours before an exam.

Materials and Design

Using a convenience sampling method, during class the participants were asked to fill out a survey that measured degree or type of procrastination, or to put off a task that needs to be done, (Procrastinate, 2019). As well as self-control, defined as the and ability to practice restraint especially in regards to emotions and behaviors, (Self-Control, 2019). This used parts of both the Self-Control Scale (Tangney, Baumeister, & Boone, 2004) and the Active Procrastination Scale (Choi & Moran, 2009). The survey used was a 16 item Likert style scale that ranged from Never to Always. Questions used to measure how often the participant procrastinated as well as degree of flow were used, for example: “I find it hard to focus on my assignments.” Questions in the survey that are used to indicate self-control and how often it is used, for example “I miss class” or “I lose track of time while using electronics.” There were also questions that measured satisfaction and the effect the participants behavior had on their lives.


  1. Choi, J. N., & Moran, S. V. (2009). Why not procrastinate? Development and validation of a new active procrastination scale. The Journal of Social Psychology, 149(2), 195–211.
  2. Chu, A. H. C., & Choi, J. N. (2005). Rethinking procrastination: positive effects of “active” procrastination behavior on attitudes and performance. The Journal of Social Psychology, 145(3), 245–264.
  3. Eun Hee Seo. (2012). Cramming, Active Procrastination, and Academic Achievement. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 40(8), 1333–1340.
  4. Eunkyung Kim, & Eun Hee Seo. (2013). The Relationship of Flow and Self-Regulated Learning to Active Procrastination. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 41(7), 1099–1113.
  5. Procrastinate. 2019. In Retrieved October 11, 2019, from
  7. Self-Control. 2019. In Retrieved October 11, 2019, from
  9. Tangney, J. P., Baumeister, R. F., & Boone, A. L. (2004). High self-control predicts good adjustment, less pathology, better grades, and interpersonal success. Journal of Personality, 72(2), 271–322.
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