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Trevor Igasta

March 24th, 2022

Just one more episode! I have time! (and other manifestations of the spectre of procrastination)

0 comments | 683 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Trevor Igasta

March 24th, 2022

Just one more episode! I have time! (and other manifestations of the spectre of procrastination)

0 comments | 683 shares

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

Just one more episode? In this post, Trevor Igasta explores the psychological theory behind why we procrastinate and some of the ways we can decrease it. This post was originally written as part of PB101: Foundations of Psychological Science, a compulsory course on the BSc Psychological and Behavioural Science undergraduate programme at LSE. It has been published with the permission of the author.

A spectre is haunting mankind – the spectre of procrastination. And the spectre truly haunts us all: up to 70% of university students consider themselves procrastinators and it is believed that 80% of Americans do not manage to save enough money to retire as a product of procrastination.

One phone notification can easily turn to hours of social media and messaging or “Just one more episode!” of a particularly engaging Netflix series, or perhaps another video of people constructing underground pools and water slides in jungles with primitive tools (no, really, it’s surprisingly entertaining). Suddenly work from 1PM has become work to be started at 4PM, then 6PM, and then, “Heck, I’ll do it tomorrow, I have time!”.








Despite Apple’s best efforts to tell us we’re insane for spending literal days’ worth of time on our devices doing nothing every week, the procrastination doesn’t stop. And this is very evident in the outcomes of our work efficiency and school assignments. According to research, the average American employee spends about “a quarter of their day at work procrastinating” and this is costing employers “around $10,000 per employee annually”. For students it’s even worse, they themselves report that “procrastination accounts for more than one third of their day”– so 8 hours every day!

Even I do it, I’m ashamed but I do it.

Academic procrastination has been strongly linked to lower grades on coursework, with worse GPA scores. Some research claims that procrastination is more prevalent among men  and leads to fewer male graduates.

Procrastination decreases salaries, (especially for people suffering from ADHD, up to 30%!) on top of leading to a 10% higher unemployment rate. A person that spends more time procrastinating has less time to exercise or sleep and, therefore, increases illness and the prevalence of health conditions.

Procrastination also has a negative effect on our mental health – empirical research has found that procrastination leads to anxiety, stress, guilt, shame, exhaustion, sadness and agitation and may be caused by conditions such as ADHD, depression or obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD), to name a few. If you think about it this way, Apple’s screen time notifications are ever more daunting than before! So, what causes procrastination? And what are its effects?

The causes of procrastination

According to Piers Steel and Katrin Klingsieck (2016) “academic procrastinators are low in self-discipline and high in impulsiveness”, they outline low conscientiousness (will to do things to the best possible level, perfection) and extraversion (sociability, talkativeness) as other key causes of procrastination. In some cases, procrastination is solely the product of the task being boring or unpleasant. This makes sense, as people are “heavily biased toward the present”, meaning they prefer to have more “utility” (fun or happiness) as close to the present as possible, and over time utility to be had from activities decreases – meaning people value fun in the future as inferior to fun in the present. A good quote to summarise this is “the focus on short-term mood repair that characterizes procrastination reflects not just the primacy of immediate mood over longer-term goals and rewards, but a primacy of present self over the needs of the future self” – people are short-sighted and due to a lack of self-control they choose not to address this. Because of this, people knowingly push unpleasant activities to the future in hopes of having the most happiness possible at the given moment.

Given that we have evolved from hunter-gatherers for whom immediate tasks were more important than abstract future ones, this psychology may have carried over into the present – so in order to do something, people need to feel that the task requires immediate attention, and some people aren’t capable of artificially creating a false sense of urgency. Obviously one can see the benefit of scattering attention as a hunter-gatherer and noticing everything, though nowadays this is an awful quality to have.

So, procrastination has several causes, whether it be one’s attitude, genetics or environment, and this may make the problem seem inevitable, however having this many causes for the problem has a benefit – there are also many solutions!

How to decrease procrastination

So how does our David defeat the Goliath that is procrastination? First, a solution for more daunting assignments is to break them down to smaller, more accomplishable tasks that, upon completion, replicate the short-term happiness boosts one would get from things done while procrastinating. The Temporal Motivation Theory says that procrastination is in part caused by tasks being too hard or too easy – breaking difficult tasks down into less challenging ones is the solution.

Second, setting small deadlines for yourself can really help, but the deadlines must have some sort of consequences if not met, otherwise they have little bearing.

Third, a way to decrease stress and anxiety leading to procrastination is mindfulness (described as “non-judgmental awareness of present emotions, sensations, cognitions, action tendencies”). Mindfulness helps control emotions and tension and can be practiced through meditation, breathing. Mindfulness helps control actions caused by emotions (like negative ones that arise from facing a task one doesn’t want to do, causing procrastination) through observation of one’s actions at any given point. Through questionnaires, researchers have discovered that there is a negative correlation between facets of mindfulness and anxiety, proving that mindfulness can decrease it and therefore procrastination.

Phone apps like Headspace, Calm and Aura can help practice mindfulness. The only issue with these apps is that efficacy varies between participants, however, they all have a low to moderate effect, which is better than nothing. The apps’ particular advantage is that they only take a short time to use (1-3 minutes per session).

Lastly, something so simple as turning off your phone or putting it aside to minimise the amount of surrounding intrusive stimuli can go a long way – the less there is to distract you, the less distracted you get!

Hopefully these methods help you escape procrastination.


  • This post reflects the view of the author and not the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science, nor LSE.
  • This post was originally written as part of PB101: Foundations of Psychological Science, a compulsory course on the BSc Psychological and Behavioural Science undergraduate programme. The post has been published with the author’s permission.
  • Featured image via Canva.
  • Meme from Imgur user soupyeahsoup


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About the author

Trevor Igasta

I am Trevor Igasta, a first-year PBS BSc student from Estonia, interested in all sorts of weird or irrational behaviours and real-world applications of psychology, behavioural economics, and behavioural science. Though I only started studying psychology this year, I am looking to learn all there is to know about these fields and apply this knowledge to improve the world in the future.

Posted In: BSc Psychological and Behavioural Science | PB101 Foundations of Psychological Science

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