Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Procrastination benefits

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Procrastination benefits:
What are the benefits of procrastination?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Procrastination has a very negative stigma around it, procrastinators are often viewed as time wasters and lazy in nature (Gupta, Hershey & Gaur, 2012)[grammar?]. Employers will often try to avoid hiring people with procrastinator characteristics as they think these people are viewed as unproductive and unorganised (Gupta, Hershey, & Gaur, 2012). Procrastination effects a large percentage of the population, however there is limited research around its benefits (Cohen & Ferrari, 2010). Researchers suggest there are possible benefits to this behaviour, one of them being creativity (Cohen & Ferrari, 2010). This chapter explores procrastination, why it occurs, who it effects and what the benefits are.

What is procrastination?[edit | edit source]

Procrastination is defined as voluntarily postponing or delaying a task which should be carried out in that present moment (Gupta, Hershey, & Gaur, 2012). The word procrastination is derived from Latin, "pro" meaning forward, and "cras" meaning tomorrow, suggesting that a task will be done at a later time (Gupta, Hershey & Gaur, 2012).

Who does it affect?[edit | edit source]

Researchers estimate that procrastination affects a large majority of the population (Gupta, Hershey, & Gaur, 2012). It is estimated that 80-95% of students and 15-20% of adults engage in procrastination[factual?]. It is theorised that people procrastinate less as they age, as they learn through experience to develop techniques to overcome procrastination (Steel, 2007). Men are more likely procrastinate than women (Steel, 2007).

Procrastination has a negative stigma, and procrastinators are often viewed as bad and foolish in nature, and often wish to reduce this behaviour (Gupta, Hershey, & Gaur, 2012). Procrastination is very rarely exhibited in all aspects of an individual's life (Subotnik, Steiner & Chakraborty, 1999). An individual who procrastinates in aspects of their life such as work, struggling to meet deadlines when handing in a report, may not necessarily procrastinate in their social life when looking to plan a trip with their friends. Majority of individuals are likely to procrastinate in social, health, work and creative domains (Subotnik, Steiner & Chakraborty, 1999)[grammar?].

History[edit | edit source]

The first analysis on procrastination was developed by Milgram in 1992 (Steel, 2007). Researchers argued that as the population advanced technologically and society became dominated by clocks, deadlines and commitments, the prevalence of procrastination increased and so did its negative stigma (Subotnik, Steiner, & Chakraborty, 1999). Milgram proposed that undeveloped societies which have not experienced this technological advancement are not affected by procrastination to such an extent (Steel, 2007).

A few years later in 1995, Johnson and McCown argued that procrastination has always been around, but is more prevalent and has developed its negative associations with the beginning of the industrial revolution (Steel, 2007). Before these advancements in work and academic life, procrastination had a positive association and was interpreted as a wise course of action (Steel, 2007).

Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT)[edit | edit source]

Temporal Motivation Theory (TMT) emphasises time as an important motivator (Steel & Konig, 2006). TMT can be used to analyse and understand the human behaviour of procrastination. TMT was derived from the fundamental elements of 4 significant theories on motivation; CPT[explain?], need theory, picoeconomics[explain?] and expectancy theory (Steel & Konig, 2006)[Provide more detail]. The 4 fundamental features of TMT are value, expectancy, time and different functions for losses versus gains (Steel & Konig, 2006). Meta-analytic reviews demonstrate that the most powerful correlations with procrastination are task characteristics and individual difference variables related to expectancy, value and sensitivity delay (Steel & Konig, 2006)[Provide more detail]. TMT is the only theory which includes variables that address all three of these elements at both an individual and situational level (Steel & Konig, 2006).

Benefits of procrastination[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Increased motivation and productivity[edit | edit source]

TMT emphasises time as a critical motivator, the theory explains the spike in motivation and productivity in approaching deadlines for a procrastinator (Steel & Konig, 2006)[grammar?]. This spike in motivation and productivity can be interpreted as a benefit of procrastination. Individuals use this spike in stress and motivation to ignite a positive action (Subotnik, Steiner, & Chakraborty, 1999). As productivity rises, they are able to complete the said task in a shorter than expected time frame. In addition, delaying an activity in one domain, allows individuals to focus on other responsibilities (Subotnik, Steiner, & Chakraborty, 1999). This is deemed as a reasonable way to address the issue of having too much to do as long as productivity is high once the individual gets back to their initial task (Subotnik, Steiner, & Chakraborty, 1999).

Enhanced creativity[edit | edit source]

Research has demonstrated that individuals who procrastinate excel in creative fields (Cohen & Ferrari, 2010). Studies examining the effect of reflective rumination on creativity found that postponing a decision with a deadline positively related to reflective rumination and in turn aided an individual's creative processes (Cohen & Ferrari, 2010). Procrastination allows for additional time and in turn allows for a necessary unconscious incubation period to occur (Cohen & Ferrari, 2010). Putting off a task until last minute allows an individual to open themselves to the widest range of ideas possible as they are able to incorporate all new knowledge into their creative problem-solving, potentially resulting in an influx of ideas (Cohen & Ferrari, 2010).

It is suggested that, at a minimum, moderate levels of risk taking are necessary for producing new ideas (Subotnik, Steiner & Chakraborty, 1999). Most creative individuals describe themselves as risk takers and are less anxious about procrastinating a task than non-creative individuals (Subotnik, Steiner & Chakraborty, 1999).

Martin Luther King Jr[edit | edit source]
Martin Luther King Jr NYWTS 4

Martin Luther King Junior's "I Have a Dream speech", demonstrates how leaving a task until the last minute allows for an individual to open their mind to the widest range of possibilities. Martin Luther King Jr was up at 3am, the night before the biggest speech he’d ever made, re-writing and making changes to it. While waiting to walk up to the podium on the day, he was seen still scribbling down notes (Vail, 2006). The 4 words that changed the course of history, “I have a dream” were not on Martin Luther King Jr’s script, he had thought of those words in the moment (Vail, 2006). By delaying finalising his speech, he opened himself to the widest range of idea's possible. If he had not procrastinated and instead finished his speech days before he was due to speak, he would have never spoken those 4 words which have changed the lives of millions.

Leonardo Da Vinci[edit | edit source]
Figure 1. Caption needed

Leonardo Da Vinci, one of history’s most creative artists, was a chronic procrastinator (Harris, 2013). Da Vinci’s priceless and most well known piece of work, the Mona Lisa, took the artist 16 years to finish (Harris, 2013). Da Vinci was working on the painting for 16 years on and off and was constantly getting diverted (Harris, 2013). Da Vinci claims that these diversions made him a better painter, as over those years he learnt and experienced more about art, his procrastination resulted in one of the most well-known pieces of art in the world today (Harris, 2013).

Quiz[edit | edit source]

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

1 Researchers suggest that ____ of adults engage in procrastination?


2 What does Temporal Motivation Theory emphasise as a critical motivator?


3 Which of the following well known artists is known to be a chronic procrastinator?

Vincent Van Gogh
Pablo Picasso
Leonardo Da Vinci
Claude Monet

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

Although procrastination is viewed as a negative behaviour by many, creativity is a benefit which comes from the behaviour. TMT explains why people are motivated by time, and how this has an effect on an individual who is procrastinating. An individual who procrastinates will experience high productivity and motivation as the deadline of a task nears[factual?]. This productivity can be viewed as a benefit because it allows an individual to complete a task in a shorter time period, allowing them to focus on other responsibilities.

References[edit | edit source]

Burchard, J., & Tyler, V. (2002). The modification of delinquent behaviour through operant conditioning. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 2(2), 245-250. Retrieved from

Cohen, J., & Ferrari, J. (2010). Take some time to think this over: The relationship between rumination, Indecision and creativity. Creativity Research Journal, 22(1), 68-73. Retrieved from,+indecision,+and+creativity&id=doi:10.1080/10400410903579601&title=Creativity+research+journal&volume=22&issue=1&date=2010&spage=68&issn=1040-0419

Harris, J. (2013). Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. JAMA Psychiatry, 70(6), 555-556. Retrieved from

Steel, P., & Konig, C. (2006). Integrating theories of motivation. Academy of Management Review, 31(4), 889-913. Retrieved from

Steel, P. (2007). The nature of procrastination: A meta-analytic and theoretical review of quintessential self-regulatory failure. Psychological Bulletin, 133(1), 65-94. Retrieved from

Subotnik, R., Steiner, C., & Basanti, C. (1999). Procrastination Revisited: The constructive use of delayed response. Creativity Research Journal, 12(2), 151-161. Retrieved from

Vail, M. (2006). The Integrative rhetoric of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. Rhetoric & Public Affairs, 9(1), 51-78. Retrieved from

External links[edit | edit source]