Some psychologists say that self-defeating behavior is rooted in parental relationships. Indeed, studies led by Ferrari have found some procrastinators are more likely to have had authoritarian fathers. He views later-life procrastination as reflecting a childhood pattern of rebellion against demanding dads. Others suggest that authoritarian parents, who say when and how things will be done, fail to help kids develop initiative and planning skills.
But Clarry Lay, PhD, a professor of psychology at York University in Toronto and creator of the General Procrastination Scale, sees emotions as effects rather than causes of procrastination. He says he believes that procrastinators simply have a different level of conscientiousness than most people. Put simply: They think and act in terms of "wishes and dreams" while non-procrastinators' focus on "oughts and obligations," he says. They are also neurotically disorganized in their thinking, he says, making them forgetful and less likely to plan well.
Tools for change
Still, there's good news for procrastinators. Researchers agree that no matter the underlying cause, procrastinators can change -- if they change the way they think. When working with clients who fear the evaluation of others, for example, a well-known psychologist has them reduce anxiety by picturing themselves responding to and surviving the harshest of criticism. She also suggests some use a beeping alarm or Palm Pilot as tools to constantly remind themselves through the day about the benefits they'll reap if they finish the task on time.
Indeed, putting a stop to putting things off has benefits beyond completing a particular task. Maybe you'll end up with a better grade or maybe not, Lay tells the students he counsels about their academic procrastination.