Procrastination and Stress: How are they Related?

According to author Eric Jaffe, from the Association for Psychological Science, procrastinators have higher levels of stress and lower levels of well-being1.  Procrastination is defined as the voluntary delay of a task for which an individual knows they will suffer. While it is said that everyone “procrastinate[s], not everyone is a procrastinator.”1

Mounting assignments and exams to study for can cause the most ambitious student to become a procrastinator.  Students are a leading culprit of procrastination.  This can be contributed to the number of responsibilities on a college student’s plate – work responsibilities, family responsibilities, and personal responsibilities may all cause a college student to procrastinate on their school responsibilities.  Many times, procrastination is the “result of putting off their work to pursue more pleasurable activities”1.  If a person has a “poor concept of time”, this is sure to exacerbate ones willingness to procrastinate1.

Jaffe further indicates procrastinators earn lower grades than other students and procrastinators report higher cumulative amounts of stress and illness1. As one may imagine, the work produced and the well-being of procrastinators is known to suffer due to their intentional delay. Individuals who procrastinate have heightened levels of anxiety1. WebMD states that some stress can be good because it can keep us alert and motivated2. But too much stress can make us sick. A person “constantly under stress can have physical symptoms, such as headaches, an upset stomach, high blood pressure, chest pain, and problems with sex and sleep”2. “Stress is also known to lead to emotional problems, depression, panic attacks, or other forms of anxiety and worry.”2

So, how do you avoid procrastinating?  See a list of suggested tips below:

  1. Plan your time. Use a day planner or an electronic calendar to schedule time to complete tasks you know you are likely to put off.
  2. Set a daily or weekly goal or to-do list for yourself. Make it your goal to complete these items by the end of the day or week.
  3. Reward yourself. If you complete a task early, treat yourself to a special sweet treat or outing.
  4. Stressed? You will not be able to think clearly if you are stresses about other things. Dr. Gamal Aboshadi, teaches PED 116 at NOVA Online and at the Annandale Campus. Take a moment to review a short video he created on stress relief/breathing techniques.
  5. Take the Overcoming Procrastination: Causes And Cures quiz on Student Lingo to see if you are a procrastinator.

Do you need help managing your stress and staying organized? Reach out to your NOVA Online Success Coach at elisuccess@nvcc.edu or 703.764.5076. Your Success Coach can help you map out your semester and provide tips to help you have a successful semester.


1. Jaffe, E. (2013, April 13). Why Wait? The Science Behind Procrastination. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2013/april-13/why-wait-the-science-behind-procrastination.html

2. Goldberg, J. (2014, October 13). How Stress Affects Your Health. Retrieved February 10, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/depression/stress-anxiety-depression

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