Understanding Procrastination During Adolescence

April 14, 2020
Many times, putting things off is a sign of perfectionism, fear of failure, and lack of impulse control. Today we'll offer some tips about how to deal with procrastination during adolescence.

During adolescence, the amount of school work that children must face increases, as well as the level of responsibility they must assume. On occasion, young people may feel overwhelmed, and feel that putting things off is the only way out. Oftentimes, procrastination during adolescence has more to do with emotional factors rather than time management issues.

What is procrastination?

Procrastination is the habit of postponing activities or situations that require our attention. And, at the same, occupying our time with irrelevant and more pleasant activities. In other words, procrastinating is deciding not to do something even though you know you should. It’s prioritizing short-term comfort over responsibilities.

Despite how things may appear, procrastination during adolescence isn’t about lack of time or time mismanagement. It’s clearly an evasive behavior that has to do with the inability to control one’s impulses and manage one’s negative emotions.

Understanding Procrastination During Adolescence

The characteristics of procrastinators

  • Impulsive. This habit is more common among impulsive individuals and those who have a hard time with self-control. Therefore, it’s more common among teenagers than adults.
  • Perfectionists. People who are afraid of failure and who don’t allow themselves to make the slightest mistake. This need for perfection produces such anxiety that they end up putting off the action in order not to face it.
  • Low tolerance of frustration. Adolescents who haven’t learned how to handle their difficulties may feel overwhelmed by the smallest obstacles. Rather than finding an alternate solution, they feel incapable. Therefore, they often throw in the towel before they even begin.
  • Insecurity. People with little confidence in themselves and their abilities. Since they perceive themselves as having limited personal resources, they tend to put off having to face the challenge.
  • Emotional overactivation. People who have a hard time regulating their emotional state can easily become overwhelmed. The stress and insecurity that any person can feel under certain circumstances are magnified in these individuals to the point where they become paralyzed.

Procrastination during adolescence: The consequences

By procrastinating, adolescents find momentary relief from their negative feelings. However, this behavior leads to considerable consequences.

First of all, having pending and unfinished tasks produces anxiety that grows by the minute. This leads to a sensation of chaos and powerlessness over one’s own life. What’s more, it produces feelings of frustration, of being stuck, and an inability to get everything done.

Depending on what children are procrastinating, it can affect their academic, social, and work life. Putting things off until the last minute will result in unfinished or poorly completed assignments, which will have repercussions in a person’s academic performance.

But procrastination doesn’t only have to do with homework. Teens may also put off important conversations that make them feel uncomfortable. And doing so only wears on these relationships as the pending issue becomes more and more burdensome.

Understanding Procrastination During Adolescence

How to avoid procrastination during adolescence

  1. Divide your objectives into small and simple steps. In doing so, that distance and unreachable goal will turn into smaller tasks that don’t seem as intimidating or unpleasant. That way, the impulse to procrastinate will be much weaker.
  2. Become fully aware of what’s going on with you. Using mindfulness techniquestry to observe what feelings are driving you to want to put things off. Identifying a fear of failure or a need for perfectionism will help you face the emotion as well as overcome it.
  3. Look for meaning and motivation. On occasion, we refuse to do something because we only pay attention to the immediate discomfort that it causes us. If we’re able to focus on why it’s important to do what needs to be done, we’ll have an extra dose of motivation. Perhaps studying for a math exam seems unpleasant or boring, but it’s what I need to do if I want to fulfill my dream of becoming a doctor.
  4. Use the two-minute technique. This means dividing your pending activities into those that you can finish in less than two minutes and those that will take longer. For the first set, the rule is clear: Do it, without procrastinating. For the rest, start doing them, but only for two minutes. Quickly and without even realizing it, you’ll gain the inertia you need to keep going. Many times it’s harder to get started than keep going.
  • Bazalar, L. A. C. (2011). Procrastinación académica como predictor del rendimiento académico en jóvenes de educación superior. Temática psicológica7(1), 53-62.
  • Justo, C. U. D. A. F. (2010). Efectos de un programa de entrenamiento en conciencia plena (mindfulness) en el estado emocional de estudiantes universitarios. Estudios sobre educación19, 31-52.