Procrastination – a learner’s enemy

It is that time of the year when most people are already planning for their end of year work related activities as well as end of year holidays. For learners, preparing for end of year examination can be a nightmare, especially if it was left for the eleventh hour. We are living in an era where procrastination is increasingly becoming a serious problem.

What is procrastination?

Van Eerde in Neal (2009) defines procrastination as delaying of a task that was originally planned, despite expecting the negative consequences associated with the delay. Procrastination describes a situation whereby there is nothing preventing us from acting in a timely manner, except our own voluntary choices that we know will not maximise our holistic wellbeing.

For many learners, procrastination is a habitual late response to class work, homework and examination preparation. Below are some of the common reasons why learners get trapped in procrastination:


Delayed family involvement

Family undoubtedly plays a primary role in socialising children for making them productive members of society.

The more parents are involved in the process of imparting both formal and informal education to their children, the more children have more chances of excelling in their academic career and joining the productive and responsible members of the society.

Parents who have a habit of leaving things up to the last minute risk imparting that habit to their children. It is not rare to come across learners who will regularly come to school unprepared and parents who will spend months without following teachers’ advice of regularly checking their children’s academic work at home. 

Last minute preparations can leave both learners and parents feeling overwhelmed with anxiety.

Just last week I was talking to a friend who is also in the business of educating learners and she told me that many parents had started calling her for revision material and we were both left wondering why only now? It is important to note that learning is not an event, but a process that comes in stages and it does take time to go through and master the necessary learning stages.


 Lack of immediate

negative consequences

A modern day learner lives in a culture of instant results, either positive or negative. Even though procrastinators are aware that their habits are self-defeating in the long run, lack of immediate negative consequences can also be a contributing factor in their choice to postpone carrying out tasks.

I have seen relatively few learners overcome procrastination, for fear of experiencing the intense pain of corporal punishment administered by Mr X or Ms Y, for not showing commitment to academic tasks.

Although this type of intervention can bring instant behavioural change in making learners commit to their classwork and homework, it can easily breed dependency on corporal punishment for motivation. The major challenging question is; what happens when the learner proceeds to an institution of higher learning where corporal punishment is not administered, such as tertiary institutions?



Some learners have a habit of postponing tasks such as homework and classroom based revision exercises because they think that by exposing their educational deficits, people will think they are dumb.

Sometimes learners will even leave some test or exam questions unanswered so that lack of enough time will be given as an excuse for not completing the test rather than take the risk to attempt and get the answers wrong.

What they miss is that the whole point of class exercises or homework is for the teachers to assess if there are any educational deficits to be attended to, in good time. Perfectionism is usually caused by fear of failing to meet external standards.


Choice of instant gratification

Modern technology such as internet services play a big role in making learners to procrastinate. Computers and cellphones offer so many distractions like watching videos, playing computer games and virtually spending time with friends on social media.

Such distractions can unnecessarily delay carrying out a task at hand. If not used strategically, modern technology can create conflict between academic work and social activities that bring instant pleasure.

Seeing a professional counsellor in your school can help you overcome this problem. 74 197 367

Editor's Comment
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