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Why Procrastination Has Become More Prominent During Online School

After beginning online school, did you feel that you began procrastinating your academics much more than you may have before? If so, you must be glad to know there are scientific and psychological reasons behind increased procrastination during online school.

Image is courtesy of ADDitude.

What is Procrastination?

Let’s start with a definition of procrastination. According to the article “What is Procrastination,” procrastination is “a form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences.”

How Does Procrastination Form?

Procrastinators don’t necessarily lack care for the task they want to complete. Say the task was an assignment, and the student wanted to get an A on that assignment. The student cares for their grades very much; however, they still procrastinate on the project until the day before it is due. This is likely because of fear of failure, lack of motivation, or confusion on the first steps of beginning the project. Not caring about the success of the assignment is hardly ever the culprit.

When people feel overwhelmed with the number of tasks they have to do, the amount of time the task would take, or the amount of dedication it will take to complete, they often fall into a rabbit hole of fear, which in turn leads to procrastination. This fear originates from the feeling of being overwhelmed by all the possible negative outcomes while performing the task, such as the difficulty or the loss of time. Fear can also originate from thinking about what awaits them after finishing the task, such as the return of a grade.

In order to get rid of that fear, people try to forget about the whole task. Once it comes back in their memory, the cycle of fear starts all over again. This repeating cycle leads to leaving the task to the last possible day it can be completed. This process often results in immense regret and guilt for the person who procrastinated, as all their fears will now be present in worse formats than if they had started the task earlier.

As mentioned before, a lack of motivation is another key reason procrastination forms. The lack of willpower to complete the task puts the person in the mindset that they don’t care to complete it, as they have no reason to. Eventually, once the due date nears, the importance strikes their mind, or perhaps a push from external sources forces them to finish the task. Motivation is either intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is wanting to perform for personal gain. Extrinsic motivation is performing for others’ gain, likely led by external pushes.

One of the hardest things to do when performing a task is to begin it. The fear of the discomfort set to be experienced after beginning a task, the feeling of being lost and not knowing where to begin, or simply the lack of energy to push the start of the task is enough to let a person begin the procrastination cycle of that task.

How Does Online School Affect Procrastination?

With online school, all the reasons previously mentioned above are still possibilities why a student might procrastinate. However, there are certainly additional factors that could now increase the rate of procrastination among students.

Distractions are another key reason students procrastinate. A home is often associated with a place to relax, let loose and have fun. When students are stuck all day at home, they’ll tend to move around in different locations of their house to not get bored of sitting in the same area all day. Although this can prevent distraction caused by boredom to those who get bored of staying in one view perspective all day, it can lead to other distractions. The brain associates different parts of a house with different activities. For example, a living room would be associated with watching tv and relaxing, whereas a bed would be linked to resting. When moving to these locations to study, the surrounding atmosphere engulfs you into wanting to do what you usually would in that area, causing distractions because of the surroundings. With other combined factors such as fear of the task, one would begin to take into the distractions and leave the assignment for later.

Another reason students will procrastinate work from online schools is anger. Anger is likely not towards the work, course, or reason for doing it, but towards the reason they are in online school to begin with. During these unprecedented times of the pandemic, many have had to sacrifice beloved hobbies or familiar routines. Whether it be meeting friends, playing sports, eating out, changing their schedule, online school, and more, the cause of being in online school and the loss of social interaction can frustrate many. This causes them to hold back on doing the work in the style they dread dearly.

How to Prevent Procrastination

Get organized

Write down everything that needs to be done before you and create a timeline outlining deadlines. Now that you have everything in front of you, you feel less overwhelmed and prepared to tackle each task in priority.

Eliminate distraction

By studying in areas you don’t link to anything other than studying, you can eliminate any possible urges that steer you away from completion.

Set goals

Setting goals for yourself in general life and linking each task needed to be completed to a step in achieving your goal helps you gain motivation to complete the task. This helps find a reason for performing the task and gives you will power to do so.

Think of the positive

Fear is the main reason for procrastination, often because people only think of the negative things of what will happen during or after the task. By thinking of any positive things, you will need to choose to believe in your ability to get the task done and achieve a positive outcome. This gives you the other perspective of things, to not hold back the task and complete it so that the positive will be achieved. If you choose to look at the negative, the positive outcome will become out of reach.

Make it easier for yourself to begin

Brainstorming is one of the easiest ways to begin an assignment. For example, if you are given a broad topic to write an essay on, brainstorm topics or ideas you would like to talk about. Narrow the list down to a few topics and write points under each of them. At this point, you have finished the hardest part of the essay, figuring out what to write.

Stay motivated and take breaks

When scheduling work into your schedule, make sure to also schedule in breaks. It’s important to take breaks to prevent the build-up of lack of motivation, stress, or the sense of being overwhelmed. Breaks allow you to rest your brain and restart at a better brain capacity. It helps you stay motivated by rebooting your energy to finish the task. It also prevents fear of having to perform the task for long periods of time. Ensure these breaks are spent wisely, and avoid using technology or doing anything that would distract you, leading you to extend the break. Cleaning your room, grabbing a snack, or going on a walk are great breaks to do in between work periods. Treat the rest as rewards to do once your work is done.

Understand your anger

Procrastination during online school is likely a product of anger. If you fall into this category, understand where your anger is coming from and look at the positives of this situation, on how your state could be worse, and be thankful for what you have at the moment.


In reality, procrastination doesn’t just occur because someone is lazy. Rather, they fear something to do with the task. Other factors leading to procrastination have become more prominent during online school, leading to increase rates of procrastination during these unprecedented times. There are multiple ways to avoid procrastination; however, none of them will come easily. It’s important to push yourself to be productive to return a positive outcome.

Article Author: Subangki Velmahiban

Article Editors: Sherilyn Wen, Victoria Huang


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