A preliminary investigation of the role of psychological inflexibility in academic procrastination

Debra M. Glick, Daniel J. Millstein, Susan M. Orsillo

Estimates of the prevalence of academic procrastination are troublesome given the negative associations among procrastination, academic performance, and psychological and physical well-being. Multiple theories aimed at understanding factors that cause and maintain procrastination have been proposed, but none fully account for this problematic behavior. We hypothesize that procrastination can be understood as reflecting a state of psychological inflexibility, characterized by several processes, including experiential avoidance (i.e., attempts to avoid or escape from unpleasant internal experiences), diminished present moment awareness (i.e., diminished mindfulness), and difficulty articulating and engaging in valued activities.

The goal of the current studies was to explore the potential association between psychological inflexibility and procrastination. Two samples of students completed measures of trait procrastination, trait anxiety, and psychological flexibility. As predicted, procrastination was positively associated with anxiety and negatively associated with psychological flexibility. In addition, psychological inflexibility added to the prediction of procrastination over the contribution of trait anxiety. Implications for increased understanding of, and interventions for, procrastination are discussed.

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