Procrastination is always based on a dysfunctional worldview, such as that "short term relief or pleasure is better than sacrifice for long-term rewards," along with irrational disregard for negative consequences. The procrastinator fails to engage in the appropriate course of action either due to a distraction of some sort or an inadequacy in their own behavior. Various distractions and incompetencies that can cause procrastination include, but are not limited to:
- Anxiety and fear
- Arrogance, pride
- Bad habits
- Family problems
- Fear of failure
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Ill-conceived goals and unconscious motives
- Lack of awareness
- Lack of morals
- Lack of time management skills
- Low ambition
- Low frustration tolerance
- Low self-esteem
- Low tolerance to stress
- Objective conflict (competing goals)
- Perception of difficulty
- Poor attitude
- Poor self-control skills
- Poor study skills
- Laziness pays off today, work only tomorrow.
In motivational psychology, a mathematical formula can be used to determine what task should be pursued first. According to this model, we complete first those tasks which have the highest "usefulness"-value. This model is able to explain why we would rather be watching our favorite television program than writing the soon to be due term paper from your hardest college class, and it says that everybody is procrastinating, although each of us to differing degrees.
- U = the usefulness of the task.
- P = Probability of profiting from the task
- V = Value of the profit gained from the task
- D = Delay between doing the task and receiving the reward for it
This formula is saying that, we (generally speaking) tend to prefer (depending on an individualized perception and perspective, that can not be fully generalized but can be normalized in test trials):
- immediate rewards over delayed benefits
- bigger rewards over smaller prizes
- sure rewards over rewards that are only probable
The important question now is: Under what circumstances would someone put off their work? If the increase in U would be significant (e.g. when P, V or both values are high), every procrastinator stops procrastinating. By introducing an additional factor to the equation (S, the sensitivity of the subject toward the delay between action and reward), the behavior of different people could be compared.