Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination: A Behavioral Analysis

Strategies for Overcoming Procrastination: A Behavioral Analysis

by Odell Vining, Ph.D.


Procrastination, a pervasive issue facing individuals in diverse contexts, can be understood and ameliorated through the lens of behavioral science. Delaying or avoiding tasks is not merely a character flaw but a behavior shaped by contingencies of reinforcement and punishment. This article offers a behavioral analysis of procrastination and provides strategies to modify this behavior.

The Role of Reinforcement and Punishment

Our behaviors are conditioned by their consequences. The principles of positive and negative reinforcement and punishment play pivotal roles in shaping actions, including procrastination.

  1. Immediate Reinforcers: Short-term pleasures, like watching television instead of working, are examples of immediate positive reinforcement that encourage procrastination.
  2. Delayed Punishment: The consequences of procrastination, such as stress or failure, are often remote, reducing their efficacy as immediate punishers.

Scheduling Reinforcers

One effective strategy to combat procrastination is to arrange the environment so that reinforcers are contingent on completing the task. For example, one might allow themselves a brief leisure activity only after a work session.

Shaping and Chaining

Breaking a large task into smaller, manageable tasks can facilitate behavior modification. One can then apply a shaping procedure, gradually requiring more complex task completion to earn reinforcement.

Stimulus Control

Establishing a dedicated work environment free from distractions can serve as a discriminative stimulus, signaling that the working behavior will be positively reinforced.

Self-Management Techniques

Setting specific goals and monitoring one’s behavior can be highly effective. Maintaining a record of instances where procrastination was avoided and tasks were completed creates a form of self-accountability and self-reinforcement.

Concluding Remarks

Understanding procrastination from a behavioral perspective allows the application of empirically supported principles to mitigate this challenge. Through thoughtful manipulation of reinforcers and discriminative stimuli, one can significantly reduce procrastination and promote a more productive behavioral repertoire.

Act Now for Behavioral Change

If you struggle with procrastination and wish to apply behavioral principles for effective change, do not hesitate to seek expert guidance.

Contact Us

For specialized behavioral consultation, reach out to us at:

In the end, behaviors can be modified. Procrastination, as a behavior, is no exception. Act now to initiate the process of change.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *