Procrastination is a complex psychological behavior that affects everyone to some degree or another. With some it can be a minor problem; with others it is a source of considerable stress and anxiety. Procrastination is only remotely related to time management, (procrastinators often know exactly what they should be doing, even if they cannot do it), which is why very detailed schedules usually are no help.
The procrastinator is often remarkably optimistic about his ability to complete a task on a tight deadline; this is usually accompanied by expressions of reassurance that everything is under control. (Therefore, there is no need to start.) For example, he may estimate that a paper will take only five days to write; he has fifteen days; there is plenty of time; no need to start. Lulled by a false sense of security, time passes. At some point, he crosses over an imaginary starting time and suddenly realizes, “Oh no! – I am not in control! There isn’t enough time!”
At this point, considerable effort is directed towards completing the task, and work progresses. This sudden spurt of energy is the source of the erroneous feeling that “I only work well under pressure.” Actually, at this point you are making progress only because you haven’t any choice. Your back is against the wall and there are no alternatives. Progress is being made, but you have lost your freedom.
Barely completed in time, the paper may actually earn a fairly good grade; whereupon the student experiences mixed feelings: pride of accomplishment (sort-of), scorn for the professor who cannot recognize substandard work, and guilt for getting an undeserved grade. But the net result is reinforcement: the procrastinator is rewarded positively for his poor behavior. (“Look what a decent grade I got after all!”) As a result, the counterproductive behavior is repeated over and over again.
Positive reinforcement for delay (a good grade) is a principal contributor to continued procrastination.