Student Procrastination: Laziness Or Anxiety?

Parents misconstrue procrastination as being caused by laziness or their child's desire to do something more fun instead, however, there is something they are not considering.


Procrastination is a common problem for students in high school and college. Frustrated parents often believe their child’s procrastination comes from laziness or lack of motivation. But, this is not always case. In many cases, procrastination is the result of test anxiety.

One spring morning, a mother and daughter entered my office. The girl, Jenny, was beautiful, athletic, talented, and a highly intelligent sophomore in college. Her angry mother was upset about her daughter’s decreasing grades and academic performance. My job was to help Jenny do better in school. I learned that despite her poor grades, Jenny was a high achiever who completed her papers early, was the captain of her volleyball team, and the president of her sorority. It was clear to me, that laziness was not this young woman’s problem. What was really happening was that there was so much pressure on her to perform well that she was terrified of failure. When she studied, her heart raced, her breathing was rapid and shallow, her hands were clammy, and it felt like she couldn’t breathe. She would stop studying to avoid having a full blown panic attack. Being a good student and people pleaser caused her to feel terribly guilty, embarrassed and confused about what was wrong with her. She thought she should be able to control her fears despite the enormous pressure on her to perform well in school.

Many students, like Jenny, suffer from performance and test anxiety. The competition is fierce and in a recessed economy jobs are harder to find and future career paths are more uncertain. Parents, who have sacrificed time and money for their children’s education, pressure them to be top tier students. Jenny’s mother “had fun” in college but regretted not doing better academically. She feared that her daughter was following in her footsteps. In reality, Jenny’s dropping grades were not caused by fun or laziness.

I gave Jenny a copy of the Test Anxiety Guru program to help her relax before studying. When I saw her again a few weeks later, she said the program’s relaxation techniques and positive suggestions helped her feel more courageous and optimistic. She could focus on the test at hand rather than worry about how a failing grade would wreck her future. She approached exams confidently and was happy with her test scores. Acknowledging her anxiety helped her mother become more supportive and less critical. Jenny felt happier about school and more relaxed about her future.

Adults who blame procrastination on laziness may need to look more carefully at the situation. Young adults are worrying more about their futures more than ever before and procrastinate in order to avoid feeling anxious. Test anxiety is a common and treatable problem. Overcoming it will make the road ahead – a lot smoother.

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Source by Benjamin Moss, C.HT.