Article image

An optimistic outlook can break the vicious cycle of procrastination

Procrastination is a common struggle for many people that is often associated with feelings of stress and frustration. However, a recent study reveals that an optimistic outlook on the future can significantly reduce severe procrastination. The research was led by Saya Kashiwakura, a graduate student at the University of Tokyo.

“It has been shown that procrastinators consistently disregard the future more than low procrastinators do and that this tendency is one of the central antecedents of procrastination,” noted the researchers.

“Why do procrastinators disregard the future in the first place? Although the phenomenon of future disregard has been reported in numerous studies, the underlying factors have not been clarified until now.”

Kashiwakura, along with Professor Kazuo Hiraki, proposed that severe procrastinators might have a more pessimistic outlook. To investigate, they surveyed 296 participants in their 20s, focusing on their views on stress and well-being over a 20-year period.

“In this study, we introduced new indices to treat procrastinators’ views of time (especially their impressions of the future) as quantitatively as possible: the chronological stress view and chronological well-being view,” noted the researchers.

“In these indices, stress and well-being were asked at various time points in the past, present, and future.”

The results of the analysis showed that people who anticipate a decrease in future stress levels are less likely to severely procrastinate.

Personal struggles spark research

Kashiwakura’s personal battle with procrastination inspired her to investigate its relationship with one’s perspective on time, particularly the future.

“I have struggled with procrastination since childhood. I would clean my room when I needed to study for a test and prioritize aikido practice over my postgraduate research. This habit of putting off important tasks has been a constant challenge.”

Previous studies indicated that procrastinators often disregard the future or struggle to connect present actions with future outcomes. However, the underlying reasons remained unclear.

Reducing procrastination with a positive outlook

The researchers categorized participants into four groups based on their expectations for future stress levels and divided each group into severe, middle, and low procrastinators.

“Our research showed that optimistic people – those who believe that stress does not increase as we move into the future – are less likely to have severe procrastination habits,” said Kashiwakura.

This insight helped Kashiwakura adopt a more light-hearted perspective on the future, ultimately reducing her own procrastination.

Interestingly, the researchers found no significant relationship between procrastination and negative views on personal well-being or life goals. It was the changing perception of stress over time that played a crucial role in influencing procrastination habits.

“No relationship was found between the chronological well-being view and procrastination. This result suggests that people who are relatively optimistic about the future based on the chronological stress view are less likely to be severe procrastinators,” wrote the study authors.

“This may suggest the importance of having a hopeful prospect in the future to avoid procrastinating on actions that should yield greater rewards in the future.”

Implications for education and beyond

Building on these findings, the research team aims to develop strategies to foster a more optimistic mindset, particularly in educational settings.

Kashiwakura hopes that their findings will help students understand and manage their procrastination tendencies scientifically, rather than blaming themselves.

“We believe that students will achieve better outcomes and experience greater well-being when they can comprehend their procrastination tendencies scientifically and actively work on improving them,” said Kashiwakura.

Overcoming procastination

Looking ahead, the team plans to explore various approaches to help individuals cultivate the right mindset for a happier and more fulfilling life.

“Thoughts can change with just a few minutes of watching a video or be shaped by years of accumulation. Our next step is to investigate which approach is appropriate this time, and how we can develop the ‘right’ mindset,” said Kashiwakura.

Ultimately, the results of the study show that an optimistic outlook on the future can significantly reduce procrastination. By understanding and addressing our perspectives on stress and time, we can develop healthier habits and lead a more fulfilling life.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day