Keith Wilcox

How Being Busy Overcomes Procrastination and Enhances Productivity

Coauthor(s): Andrew Stephen, Juliano Laran, Peter Zubcsek.


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Procrastination can have a negative effect on both individual and organizational productivity. This research examines how being busy influences procrastination when people have missed a deadline for completing a task. We demonstrate that missing a task deadline results in negative emotions that lead people to procrastinate, but that being busy mitigates these negative emotions. Therefore, when people have missed a deadline, they are less likely to procrastinate when they have many (vs. few) tasks to complete. Empirical evidence for this conceptualization is provided by an analysis of 586,808 real tasks from a software application designed to help people manage their tasks. One field study and two experiments replicate these findings and demonstrate that the extent to which people experience negative emotions from missing a deadline explains the effect of being busy on procrastination.

Exact Citation:
Stephen, Andrew, Keith Wilcox, Juliano Laran, and Peter Zubcsek. "How Being Busy Overcomes Procrastination and Enhances Productivity." Columbia Business School, 2013.
Date: 2013