Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment

Dan Ariely

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business

Klaus Wertenbroch

INSEAD - Marketing

June 2001

Psychological Science, May 2002

Procrastination is all too familiar to most people. People delay writing up their research (so we hear!), repeatedly declare they will start their diets tomorrow, or postpone until next week doing odd jobs around the house. Yet, people also sometimes try to control their procrastination by setting deadlines for themselves. This paper poses three questions: (1) Are people willing to self-impose meaningful (i.e., costly) deadlines to overcome procrastination? (2) Are self-imposed deadlines effective in improving task performance? (3) When self-imposing deadlines, do people set them optimally, for maximum performance enhancement? A set of studies examined these questions experimentally, showing that the answer is "yes" to the first two questions, and "no" to the third. People have self-control problems, they recognize them, and they try to control them by self-imposing costly deadlines. These deadlines help people control procrastination, but they are not as effective as some externally imposed deadlines in improving task performance.

Keywords: Procrastination, Self-control, Intertemporal Choice

JEL Classification: D9

Not Available For Download

Date posted: December 7, 2001  

Suggested Citation

Ariely, Dan and Wertenbroch, Klaus, Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Precommitment (June 2001). Psychological Science, May 2002. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=288297

Contact Information

Dan Ariely (Contact Author)
Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )
Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States
(919) 381-4366 (Phone)
Klaus Wertenbroch
INSEAD - Marketing ( email )
Boulevard de Constance
Fontainebleau, 77305
(33)(1)6071-2651 (Phone)
(33)(1)6074-6197 (Fax)
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