Procrastination in Daily Working Life: A Diary Study on Within-Person Processes That Link Work Characteristics to Workplace Procrastination

Roman Prem, Tabea Eleonore Scheel, Oliver Weigelt, Katja Hoffmann, Christian Korunka

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18 Citations (Scopus)


Procrastination is a form of self-regulation failure characterized by the irrational delay of tasks despite potentially negative consequences. Previous research on procrastination was mainly conducted in academic settings, oftentimes combined with a focus on individual differences. As a consequence, scholarly knowledge about how situational factors affect procrastination in work settings is still scarce. Drawing on job stress literature, we assumed that work characteristics go along with cognitive appraisals of the work situation as a challenge and/or hindrance, that these cognitive appraisals affect employees' self-regulation effort to overcome inner resistances, and that self-regulation effort should in turn be related to workplace procrastination. In our study, we focused on three specific work characteristics that we expected to trigger both challenge and hindrance appraisal simultaneously: time pressure, problem solving, and planning and decision-making. We hypothesized serial indirect effects of these work characteristics on workplace procrastination via cognitive appraisal and self-regulation processes that unfold within individuals over short periods of time. Consequently, we conducted a diary study with three measurement occasions per workday over a period of 12 days. Overall, 762 day-level datasets from 110 employees were included in Bayesian multilevel structural equation modeling (MSEM; controlled for sleep quality and occupational self-efficacy). Our results revealed negative serial indirect effects of all three work characteristics on workplace procrastination via increased challenge appraisal and subsequently reduced self-regulation effort. Further, our results showed a positive serial indirect effect of time pressure (but not of problem solving or planning and decision making) on workplace procrastination via increased hindrance appraisal and subsequently increased self-regulation effort. Overall, our study showed that work characteristics are linked to workplace procrastination via within-person processes of cognitive appraisal and self-regulation. Because not all work characteristics triggered hindrance appraisal, we argue that it may make sense to further differentiate challenge stressors in the future. Moreover, cognitive appraisals affected self-regulation effort only on the within-person level. On the between-person level self-regulation effort was strongly negatively related with occupational self-efficacy. Thus, we conclude that depending the perspective on procrastination (e.g., differential psychology perspective vs. situational perspective) different variables will be considered relevant to explain the emergence of procrastination.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1087
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUL
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jul 2018


  • Challenge-hindrance
  • Diary study
  • Planning and decision-making
  • Problem solving
  • Self-regulation
  • Time pressure
  • Workplace procrastination


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