Cognitive Daily

Last week, we asked our readers a few questions about procrastination: how long it takes them to wake up on a typical morning, how close to the deadline they finish computing their taxes, and so on.

The basic question was, are there different types of procrastinators, or if you put off one type of activity, are you more likely to put off another? The results suggest there is some truth to both notions. Let’s first look at the evidence that procrastination in one realm is associated procrastination in another. This chart compares sleep habits with tax preparation habits:


It does indeed appear that people who press the snooze button for longer than 10 minutes are more likely to turn in their tax forms later. People who put off getting up in the morning are more likely than those who get up right away to turn in their taxes less than a month before they are due. Conversely, early risers are more likely to complete their returns with more than a month to spare.

But does this habit of sleeping late predict other sorts of procrastination? What about finishing important papers in college? Here’s a chart comparing current sleeping patterns with college procrastination patterns:


There is a trend towards late sleepers turning in their college papers late, but it doesn’t attain significance. However, this chart compares current sleeping patterns with recalled college habits, perhaps decades old in some cases. What about sleeping in college? We asked another question about that: what portion of a normal night’s sleep did you get the night before a paper was due?


Here we see the most dramatic relationship. Those who put off finishing their papers were the same ones who didn’t get much sleep the night before the papers were due. And what about our final question, where we asked how respondents organized their books? We could find no relationship between organization patterns and procrastination patterns.


  1. #1 Ben
    April 21, 2006

    I definitely fall into the “not much sleep night before deadline” category, although one trend that I’ve been having some slight… issues with is that on occasion I actually have to go for an extension on paper deadlines. My profs are awesome and I can usually get the papers done not long after I was supposed to turn them in anyway, so I don’t suffer for it gradewise. It is kind of hard to get a good night’s sleep when you’re trying to finish a paper. However, my current alarm habits are (since I effectively have only one alarm, even though two are available) to get up around when it tells me to if I’m not awake already. Past alarm habits were to use one alarm to wake me up at one time, then another to wake me up again at a later time (or to tell me that it was later and that I was at the point where I needed to get out of bed). I hate the snooze button because 5 minutes just is *not* enough time to get any sort of substantial sleep or contemplation of tiredness/the world/life/etc., so I either turn my alarm directly off and get up or change the time to a later one and go back to bed. On weekends, I prefer to not have my alarm set. Makes it easier to get back the sleep I lose.

  2. #2 Katherine Moore
    April 22, 2006

    Well of course there is a relationship between when you hand in the paper and how much sleep you got the night before. That doesn’t say anything about your regular sleeping habits in college.

    I like the other comparisons, though.

  3. #3 Zs Taylor
    April 23, 2006

    I was waiting to see the results of the survey I participated in. But you still did not respond why we procrastinate on only some tasks but not on others.
    Of course from the survey you cannot get those results since that was not the purpose/questions.
    I would be interested in hearing your comments on this: why do we procrastinate on taxes and college papers, but we do not on taking the dog to walk or dining out? Why only on some of our tasks but not on others?

  4. #4 Susan Lim
    October 17, 2007

    Hi Dave,

    Did you unintentionally miss out the data on those who submitted their income tax form after the deadline or there are actually no one in your survey who submitted their income tax after the deadline?

    I think I am one of the people who submitted after the deadline. 🙂

  5. #5 Dave Munger
    October 17, 2007

    Well, Susan, you’ve certainly managed to put off responding to this post… I’ll see if I still have that data, but if memory serves me, I neglected to ask about “after the deadline.”

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