Motivation and Emotion

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 422–437 | Cite as

It’s in the means: Process focus helps against procrastination in the academic context

Original Paper


Two studies tested the hypotheses (1) that focusing on the process of goal pursuit is associated with lower levels of procrastination and (2) that this relationship is moderated by fear of failure and task aversiveness. Study 1 used a between-subjects design with hypothetical scenarios (N = 92). Study 2 used a 5-week longitudinal within-subject design in a real-life context (N = 50). Both studies found converging evidence for the main-effect hypothesis, that is, process focus is negatively associated with procrastination in the academic context (e.g., studying for an exam). Process focus was also negatively related to task aversiveness and fear of failure. However, findings regarding moderation effects of fear of failure and task aversiveness were mixed. Taken together, findings support the hypothesis that the cognitive representation of a goal primarily in terms of its means (i.e., process focus) versus its outcome is related to less procrastination: Focusing on the process of a task can help to reduce procrastination.


Procrastination Goal focus Motivation Self-regulation Fear of failure Task aversiveness 



This research was supported by a grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (Project “Process and outcome focus—The role of age,” ID: 100014-116528; PI: Alexandra M. Freund) and by a grant from the “Stiftung Hans und Suzanne Biäsch für Angewandte Psychologie” (Project “The role of goal focus for changes in procrastination across the life-span” PI: Kathrin Krause). The authors would like to thank the members of the "Developmental Psychology: Adulthood" team at the University of Zurich for helpful discussions of the work reported in this paper, Matthew J. Kerry for his feedback and for carefully editing this manuscript, and Ruth Kanfer, Frithjof Nussbeck, and Ralf Schwarzer for their valuable input. Kathrin Krause is an alumna of the International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course (LIFE).


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of ZurichZurichSwitzerland

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