Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy

Brief Clinical Reports

Metacognitions about Procrastination: A Preliminary Investigation

Bruce A. Ferniea1 and Marcantonio M. Spadaa2 c1

a1 Royal Free Hospital, London, UK

a2 Roehampton University, London, UK


Procrastination can have deleterious effects on well-being. Despite this, little is known about cognitive-attentional processes involved in procrastination. In this study, 12 individuals self-reporting problematic procrastination were assessed using a semi-structured interview to investigate: (1) whether they held positive and/or negative metacognitive beliefs about procrastination; (2) what was their main goal in procrastinating, and how they knew if they had achieved their goal; (3) how they directed their focus of attention when procrastinating; and (4) what they perceived the advantages and disadvantages of these attentional strategies to be. Results indicated that participants endorsed both positive and negative metacognitive beliefs about procrastination, and that the goal of procrastination was to regulate cognition and negative affect. Participants reported that they either did not know how to determine if they had achieved their goal or that an improvement in mood would signal the goal was achieved. Participants also reported that the principal object of their attentional focus when procrastinating was their emotional state. All participants were able to identify disadvantages to their attentional strategies, whilst nine participants described perceived advantages. The implications of the findings are discussed.


c1 Reprint requests to Marcantonio M. Spada, School of Human and Life Sciences, Roehampton University, Whitelands College, Holybourne Avenue, London SW15 4JD, UK. E-mail: