As just mentioned, procrastination can be a form of self-handicapping, but people procrastinate for many reasons beyond protecting their sense of self-worth. And it is not always deliberate. Students might be overwhelmed by the complexity of a significant paper or project, for example, and not know how to get started. Others may experience anxiety over the sheer quantity of work they have to get done, and this may lead to a kind of paralysis. Still others may be completely bored by the task.
Teachers can help students overcome procrastination and other types of self-handicapping by tackling the problem head on. Scanning the classroom a few minutes after assigning a worksheet will reveal students who are not working. Wise teachers also build in early check-points for longer term projects in order to uncover problems before they become too large. Like many self-defeating behaviors, acknowledging responsibility for self-handicapping is an important first step. Next comes an exploration for why students are undermining their own successes. Understanding the underlying reasons helps identify the approaches that will be most effective.