Can procrastinators succeed?

 People have different ways in which they complete tasks, including how they manage time. If your teacher assigns a project that is due in two weeks, some of your classmates, the do-it-ahead-of-time people, might feel anxious and pressured until they get the project finished. Yet another group of students will postpone doing the assignment and they may even delay starting to do it until the deadline is very close. These people are often called procrastinators. However, that term has come to have a negative meaning. There is no right or wrong motivational stylea person can be very effective or very ineffective using either style.
People who postpone doing things, such as completing assignments, packing, cleaning, or planning for a birthday party, seem to need the anxiety, pressure, and stress of a close deadline in order to motivate themselves to get things done. Other people don’t like to wait. In fact, they need to get things done early because they have anxiety and stress until tasks are completed. It’s just a style, and a person can be very effective or ineffective using either style.
Very early in life, you likely developed your style of completing tasks. What counts for each style is that the completion of the task reflects your best work. Doing something ahead of time can result in hurried and messy work just as it can by doing it at the last minute. If one of your parents has a do-it-ahead-of-time work style and you have a style where you postpone the work until you are close to the deadline, then you may want to explain these differences to your parent. You can imagine that a parent who has a do-it-ahead style would get very upset if their child didn’t get an early start on getting something done. Whatever your motivational style, just make certain that it lets you do your best, and that it shows.
What Is Your Motivational Style?
Check true or false in answer to the following questions:
True            False
___               ___            If I have time I like to start projects when they are assigned.
___               ___            I seem to have a better time hanging out with friends if I know the
                                       things that I am supposed to do that day are done.
___               ___            When I finish an assignment early, I don’t look at it again or check it.
___               ___            It is hard for me to ignore things until the last minute if they need to
                                       get done.
___               ___            If I have too much to do, I am stressed until everything is finished.
___               ___            My homework is almost never the last thing I do before going to bed.
___               ___            TOTAL
What about your score?
If you answered three or more of the questions as true, you likely have a do-it-ahead style. Be sure to check your work before you turn it in.
If you answered true to two questions or less, you may be more motivated to finish tasks when you are close to a deadline. Always check-in with yourself afterward about whether or not you gave yourself enough time to complete the task with your best work. If you needed a bit more time, remember to give that to yourself for your next big assignment.
*Mary Lamia, Ph.D. is the author of Understanding Myself: A Kid’s Guide to Intense Emotions and Strong Feelings (Magination Press/American Psychological Association, November 2010). She is a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst practicing in Marin County, CA and a professor at the Wright Institute in Berkeley, CA.