Readers' Procrastinator Pride: Are They Crazy?

Last Updated Sep 22, 2009 8:01 AM EDT

Last week when I posted an item on an interesting little psychological study that seems to show procrastinating in college is correlated with later burn-out at work, I wasn't expecting too much passion in the comments. But when the first commentator, RobinvdS, noted that the information in the study wasn't exactly actionable (fair enough) and asked of procrastinating, "how do you get rid of it? How do you get people convinced that they need to get the things done?," a great outpouring of procrastinator pride was unleashed.
Apparently, there is a deep well of pride in procrastinators and even a belief that those who put off projects until the last moment, actually, in the end, turn in better work. Gustafr, for example, suggests we "look at journalists. The best of them are the procrastinating type, the worst are drones producing x lines of boring text. Probably the same for software developers." Panama69 also defends the utility of his procrastinating, arguing "I usually do a better job when I wait until the last minute because it doesn't give my the opportunity to second guess my work." Meanwhile jsargent suggests that the non-procrastinators may not have been wholly forthcoming with the psychologists: "Would you ever expect a neat/tidy/organised person to be so relaxed as to admit that they have burnout? They have too much self respect for that .... but they still get burnout." Finally, solitude411 penned a full-throated defense of last-minute workers:
I find that the word 'procrastination' is a judgmental word used mostly by those who are of the type to jump in, charge along, and can't be at ease until their project is complete--timelines are gold (and chains) to them. And we, procrastinators, are held to their expectations and judged inadequate because of our unique approach. Perhaps if researchers looked at the quality of the work done by 'procrastinators,' they'd see that it's as solid as those who plod along--and maybe even more creative.... PLEASE don't try to 'fix' us to mold to your ways. We don't need to change, be changed, or be like you to be effective. Give us the deadline, give us our freedom, and we shine in the end.
As a confirmed worrywart who finds the stress of last minute work a huge impediment to productivity, I find these responses fascinating. Are these purveyors of procrastinator pride deluding themselves or are they correct that waiting until the last moment is either an unchangeable personality type that can't and shouldn't be fixed, or simply an alternate way of producing work of equal or higher quality? Managers weigh in: do procrastinators need to be "fixed" or should you butt out and let them work as they will?

(FUTAB picture by sun dazed, CC 2.0)

  • Jessica Stillman On Twitter»

    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.