How Positive Procrastinators Thrive Best Under Pressure

— Researched and written by Dr. Sandip Roy.

Procrastination, the act of delaying or postponing tasks, often gets linked to poor planning, laziness, stress, and missed deadlines.

For years, we have pictured procrastinators as stressed-out, disheveled people working at the last minute to meet deadlines. They are the negative or passive procrastinators who put things off indefinitely.

But there’s another group of procrastinators who not only get things done, they actually thrive under time pressure.

These are the positive procrastinators or active procrastinators, who surprisingly produce their best when pressure is on. But how?

Who Are The Positive Procrastinators

Positive procrastinators deliberately schedule tasks for a later date. They strategically book their calendar to do a task when it’s closer to its deadline, focusing on more urgent things in the present. They believe they can do their best work under time-pressure, and often achieve more positive outcomes from their procrastination.

Positive procrastinators doing Active procrastination

Active or positive procrastinators strategically choose to postpone tasks, unlike their passive counterparts who succumb to time-stress, avoid the task altogether, and indulge in distractions.

  • Passive or negative procrastinators underestimate the overall time required to complete tasks.
  • While active or positive procrastinators are well aware of the time that they have to finish the task.

The positive procrastinators seem to get bored with too much time available. So they cut down the time to add some good stress (eustress).

They use the eustress to fuel their focus, flow state, and productivity, to produce optimal results.

Active or positive procrastinators are more like non-procrastinators (those who do not procrastinate):

  • Positive procrastinators know how to prioritize the most urgent or important tasks, much like non-procrastinators.
  • Despite the time pressure, active procrastinators can deliver high-quality results that often match those of non-procrastinators.
  • Both are goal-oriented, have clear objectives, and are committed to achieving them, albeit through different approaches.
  • Both groups can handle pressure well. Active procrastinators, in particular, thrive under the pressure of imminent deadlines.

Some link positive procrastination with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

How Positive Procrastinators Excel In High-Pressure Situations

Research suggests that even when they procrastinate as much as passive procrastinators, active or positive procrastinators have:

  • more self-efficacy,
  • better time control,
  • higher levels of purposive use of time,
  • greater chance to have positive outcomes.

Positive procrastinators have these traits that help them perform their best under time pressure:

1. They have high self-efficacy

Positive procrastinators trust their ability to get things done well, even when under pressure. This confidence in their own skills and resourcefulness is key to their success.

2. They are masters of time management

They are masters at managing their time. They may work closer to deadlines, but they do so in a calculated manner that maximizes productivity within the available time frame.

Positive procrastinators excel at prioritizing tasks, accurately gauging the time required for tasks, and optimizing their productivity within limited time windows.

3. They can use stress as a catalyst

Unlike traditional or negative procrastinators who may find the stress of deadlines paralyzing, positive procrastinators use the same stress as a motivating force.

The self-added pressure enhances their focus and pushes them into concentrated work efforts.

4. They are selective procrastinators

They don’t procrastinate on everything.

Positive procrastinators strategically choose specific tasks to delay while prioritizing those that require more thought, creativity, or information gathering. This also lets them address the time-sensitive tasks.

5. They are adaptive problem-solvers

Positive procrastinators often bring high adaptability to their problem-solving.

They can quickly adjust their strategies, pivot, or use new learning to change their approaches in response to changing circumstances, especially as deadlines approach.

6. They thrive in dynamic environments

They tend to perform well in fast-changing and fast-paced environments.

Moreover, they have a special ability to remain calm and focused under pressure, which allows them to navigate complicated situations with a clear head where others might feel overwhelmed.

Positive Procrastination

Benefits of Positive Procrastination

Positive procrastination has several surprising advantages:

1. Enhanced Creativity

Positive procrastinators use the pressure of a deadline to spark creative thinking. Their resisting the urge for immediate action creates mind space for innovative ideas and collateral solutions.

Soaking in a bathtub, taking a walk, or listening to nature sounds can allow new ideas and unconsidered approaches to bubble up in your brain.

2. Improved Focus

The urgency of the situation forces active procrastinators to tune out distractions.

The pressure they put on themselves sharpens their focus and channels their energy into the task at hand.

However, they know when the time pressure is optimal – as too little time may cause undue stress and too much time may lead to mind-wandering.

They break larger projects into smaller tasks with individual deadlines, so they can harness the benefits of time pressure without overwhelming themselves.

3. Better Decision-Making

Delaying tasks that are important but not urgent allows the accumulation of new information, which can enhance the outcome or reveal that the task wasn’t necessary.

This helps them avoid the inefficiency of working on tasks that, in hindsight, were not required to be done.

So they ask many relevant questions before committing to a task, to identify any overlook any logistical issues and ensure that they are working on tasks that truly matter.

4. Overcoming The Inner Perfectionist

Perfectionism can unnecessarily extend project durations.

Positive procrastinators adopt a ‘good-enough’ attitude by limiting the time available for overanalyzing work.

They leave the task when it is good enough, rather than keep improving the minor issues until perfection. This allows them to focus on fixing major errors and moving forward, helping time efficiency and reducing stress.

5. Increased Productivity

The pressure of an upcoming deadline often leads to increased productivity and the efficient completion of tasks. This sense of urgency helps prioritize the key parts of the task.

The idea is to overlook the less critical details until the main task goals are achieved.

This strategy, though not suitable for every situation, can be highly effective when quick decisions and fast action are needed.

6. Boosted Confidence

Successfully pulling off a last-minute feat can be a major confidence booster.

This leaves an example that you have handled tough situations and tight deadlines before, and can do it again.

Success under pressure builds a sense of self-efficacy — the extent or strength of your belief in your own ability to complete tasks and reach goals.

This confidence can motivate and empower you to tackle future tasks with greater assurance, resilience, and determination to succeed.

They regularly push themselves to the edge of deadlines, doing unimportant and unrelated tasks until then, but somehow always manage to finish the task before the final seconds.

Is Active Procrastination For You

Before you adopt this active procrastination, know yourself. The key to successful active procrastination is self-awareness.

First, understand your strengths and weaknesses, and only delay those tasks that you’re confident you can tackle under pressure. Consider your personality, temperament, and work style.

If you’re easily stressed, prone to anxiety, or struggle with time management, this strategy might not be the best fit.

Always have a backup plan in place, and be prepared to adjust your schedule if needed.

Positive or active procrastination can be a risky game, and not everyone is equipped to handle the pressure effectively.

Moreover, it is not a magic bullet that will solve your habit of procrastination. Rather, it is a strategy that requires careful self-assessment and responsible implementation.

But if you are one of those who thrive under pressure, it can be a powerful tool for unlocking their full potential.

This paradox of human nature shows why we should recognize active procrastinators and understand their unique motivations and strategies before labeling them as unruly, disobedient, or insubordinate people.


  1. How many types of procrastinators are there?

    There are two types of procrastinators:
    1. Passive procrastinators are procrastinators in the traditional sense, paralyzed by their indecision to act and fail to complete tasks on time.
    2. Active procrastinators are the “positive” types of procrastinators, who prefer to work under pressure and deliberately decide to procrastinate.

  2. What are the differences between procrastinators and non-procrastinators?

    Procrastination is considered a self-handicapping behavior that leads to wasted time, poor performance, and increased stress.

    In contrast, non-procrastination (the act of not procrastinating) has been linked with high efficiency, productivity, and superior performance, and non-procrastinators are often described as organized and highly motivated individuals (Bond & Feather, 1988).

  3. Why do people procrastinate?

    Research shows that procrastination is not just a problem of time management. Rather, it is a complex process that involves cognitive (decision to procrastinate), affective (preference for time pressure), and behavioral (task completion by the deadline) components as well as the physical results and satisfaction with them (Fee & Tangney, 2000).

Final Words

Active procrastination is the procrastination paradox because these people deliberately delay tasks, but they still do well under pressure and get good results.

They are deeply aware of the ticking clock, yet driven to postpone tasks not by idleness, but by a calculated belief in their ability to perform best under pressure.

So, if you find yourself strategically delaying tasks, don’t beat yourself up. Instead, channel the pressure into fuel for your creativity and focus, and see if you can become your own personal “procrastination paradox.”

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