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For Procrastinators Who Believe They Work Better in a Crisis

Sometimes you can’t help it. You don’t have time to address a task until the deadline date is staring you in the face. Then you work frantically to get it done!

But be honest with yourself. Is it possible you’re an 11th hour specialist, someone who has a habit of creating unnecessary, pointless crises by letting things go until the last minute?

“I work best under pressure!” is the battle cry of the crisis-maker procrastinator. You may proclaim it proudly, intimating that you have special last minute “rush to the rescue” capabilities. Or you may utter it sheepishly, realizing that any skill you have in coping with emergencies is not a special ability but a necessary evil, generated by creating the crisis in the first place.

The bottom line for both the proud and the sheepish is that no matter how much you justify your modus operandi, you can’t escape the fact that you’re addicted to the adrenaline rush of doing things at the last moment. Until you experience that rush, it’s tough for you to get off your butt.

You may recognize your two operating modes: burying your head in the sand; then working frantically when you’re under the gun. Why do you take action only when there’s a blazing fire to put out? The short answer: because your “feelings in the moment” are of utmost importance. If you feel an undertaking isn’t to your liking, you won’t reflect on why it still may be a good idea to do it. Hence, it’s not unusual for you to delay completing critical projects, responding to important requests, tending to relationship issues and more.

Let me acquaint you with two crisis-makers who have let their neverending crises control their lives:

Larry often boasts about his crisis-maker style, viewing himself in a heroic role as he musters up energy and resources to get stuff done at the 11th hour. He claims to like the challenge of doing things at the last minute; why do them ahead of time, he says? And it’s not just at work.

If Larry is meeting friends for dinner, he thinks nothing of making an entrance 20 minutes late. When he needs to catch a train, he plays a “seat of the pants” game — leaving late, wagering that the traffic will be light and he’ll find a quick parking spot at the station. Though Larry tells himself that he likes to accomplish tasks in a timely way, he admits to having trouble getting going until it’s crunch time.

Lori is also a crisis-maker, but instead of being boastful about it, she’s down on herself, acknowledging how often her procrastination results in lost opportunities and labored relationships.

Lori was raised in a family where both parents were alcoholic; hence she feels that she’s never had much control over her life. She views herself as a ditsy person doomed to be out of sync with the world. She can’t help delaying, ignoring or even totally forgetting what she was going to do until the last possible moment. Then she becomes hysterical, running around frantically trying to get it all done.

“I’m not a good planner,” Lori admits. “I put off doing stuff. When I’m finally down to the wire, I go crazy trying to get it all done. Then I blame myself. I blame others. I whimper. I whine. My self-esteem is in the toilet.” Lori recognizes how dysfunctional her pattern is, but when it comes to changing her ways, she passively shrugs, believing she is just built that way and nothing can change.

Are you intimately familiar with the crisis-maker pattern? Want to change your ways? If so, here are a few ideas for you:

Reflect on reasons to get work done before it’s a crisis.

Instead of relying on last minute stress to be your major motivator, rely on positive passions to inspire you. Here are four questions to ask yourself when tempted to go off task:

  • Are there ethical or moral reasons for me to do the work in a timely way?
  • Will being a self-starter make me feel better about myself?
  • Can I find a way to make my work more enjoyable so that it doesn’t feel so burdensome?
  • Will doing my work enhance my sense of accomplishment, improve my relationships or alleviate my guilt?

Put the executive part of your brain in charge.

Instead of letting your desires and distractions decide what you’ll do, let the executive (the strategic, smart) part of your brain drive your decisions. The emotional part of your brain insists that chores must be exciting before they lure you to action; don’t listen to it!

Rather than thinking: “A chore has to interest me before I can get involved in it,” switch the idea around by saying, “I have to get myself involved in a chore before it interests me.” This approach is not trickery; it really works!

Focus more on facts, less on feelings.

As a crisis-maker, you’re inclined to put more emphasis on how you feel, less emphasis on what you know. Feelings are important, of course. But so are thoughts. Hence, strive toward a viable balance of the two. When it’s time to take care of your responsibilities, shift your focus away from your feelings, focusing instead on doing what needs to be done – despite your feelings.

Avoid extremist thinking.

Resist your tendency to add fuel to the fire. Don’t make your responsibilities seem bigger than they really are. An example of such thinking is: I’ve got a zillion things to do this week. Clarify and moderate your obligations by thinking about them in a more down-to-earth mode: Specifically, what are all these things I have to do this week? What can I do to get myself into work mode right now? (Hint: try starting with an easy task.)

Get your adrenaline flowing with competitive, inspiring activities.

If you need an adrenaline rush to get yourself going, don’t just sit there creating a crisis. Instead, get involved in inspiring activities, such as competitive sports, comedy skits with friends, posting YouTube videos to see how many hits you can get. Loads of activities are worthy of your energy. Tending to them will be more fulfilling than trying to survive the storm your procrastination stirs up.

Invent a game to motivate you to do a boring task.

Many crisis-makers have a playful nature. If that’s you, capitalize on it! Faced with a boring task? Add excitement to it by creating a game for getting it done. One of the best games is “Beat the Clock.” Set a timer for a short amount of time, then work as fast as you can to complete the job! If you haven’t finished, set the timer once again and get going! This is a self-generated mini-crisis to get your adrenaline going to help you avoid a full-blown major crisis.

“In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.
You find the fun and … SNAP! The job’s a game!” – Julie Andrews

For Procrastinators Who Believe They Work Better in a Crisis


Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

Linda Sapadin, Ph.D. is a psychologist and success coach in private practice who specializes in helping people become the best they can be. You can reach her at [email protected] Visit her website at www.PsychWisdom.com. Follow her on FB: facebook.com/Dr.Sapadin/


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APA Reference
Sapadin, L. (2020). For Procrastinators Who Believe They Work Better in a Crisis. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 7, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/for-procrastinators-who-believe-they-work-better-in-a-crisis/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 23 Jul 2020 (Originally: 24 Jul 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 23 Jul 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.