The Character Traits of Productive Procrastinators

In the traditional telling of the story, procrastination is the arch-enemy of productivity. The more you procrastinate, the less you get done.

But psychologists who study procrastination have questioned that narrative. A 2005 study proposed that there are two types of procrastinators: so-called active and passive procrastinators.

Passive procrastinators are your typical procrastinators who struggle to get things done on time and who come away none the better for it. Active procrastinators, or so the theory goes, procrastinate with a purpose. They procrastinate intentionally, maybe because they prefer the extra boost they get from working on a tight deadline.

I’ve written about this before, in a post I titled Is Procrastination Ever Good? I did get around to answering the question in that title, eventually, Now, though, there’s a new study out, with more evidence that “active procrastination” is a thing, and some insight into what kind of person tends to be an active procrastinator.

The study compared people with a tendency to engage in active procrastination with three other groups of people: those who didn’t often procrastinate, those who tended toward passive procrastination, and those who frequently engaged in both active and passive procrastination.

It found that those who engaged in more active procrastination tended to make more progress toward their personal goals over the course of two weeks.

Active procrastination also correlated with several character and personality traits. Active procrastinators tended to have higher emotional intelligence and to score higher on traits associated with being dependable.

These findings are consistent with the idea that sooner isn’t always better than later. People who sometimes delay tasks intentionally seem to make more progress toward their goals and to have certain traits that go hand-in-hand with productivity, like higher emotional intelligence. That doesn’t mean shirking tasks indiscriminately will somehow make you more productive, but it does suggest that used in the right way, procrastination can be a productivity strategy.