Optimism, Procrastination, and Being Late

According to Schneider, Gruman, and Cotts, an optimist is defined as someone who believes that good things are very likely to happen or that they have positive outcome expediencies which significantly influence both their thinking and their approach to the world. By this definition and many others, I would be considered an optimist.  It was hard being an optimist raised in a house of pessimists, but it got better when I moved in with my mom after high school; she is also an optimist.  According to a few recent articles, those of us that are optimists are prone to being late…for any and every function imaginable.  Most of the articles I’ve read quote management consultant Diana DeLonzor and she states, “a prevailing theory is that people who are always late are hard wired to be late. It doesn’t have to do with their ability to care about punctuality, it’s just that they always remain optimistic that they’ll have enough time to make it, no matter how much time is left.” This article from the Science World also states, “there are added benefits to being wired to be late such as being inherently hopeful about things. Even though people who are always late don’t meet deadlines as effectively, they always remain hopeful that they will and that gives them a boost to do so. This hope reduces stress, strengthens your immune system and lessens the risk of cardiovascular disease. This leads to an over all longer lifespan as well.”  After reading this article and others like it, I have a clearer understanding of why I always tend to run 15 mins behind, why my mother does as well (but not my father or sisters), and why I can’t seem to meet some of my deadlines; I just feel that I have time to accomplish it ALL, in a timely manner, when in fact I’m not actually superwoman. Not only does it explain why I’m late, but it explains my attitude towards being late; some people complain to me about my punctuality, but I just shrug it off, smile, and keep going about my “I can do it all” attitude.

Another article by Elite Daily adds to what info these other articles offer by stating, “They believe they can fit more tasks into a limited amount of time more than other people and thrive when they’re multitasking. Simply put, they’re fundamentally hopeful. While this makes them unrealistic and bad at estimating time, it also pays off in the long-run in other ways.”  I believe this trait of bad time management generally leads to procrastination and even self-serving strategies.  In a study titled “The Relationship of Procrastination and Optimism to Judgments of Time to Complete an Essay and Anticipation of Setbacks” by C.H. Lay it reveals, “that the normal response to a perceived discrepancy between current behavior and goals is to reduce the discrepancy by changing one’s behavior.  This would be less so for the procrastinator.  Further, Carver and Scheier have indicated that optimists, faced with difficulties in reducing the discrepancy, would be more likely to renew their efforts at discrepancy reduction than would pessimists.  Where these difficulties deal with time constraints, however, this may not be the case with the optimistic procrastinator.  As we have seen, under typical conditions, such a student tends to underestimate the time needed to complete an essay.  By underestimating the time needed, the optimistic procrastinator may re-define the problem and remove the discrepancy without the need for renewed effort, at least in the short term.  Although optimism may be beneficial, in combination with procrastinatory predispositions it may have negative consequences.  Such a combination can lead to further procrastination.”  For the most part I agree with what the results of this research reveal, that optimistic views and procrastination don’t bode well for one’s academic career, but I don’t think that people are optimistic or pessimistic and a procrastinator or not a procrastinator.  I think that people who are optimistic tend to have procrastination tendencies and if they don’t, they have fought very hard to not be.  We usually tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task, feel that we can complete more tasks in a set amount of time then time will actually allow, as well as tend to say yes to most opportunities that present themselves to us, even if we’re already in a time crunch.  And we’ll do this because in addition to the fact that we like to experience as many things as possible, we still believe we can get everything done by their respective deadlines.  So this means that we’ll say yes to helping a friend in a time of need, even if that means having three less hours to complete an assignment, because we just figure we can still get the assignment done, it’ll just take us less time.  Fortunately and unfortunately, this leads us to using self-serving strategies.  If that assignment we had three less hours to complete comes back with a less than stellar grade (or what we believe we should have received), we can now say that it was because we didn’t have enough time due to helping our friend.  So we can blame it on our friend or the fact that if we had been able to put more effort or time into it, we could’ve gotten a better grade.  However, we never blame ourselves for saying no or our lack of poor time management. We, “don’t sweat over the small stuff,” and, “concentrate on the big picture and see the future as full of infinite possibilities,” according to the Elite Daily article.

How I see it though is, it is what it is. As long as my not so awesome time management skills and “can’t say no” attitude doesn’t make me fail or affect my health, then it’s okay. What’s so wrong with being a little late but remaining a good student, good friend, good family member, and good person?  If I can do all these things, just a little slow, then it’s all good to me; all part of the positiveness I guess.


Haltiwanger, J. (2015, June 30). Optimistic People All Have One Thing In Common: They’re Always Late. Retrieved from Elite Daily: http://elitedaily.com/life/culture/optimistic-people-have-one-thing-common-always-late/1097735/

Lay, C. H. (1988). The relationship of procrastination and optimism to judgments of time to complete an essay and anticipation of setbacks. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 3(3), 201-214.

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied Social Psychology. SAGE Publications, Inc.

Yousuf. (2015, July 7). Science Says If You Are An Optimist, You’ll Be Late For Everything. Retrieved from Science World: http://www.thescienceworld.com/science-says-if-you-are-an-optimist-youll-be-late-for-everything/

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