It's happened again. You only just dodged the bullet this time, running to the library and printing the paper. You sprint to class and make it just before the professor closes the door. You hand in your paper and take your seat. You're panting, your heart is pounding, your hands are sweating, and you're flushed and exhilarated from the close shave.
It's not a good thing. Even if the paper gets a good grade, even if it feels like you are more productive at the last minute, procrastination is not good. And there comes a point when, "But professor, the rush of adrenaline I get from submitting a paper on Blackboard two minutes before the deadline keeps me energized for two days!" doesn't work as an excuse anymore.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do about your bad habit.
One reason that people procrastinate is that they simply don't want to do whatever it is they should be doing right now. This is the most obvious reason. You know you should start on that research paper, but you've got a while before it's due, and Game of Thrones is coming on and you'd rather watch that. And now the deadline's a little closer, but you'd rather get on Facebook. And now it's close enough that you should have started by now, but your best friend just called and asked you to go to Georgetown with her. And the next thing you know, your paper is due in two days.
The best way to counter this is to make a schedule. Mark out small amounts of time to begin research, make an outline, write a paragraph. The whole paper does not have to be done at once. It doesn't even have to be done in order. But the night it's due, you're going to feel a lot less stressed if you sit down at your computer and find you've already written four pages of a six-page paper, and you mostly need to edit them, put them together, and add an intro and conclusion.
Another reason people wait until the last minute is that they feel there are other things in the immediate future. For example, I know perfectly well that in four weeks I have that book report due for my Ancient Rome class, but I also have a quiz coming up in two days, so I should really focus on that instead.
Again, this can be fixed if you make a schedule. There's no reason you can't do both. Read a couple of chapters from the book you're writing about and then spend an hour studying for the quiz. Then go to dinner with some friends. Then read another couple of chapters. Do this so that when Friday night rolls around, you've made plans to see that movie, you've studied for and taken the quiz, and you're making progress on a future project. It's not irresponsible to plan for an essay when you have reading to do for tomorrow's class. If you plan far enough ahead, you can do both.
It can be hard sticking to a schedule if you’re not used to it, so find ways to reward yourself for doing it. For example, when my roommate does her reading, she rewards herself by eating a piece of chocolate every time she gets through 20 pages. You can do the same kind of thing every time you follow your schedule or do work in advance. Eventually, the relieved feelings you’ll have when you finish something and have time to look over it or do something fun (or both) will be reward enough.