You can clearly see a difference between two projects – the first one has a deadline two weeks ahead, the second – is months away from completion. The stakes are almost irrelevant. They might be high on both projects. From my perspective the only difference is… time. Time builds sense of urgency in practice. If the team perceives there is little time to spare, subjective priority increases. I’ve heard a VP of a large firm say “it’s a good thing there is little time, the guys will increase the pace so us to deliver on schedule”.
This is why we have the student syndrome (https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Student_syndrome) in the first place. Time creates urgency.
Lesson learned – one of the most important things I can do on my projects is to work on “sense of urgency” as a daily practice – if you are able to convince your team that there is precious little time, you might be able to create this sense of urgency even though your go-live is months away. On the other hand, if everyone believes there’s still plenty of time, you are likely to fail.