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Could procrastination be hurting your health?

Under pressure: procrastination has been linked to seeking the thrill of last-minuteness

Julia Pitt

It’s that time of year again, when I get to sit on the United World College’s Bermuda National Committee scholarship selection team.

UWC is a non-profit organisation with the aim of uniting people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future, by sending students from all over the world to live and work together during their final two years of high school. Students are selected on merit, not their ability to pay, thanks to financial awards provided through charitable donations to the Committee.

Once again, this year has been an opportunity to meet some impressive, rising Bermuda stars on the verge of adulthood as they forge their paths to their future.

I am always reassured by the quality of candidates we see, hoping that they will become part of the next generation of leaders caring for us and our island when I have reached my dotage. Something struck me during the interviewing process of this year’s group of high-achieving, well-rounded, young individuals. Every single one of them named ‘procrastination’ as an area for their improvement or a thing they struggle with. So it’s not just me then! I would say that the majority of my clients complain that procrastination is one of the obstacles to achieving their desired goals. I was just surprised that it starts at such a tender age and affects so many of us.

What is procrastination and why do we do it? It is a behaviour tied up with our ability to self-regulate and not give in to the plethora of distractions available to us, especially in our current day and age. Procrastination is putting things off, delaying tasks that need to be accomplished, usually in favour of doing something considered more pleasurable.

That may seem an obvious choice on the surface, but procrastination has been linked with health risks: weakened immune system, higher levels of stress hormones, sleep problems. It poses a risk, for relationships — placing added burden on otherswho have to pick up the slack or get caught in pressure. And, of course, it can sabotage our course; it can sabotage our personal performance. While we all do it from time to time, psychology experts say that about 20 per cent of the American population are chronic procrastinators; seriously jeopardising their wellbeing and personal success in a bid to either avoid their fear of failure or success, denounce their responsibility for decision-making or seek the thrill of last-minuteness.

Combating such habitual patterns benefits from cognitive behaviour therapy to relearn new and healthy ways of operating. Unless you are part of that 20 per cent though, the procrastination that most of us engage in can be helped by a few simple techniques and tools that can keep us focused effortlessly on the task at hand. Next week, I will share some of these strategies with you.

So, whether you are a student or senior citizen or somewhere in between, let’s learn some positive ways to get the job done and look after ourselves in the process.

• Julia Pitt is a trained success coach and certified NLP practitioner on the team at Benedict Associates. For further information contact Julia on 705-7488, www.juliapittcoaching.com.