When you procrastinate, you don’t leave any room for emergencies. *MCT illustration
When you procrastinate, you don’t leave any room for emergencies. *MCT illustration

We’ve all done it — left something to the last minute and then crunched through to get it done just under the wire. Some of us say that we work best, we thrive, ‘under pressure’. Truth be told, we are procrastinating and while we think it works for us, it is probably more harmful than good.

I pride myself on meeting deadlines. As with most jobs, but particularly with mine as litigation lawyer, the ability to perform within a specific time period is crucial. Whether it be filing a document with the Court or providing advice to a client, timing is everything.

Despite being able to meet deadlines, I do, at times, have a tendency to procrastinate. In my quest for balance, though, I have come to recognize that procrastination is the enemy. Those around me who, at least on the outside, appear to be the most balanced, are also those who do not leave things to the last minute. 

Some may say, “Well, it’s working for me, so what’s the problem? Why should I change something that isn’t broken?” In this month’s edition of Striving for Balance, I address three good reasons to stop procrastinating.

Pressure = stress

All of this pressure we say we ‘thrive’ under takes its toll on our system. When we feel the push of a deadline we are backing up against, our body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode and our adrenal glands release cortisol. Cortisol’s job is, amongst other things, to spare available glucose for the brain, generate new energy from stored reserves, and divert energy from low-priority activities, such as the immune system.  

This is all part of the body’s effort to ‘survive’ immediate threats. Over time, putting ourselves in these stressful situations is putting our bodies through the ringer. Procrastination leads to a stress response that uses our reserves and weakens our immune system, making us more prone to illness.

Clearly, there are going to be times when meeting a deadline will have to be a mad scramble for reasons entirely beyond our control. That is when our bodies’ reserves are important. So, the point is not to waste your reserves by needlessly procrastinating!

Something unexpected could happen

A colleague and I were talking a little while back about “thriving under pressure” and I was saying that it was under pressure that I produced some of my best work. My colleague said, “Yes, but what if something unexpected happens? What if you get sick?” 

She made a good point and last week was a good reminder of this for me. On Monday, my daughter’s cold didn’t seem like a normal cold and after a doctor’s visit, we learned that she had pneumonia. Talk about an unexpected start to the week! Luckily, I hadn’t procrastinated on any major deadlines, but if I had, an already stressful situation would have been that much worse.

Leave time for fun

One good suggestion I have heard is to leave some free time in your week to allow for the unexpected. This has clear benefits if negative situations come up, like illness as mentioned above, but likewise also has the benefit of leaving you time for the pleasant surprises life can throw our way. For example, if you discover that an old friend is visiting, you can make time for lunch or dinner to catch up and not be stuck burning the midnight oil to finish that project at the office. Likewise, you can use your extra time with your partner, children or other loved ones.

Although balance is about being able to weather life’s storms and ride life’s waves, the storms and waves shouldn’t be self created! If we are to strive for balance and fulfillment, procrastination should become a thing of the past! 

Jennifer Haworth is an associate with MJM Limited’s Litigation & Dispute Resolution team (www.mjm.bm). She is married and has a daughter. To send your comments or thoughts, write to Jennifer at jhaworth@mjm.bm