Dillydallying: Bad for Your Health

By LAURA RANDALL, New York Times Jan. 12, 2003

 

 

Here's some bad news for students who put off studying: procrastinators get more cold and flu symptoms and have more digestive problems than their punctual classmates.

They also tend toward an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a recent study of 374 undergraduates by the Procrastination Research Group at Carleton University in Ottawa. Student procrastinators are more likely to eat poorly and smoke, and they sleep less and drink more than students who do their homework promptly.

At the root of the problem is an inability to regulate behavior and control impulses -- say, drinking more than you had intended when you sat down at the bar. ''If you're quite impulsive then you're unable to protect one intention from another,'' says Timothy A. Pychyl, a psychologist and co-author of the study. Things can get worse when tasks are impersonal or out of one's control. ''Most assignments are not things that students initiated themselves,'' he says. ''They can lack meaning for that reason.''

Giving a procrastinator a hand-held organizer probably won't change habits in the long term. ''It's not about time management,'' Dr. Pychyl says. ''Some people will buy a day planner, fill it in and say that's it for today. It becomes part of the procrastination itself.''

Such dawdling is not unusual. In one survey, 70 percent of the students confessed to academic tardiness. Some favorite excuses: computer failure, leaving a paper at home and the death of a grandmother.