Procrastination: Thief of Time or Warning Sign?


By Tom Dotz 766 words, 3.06 minutes average reading time


Behaviors like procrastination generally get a pretty bad rap. What possible good could they do? You may never get around to reconciling your bank account, or changing jobs, or dropping certain people from your life. How could this possibly be useful? It’s just a waste of time, right? In NLP we pre-suppose that every behavior is useful, in some context. That’s a pretty broad brush. Let’s look at one picture we can paint with this example.


What if sometimes, at least, procrastination is your self saying “wait a minute, this needs more thinking through?”  


Procrastination just because you’re distracted or inattentive or out of habit may cost you some money or embarrassment. However when there is a legitimate reason to hesitate, failure to do so may cost a whole lot more. One kind of hesitation is inconvenient. The other is a warning sign. 


Lots of times we put off doing what we know we need to do when it would really be best to just get it done, as we had planned. We have bank accounts to balance, taxes to complete, homes to keep up, laundry and dishes and bills to pay. Putting off tasks like those uses huge amounts of energy. The incomplete or undone task will occupy our minds and pop up to distract us in the midst of other, frequently more  pleasurable activities. Here is where procrastination is really a double loss. 


NLP offers lots of simple ways to deal with those minor acts of procrastination, and doing so will make your life easier and more fluid. You’ll have more time and energy and an easier time focusing on what really satisfies you.  


There are other kinds of procrastination that are more serious and worth more attention. 

An obvious example is the job you have to drag yourself to, arriving usually at the last minute or later, and ducking out as early as possible. And even when you are there, you pick and choose what to do from a menu of things you’d rather avoid altogether. 


Then there are those people you’d rather not spend time with, activities you were “roped into”, social obligations that are tedious, and even family obligations you somehow became saddled with. 


The kind of stress that causes is just as bad for you as any other. While a disliked job may feel like a necessity, you certainly have more choice about social obligations. 

What’s key to using procrastination wisely is recognizing when it’s a warning and when it’s just…procrastinating. The secret to making a better distinction is called “congruence”. Being congruent about something is being completely certain what you want to do, when, how and with whom. The beauty is that when you arrive at a congruent choice, there is no longer any hesitation. You’re 100% go, and you don’t waste time or energy second guessing or re-thinking. 


The concept of congruence has been widely examined in the functional modeling field known as NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Several effective behavioral models have been created to enable people to consistently asses the quality of congruence in their choices. 


It’s like my commitment to sailing, my favorite leisure activity when growing up. I sailed Wednesday afternoons and every weekend. It was a passion to which I was totally committed. One Wednesday afternoon leaving Los Angeles driving a delivery truck I hit the 405 at Santa Monica Boulevard at exactly 4:00 pm. Up the 405 to the 101, through afternoon LA traffic and in precisely 90 minutes and 90 miles I pulled into the parking lot at the Santa Barbara Yacht Club. 


There was no hesitation involved – and no speed limits broken, either. I was simply quite intent and focused: quite congruent. That focus (and the height of the truck) gave me an advantage I used in managing traffic and making lane choices. All of us have our favorites whether dinner with friends, the game, the concert, and at work we may have favorite tasks or projects or people. 

These are all examples of congruence, times when you aligned your values and your commitment to a task or activity or person. A contrast that’s easy to recognize is a job where a coffee break was the only pleasant time you had all day. 

The more you notice this difference, the more you have choice about how your life is improving. 

As easy as a simple NLP process, or as complete as the full training, you can start at the pace you choose to create the life you want, today. After all, putting off your greater satisfaction? That’s so yesterday. 😉


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