Overcoming Procrastination With NLP

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Procrastination is often discussed as one of the major barriers to self improvement. By self improvement we mean any actions that we take, including changing our behaviors, or beliefs, or developing new skills or resources, which could be called personal development.

Neuro linguistic programming or NLP offers powerful tools to help us make the changes we want in our lives. Because procrastination is an internal, almost unconscious process, it responds very well to the tools of nlp which are based on psychological principles.

Let’s spend a moment examining the structure of procrastination using nlp tools. NLP states that we all have an individual experience of reality based upon our own unique map of the world. We each have unique beliefs, values, memories, experiences, skills, and sensory preferences, ie that some people prefer to see things, some to hear things, some to feel, some to taste or smell.

If this is true then how can we yalk of something like procrastination? Doesn’t it have to be different for everyone? The answer in neuro linguistic programming terms is yes, it is different as to details. However, the behaviors arising as a result are similar (ie a failure to get things done that we want to do). Also the internal “structure” of procrastination is often similar from person to person. What do we mean by that? We mean that if we apply NLP Modeling to procrastination we will see a similar “strategy” being used to avoid doing things. The details of the strategy might vary but the pattern is the same. It goes something like this:

• Think of something you have to do (but don’t really want to do). Say it’s paying your bills. Maybe you see a picture or a movie of an untidy pile of bills, or maybe its an internal dialogue or voice that says “sigh, have to do the bills”
•Notice how you feel about the thought of doing it. It maybe something like “pay the bills, ugh”!

• Now think of a lots of things you could be doing right now. These may vary from the irrelevant, to the mildly pleasant, to the downright fun. Again maybe you see pictures or movies of these things spread out in front of you, or hear a seductive internal voice saying “oh I should balance my checkbook first, hmmm why don’t I just watch a little TV first, ahhh, the weather is so nice shame to waste it, let’s go for a walk”.

• Pick one of the things, say the walk in the park (after all it is a beautiful day). Make that picture big and bright and close. Make it really attractive.

• Go for a walk in the park (don’t pay the bills).

Sound familiar? There are likely several elements that make the “have to” task undesirable. These may include some or all of the following:

• An unattractive picture of the task. It may be untidy. It may be incomplete, with no “end in sight”
• An unpleasant feeling associated with the thought of the task.
• An unpleasant inner voice complaining about the task
• No sense of accomplishment that will come when the task is complete.

Try this NLP thought experiment for overcoming procrastination:

• Imagine the task you want to do. Say paying the bills. What picture comes to mind? Make the picture more attractive by changing it. Examples of ways it could be changed are to move it directly in front of you, rather than seeing an untidy pile or bills scattered throughout your house, separate the bills in your mind’s eye until you can see each one separately and neatly organized. Experiment to find out what looks good.

• Notice any feelings you have now. Maybe they are not as bad as they were. If there are still negative feelings notice where they are. Your stomach? Your chest? Change them, turn them into a tingle in your fingers and toes for example.

• Notice what your internal dialogue is saying. If it is negative “pay the bills, ugh”, change the voice to a seductive “it will be just marvelous when this is done, I will have the rest of the day free”.

• Step into the experience of the task but at the end, see yourself mailing the bills and step into that experience feel yourself dropping the bills into the mailbox. Hear the mail-box close. Feel how great that feels! Say “fantastic another job done!”.

NLP helps people overcome procrastination and other issues. The exercises are most effective when they are tailored to how the individual experiences reality, and when you have someone to guide you through the exercises.