What is the reason people procrastinate? I’ve been a habitual procrastinator. When I had my first summer job at age 16, I did everything to not work. I had an inside sales job at a telecom company and I had to sell mobile contracts to clients.
The company had software that would automatically call the next client when you finished a call. So you would be on the phone constantly — but I found a way around that process. After every call, you had to log your activity on the system. Things like “client is interested, but has to discuss it with her grandson.” Yes, I sold to a lot of elderly people (not proud of it).
As a professional procrastinator, I took a lot of time to craft a lengthy summary of the call. When my manager asked me about my low number of calls per day, I told him, “If one of my teammates calls the client, they know she had to talk to her grandson. That’s valuable information, right?”
I did everything to put off the next call.
I also procrastinated during my years at university—pursuing a master’s degree in marketing. I always waited until the last moment to finish an assignment or study for an exam.
I even procrastinated when I worked as a freelance marketing consultant after I graduated. “I’m doing research.” This time, I told myself. I didn’t understand why I always put off things to the last moment. I thought it was a part of my character. And many of my friends were similar, they would say: “Who wants to work? Let’s have some beer.”
This is what I believed: “Work is something you don’t like to do — you just do it because you need money and status.” Sadly, many of us believe that is the truth. I just couldn’t understand the reason people procrastinate.
Fortunately, my procrastination behavior changed. It wasn’t some kind of magical productivity hack or software that turned me into a productivity machine. I’m more productive and focused than ever. And I’m more satisfied with my work than in the past.
The Reason People Procrastinate: No Love
Do you want to know the secret? I’m finally doing something that I love. That’s it. Work is not bad at all — I love to write, that’s why I do it 7 days a week. I didn’t like my previous jobs, businesses that I started, and I sure didn’t like to study for classes I had zero interest in.
Previously, I thought that you procrastinate because you have poor time management skills. That’s why I’ve tried every productivity hack, system, or software, but they are all useless when you compare it to doing meaningful work. Do you want to get stuff done? Do stuff that matters.
Productivity hacks get a lot of attention. And very often, people present with time-management tips as a solution. In a way, time-management reminds me of speed reading. Many of us want to speed read to finish more books in less time. But why? I enjoy reading—I don’t want to spend less, but more time on reading. It seems like we want to skip the actual work and only focus on the outcome.
It’s like Ryan Holiday, author of The Obstacle Is The Way, says in his article about speed reading:
“If you find yourself wanting to speed up the reading process on a particular book, you may want to ask yourself, “Is this book any good?” Life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy reading.”
I think you can apply Ryan’s quote to your life and career as well: Life is too short to do work you don’t enjoy. No matter how many productivities hacks you try, you won’t produce more if you’re not passionate about what you do.
If you find yourself regularly procrastinating, you may want to ask yourself: Am I passionate about my work?
If the answer is no, you know what you have to do — find something that you are so passionate about that you don’t want to procrastinate for one second. We all know that time is finite, so why not behave accordingly? If you know that you have limited time on this planet, why waste it?
“We all sorely complain of the shortness of time, and yet have much more than we know what to do with. Our lives are either spent in doing nothing at all, or in doing nothing to the purpose, or in doing nothing that we ought to do. We are always complaining that our days are few, and acting as though there would be no end of them.”
– Lucius Annaeus Seneca
I’m a believer of ‘do what you’re passionate about’, but I’m also a believer of ‘do what you’re good at.’ The sweet spot is right in the middle — a job that you love, and are also good at. Ramit Sethi, the author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich, says that work and passion go both ways. He says that when we get really good at our job, we often become passionate about it.
I’m not saying that productivity tips are useless. In fact, I’ve written about productivity tips that improved my output. What I am saying is that the best solution for procrastination is doing meaningful work.
And procrastination can be a sign that you’re doing something that’s not meaningful. Don’t let procrastination become a habit. After all, the worst procrastination is putting off your dreams and goals. If you’re waiting for the right time, Benjamin Franklin says: “You may delay, but time will not.” If you don’t listen to me, listen to him.