Stephan Schmidt

Procrastination Does Not Exist

How to enjoy and get things done


I’ve been fighting with procrastination for decades.

Often because I think too much.

But also because I haven been told the wrong things about Procrastination. And Motivation, which is tightly connected to procrastination.

It started with the motivation side of things. The first clue that there was something wrong with the understanding of motivation came, when I did read many texts about motivating employees. In this journey I stumbled over “motivation follows discipline” not “discipline follows motivation”. So it was not about motivation? It was not about being motivated? It was not about getting into a state of motivation to start doing things?

No, it’s not about getting in a state of motivation.

Indeed, Motivation does not exist. It’s a convenient term to describe - from the outside - the behavior of people. “This person is motivated”. To the point that we think “We are motivated”. But it just gives some behavior a name. It does not exist by itself. All explanations with intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are the attempt to understand motivation - a thing that does not exist but seems to exist by the invention of the name. It’s named therefor it exists.

In reality motivation is the conglomeration of two different things: Joy and Discipline.

Motivation = (Joy OR Discipline)

And here we have the “motivation follows discipline” from above, that put me on the right track.

Either you feel good doing something, and you do it . You might think “I feel motivated” - no, it’s just anticipation of that joy. Or you have discipline to do it, because you don’t feel joy. Then extrinsic motivation is either increasing the joy or discipline by pressure or reward, and intrinsic motivation is again either joy or (self-)discipline.

Much later I had the epiphany that it’s the same with procrastination. It does not exist. Either you do something or you don’t. People who think they have a procrastination problem try to solve the wrong problem, one that does not exist. They try to solve the problem: Do it now instead of tomorrow.

Just because we invented a name, doesn’t force a thing it into existence. People who think they procrastinate doing something, will never do something until the external or internal pressure to do the thing is unbearable. If this state does not materialize, they’ll never do it. Not in the future, never. Procrastination is therefor not moving things into the future, but not doing things at all. And by misunderstanding procrastination, by the invention of the word, thousands of articles are written and a whole industry grew up to help with something that doesn’t exist. And by misunderstanding motivation, we don’t do things.

There is either doing something or not doing something, there is no Procrastination.

Do or do not, there is no procrastination one might say.

Procrastination in this sense is kind of Schrödingers cat, a nice thought experiment, but something that doesn’t exist. The cat is either dead or not. It’s not in a quantum state. That’s nothing more than a nice thought.

Just like procrastination - or motivation for that matter.

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