According to legendary management guru Andy Grove, there can only be two reasons why you’re procrastinating. In High Output Management, he writes:
“When a person is not doing his job, there can only be two reasons for it. The person either can’t do it or won’t do it; he is either not capable or not motivated.”
When you are procrastinating, the problem lies either with your skill (you literally can’t do it) or your motivation (you don’t want to do it badly enough).
Andy then provides a simple test to figure out which one of these is holding you back: your skill or your motivation.
To determine which, we can employ a simple mental test: If the person’s life depended on doing the work, could he do it? If the answer is yes, that person is not motivated; if the answer is no, he is not capable.
If my life depended on playing the violin on command, I could not do it. But if I had to run a mile in six minutes, I probably could. Not that I would want to, but if my life depended on it, I probably could.
This insight also holds true for tasks you are procrastinating on. Are you procrastinating because you’re not really feeling it (motivation)? Or are you literally incapable of doing the task (skill)?
This insight enables you to radically refocus your efforts in tackling your procrastination. All you can do is either motivate yourself, or figure out what skills you need to acquire. There is nothing else.
(Update: Since writing this post I have come up with a hypothesis that the clarity of the task might also be an important factor, not just skill and motivation)