The Differences Between Procrastination and Laziness

Perhaps every office worker on the planet knows the feeling when there is a deadline in a day, a lot of work needs to be done, and yet it seems simply impossible to force yourself to work on the task. A person can watch countless videos on YouTube, browse through tons of photos of cats, spend hours chatting with colleagues or friends on social networks, or even perform other, less urgent work tasks.

The same can be said about the condition when one has no energy or will to do anything. Every person in the world has probably had (or will have) at least one day in his or her lifetime when all he or she wanted to do was lie on a couch, each potato chips right from the bag, have a beer, and watch a game on TV. Sometimes, there can even be weeks of lying down, sleeping, getting food from deliveries, and doing nothing important.

Although the two conditions described above may seem to be alike, they have different underlying reasons triggering them. The former is called procrastination, and the latter is laziness—and since people tend to confuse these terms and even to mix them up, let us try to figure out what similarities and discrepancies they have.

According to Dictionary.com, “to procrastinate” means to intentionally delay the completion of a certain task, especially if it is a matter of an increased importance and/or urgency. Laziness, in its turn, means the disinclination to work or make an effort in any other sphere. Laziness, or indolence, comes from the Latin word “indolentia,” which describes the state of mind knowing no trouble or pain. The term “procrastination,” on the other hand, derives from the Latin word “cras,” which means “tomorrow” (Psychology Today).

At the same time, the definitions above provide us with the first major distinction between procrastination and laziness: the former is not avoiding to perform one’s professional or other duties, doing work, and so on, but rather about postponing them until the last moment, substituting them with other not-so-urgent activities; the latter, however, is exactly about not working, not doing anything, and avoiding to make an effort by all means. Laziness itself is not bad: in an effectively-functioning individual, it usually serves as a signal to take a break; for example, if you worked hard for a period of time, and then your mind suddenly started to sabotage any attempts to work further, willing only to watch Netflix, it is alright to let yourself do so—your body needs to have a rest before it can return to its full capacity again. Such a recovery period may last for a day or a week, and letting yourself go may be refreshing. However, if such laziness is chronic and lasts for years (perhaps we all know at least one person who never did anything in his or her entire lifetime, spending all his or her time playing games and smoking marijuana), it could be a psychological symptom, and may not be related to fatigue and recovery.

In its turn, procrastination is more about postponing tasks that need to be completed rather than about avoiding them. It is important to realize that simply planning to perform a task later, or postponing in a constructive and strategic way, does not equal procrastination—what does is when you do it due to ineffective planning, or when you are not able to maintain the workloads you have to deal with. In this case, you might want to delay working for a specific time to get psychologically ready for your task. The trick here is that the longer you procrastinate, the more overwhelming this task starts to feel; after a short while, a procrastinator has to pay for postponing with increased stress, guilt, and low productivity (Psychology Today). As a result, procrastination leads to having to do much larger amounts of work, having to work on days off and holidays in order to meet the deadlines, and other negative consequences.

The next important distinction between laziness and procrastination lies in the reasons standing behind these two states of mind. One of the first and foremost factors facilitating procrastination is perfectionism. It can be fairly called the scourge of the generation of millennials: the urge to function on the highest possible level, to complete every single task flawlessly, and in general the extremely high expectations people tend to have about themselves cause them to avoid tasks which, as they subconsciously fear, they cannot do perfectly. Just “good” is not enough for such people, so naturally, to avoid facing their own imperfection and limited capabilities (which is normal for living beings), they delay their work.

Procrastination is also often connected to the decision-making process. When we feel we are about to make a wrong decision, the consequences of which we cannot fully calculate, we automatically start postponing to make this decision in order to avoid these unforeseen and potentially unpleasant consequences. In its turn, laziness is more of a coping mechanism, helping the human psyche deal with issues other than work. Lazy people are not necessarily dull; rather often, they are bright and intelligent, and are able to work under severe pressure. However, in order to save emotional, psychological, and other resources (which might be depleted by long periods of hard labor, or because of complicated life circumstances, and so on), lazy people use their intelligence to find loopholes, allowing them to do as little work as possible, or to not do it at all. Rather often, this is accompanied with a reluctant “I-do-not-care” attitude, as a form of an additional psychological barrier against stresses and responsibilities (Mind Motivations).

As we can see, although laziness and procrastination may seem alike, there is a thin line between them. Procrastination is a result of poor planning, the fear of decision making, and perfectionism, and manifests itself in postponing pressing matters in favor of doing something less stressful and responsible. Laziness, in its turn, is rather often a psyche’s defense mechanism against stress and fatigue—a signal our bodies send us so that we can take a break. Laziness is about avoiding responsibilities completely, and although it is normal for a person to feel lazy from time to time, when it becomes chronic, it may cause harm to one’s professional and personal life.

Works Cited

“Procrastination.” Dictionary.com, www.dictionary.com/browse/procrastination.

Burton, Neel. “What’s the Difference Between Procrastination and Laziness?” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 5 May 2015, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hide-and-seek/201505/whats-the-difference-between-procrastination-and-laziness.

Lordi, Giovanni. “The Difference Between Laziness, Procrastination & Lack of Motivation.” Mind Motivations, 12 Mar. 2014, www.mindmotivations.com/articles/difference-between-laziness-procrastination-lack-motivation.

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