Goals & Habits

Why Procrastination Is Not the Same As Being Lazy

It appears that some industrious person has designated August 10th as National Lazy Day. I’ve been reading recently about the problem of procrastination and it seems many articles equate this with being lazy. To me, they’re not the same thing at all.

First, let’s check the dictionary definitions:

  • Procrastination: putting off or delaying, especially something requiring immediate attention.
  • Lazy: averse or disinclined to work, activity, or exertion.

Procrastination vs Lazy | Pauline Wiles


So, the dictionary tells us that procrastination represents not wanting to do something now, whereas laziness is more about not wanting to do something (anything?) at all.

Why does this matter?

There are several reasons it’s important to know whether you’re experiencing a productivity pause because of procrastination, or laziness.

  1. Constructive laziness, in my opinion, is healthy. If you consciously decide to take some downtime, don’t beat yourself up: enjoy it! Just make sure you’re doing something that really nourishes you, instead of wasting time mindlessly.
  2. Ongoing laziness, representing a disinclination to do anything at all, is a sign that something is seriously adrift in your life. It could by a symptom of a physical health problem, or a mental health alarm bell. Equally, it might mean you’re so disillusioned about what fills your days (such as your job, or home responsibilities), that you can’t summon enthusiasm for any of it. Check for signs of burnout and do consider talking to your doctor if you can’t figure out what’s wrong.
  3. Conscious procrastination, on the other hand, shows up when you know you “should” be working on something, but are not. Often, we see an item on our to-do list and it’s either big, complex, scary, ill-defined, tedious, or downright unpleasant. You know it’s there and it will nag at you all day (or longer) until it’s tackled. This is a key type of delaying which led Brian Tracy to write his famous book, Eat That Frog!
  4. Unconscious procrastination is when you haven’t even made the connection that there’s something else you should be doing. Perhaps you’ve not set intentions for what you’d like to get done that day, and you allow yourself to slip into low value tasks. In my experience, unconscious procrastination is particularly likely to appear when I’m tired, and I’m not even aware I’m letting minutes or hours drift by.

Cultivate being lazy, investigate procrastination

I’ve got other posts planned on procrastination, how it affects me as a writer, and how it might show up in your life too. For now, I’m asserting the point of view that constructive laziness is to be celebrated and, when appropriate, cultivated. Procrastination, on the other hand, is first to be noticed, then investigated.

Would you agree these two are different? How do they appear in your life?

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7 Comment

  1. Reply
    Julie Valerie
    August 8, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    Pauline, how did you know I needed these insights at this precise moment in my life?

    I wonder how this applies to moments in your life when you’re considering making a big change or taking on a new project. How does ’overwhelm’ impact avoidance behavior?

    1. Reply
      August 8, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      I think big decisions naturally need extra time; our noses can get a bit close to the details and it’s probably worthwhile to pause, step away from the deliberations, and wait to see what our gut instincts tell us. And I remember coming across this incredibly helpful guided meditation, where you essentially ask your future self for wisdom. The page implies it’s password protected, but Google lists this as the first result:

  2. Reply
    April J Harris
    August 10, 2018 at 6:47 am

    I definitely agree they are different, Pauline. I think for me, it’s more unconscious procrastination that shows up the most. It happens when I should have take some time out to be constructively lazy and I’m feeling burnt out. I really enjoyed reading this post – it’s very thought provoking!

    1. Reply
      August 10, 2018 at 8:09 am

      Exactly, April. I’m sure if I took a “proper” break at the right time, the sneakier kind of procrastination wouldn’t be as likely.

  3. Reply
    Daydreams of a Mum
    August 16, 2018 at 5:41 am

    This is such a great post !! I so identify with the unconscious procrastination. This is something I do if I’m on the verge of a mental hobble I think and I’m a bit tired ,but didn’t even realise .
    So glad someone loved this post so much they added it to the #blogcrush linky

    1. Reply
      August 17, 2018 at 6:38 am

      Thanks for stopping by! I’m so glad you found this helpful.

  4. Reply
    April 5, 2019 at 10:17 am

    I am a notorious procrastinator when it comes to doing my DIY projects. I guess I just need to let the ideas ferment in my brain for about a few months before implementing them.

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