Are You Lazy Because You Procrastinate?

Many people jump to the conclusion that, if someone rushes to the store on December 24 to do her Christmas shopping or if she waits until the last minute to file her taxes or to write her term paper or to study for the exam or what have you, it’s because she is simply “lazy”.

But is that really the case? Is procrastination a by-product of laziness? Are all procrastinators lazy?

When I was a teenager, I had quite a few friends who procrastinated when it came time to do their homework. But put them on a basketball court or on a soccer field or on the ice with a hockey stick, or put a guitar in their hands or let them sit at the keyboards, and they would be completely transformed: their work ethic was unmatched. Some of them became professional athletes and musicians.

They were so dedicated to their craft. They weren’t lazy at all. However, they procrastinated on school work; it was somewhat meaningless to them—a necessary evil.

It’s a widespread misconception that people who procrastinate are just lazy.

In my career, I’ve managed people in various settings and arrived at the same conclusion: people who procrastinate are not necessarily lazy. To be fair, some might be. But, in many cases, there’s no direct correlation between procrastination and laziness.

Many years ago, I worked with a lady, a hard working lady—and very talented and effective too. There was really no aspect of the job she couldn’t do well.

Her Achilles heel: the job’s routine duties. Throw at her any ad hoc task, and she would tackle it with gusto; she would get it done in no time and would come begging for more.

But she had a tendency to defer her routine duties until the last minute; they were no longer appealing to her because she had performed them 1000 times and they were now “boring”.

She understood that a big part of her work was to perform these routine duties and she was very capable of handling them effectively. However, she struggled to shift into gear when it came to performing these duties.

If you look at your own life, you’ll recognize it to be true: you’re hardworking, but for whatever reason, you put off certain tasks—maybe because those tasks bore you, maybe because they overwhelmed you, maybe because you don’t see their value, maybe because you don’t feel competent enough to perform them, maybe because you had a bad experience, maybe for another reason. But not because you’re lazy.