Procrastination, or Laziness?

clockface It’s a good question, a fair question, and a question I need to answer honestly.

Blogging bud Mapelba left me a link on my last post to this article on Psychology Today’s website, which talks on surface-levels about procrastination.  The article makes a couple of pretty potent points which really made me pause and take stock of where I am, and what I’m doing, with all this “free time” I have while I’m job hunting.

The gist of the article is, about 20-25% of the population are procrastinators.  They agonize over not doing what they know they should be doing, but don’t break the inertia (that’s my term, not theirs) to get those things done.  There are a lot of mental gymnastics taking place for the procrastinator, and not getting things done leaves them with guilt and anguish.  Laziness, however, is just not doing it, and then not worrying about it because … you know.  You’re being lazy.

But procrastination is different than lazy.  And the article made me sit down and try to think about what’s going on with me.  Is the problem that I don’t think the rewards immediate enough to hop off my laurels and get writing?  Is it that the task seems overwhelming and the finish so far in the future I lose perspective of time and before I know it, it’s gone – the day, the weekend, the month, whatever – and I’m left scratching my head wondering where it went?

The key indicator here is the symptoms of lazy versus the symptoms of procrastination.  I do feel bad about not writing.  But I don’t know if I feel bad because it’s something I “should” be doing – the article is clear on this, it’s stuff we should be doing – or if it’s because I just want to do it.  I’m suffering for my poor decision, but I’m the only one suffering.  This isn’t going to become a problem which costs me my job, or which makes my marriage suffer.

Still, the article did give me pause and make me think.  Could this be related to the inability to process temporal distances correctly?  If so what can I do about it?

One of the first things to do is to just make a better decision and stick with it.  It’s one thing to become excited about something and take off running, only to find the first obstacle or hurdle leaves you unmotivated and without direction, frustrated and stymied.  It’s another to have to push a boulder uphill day-in and day-out, forcing yourself to go against your nature and do what you have to do.  Or what you think you should be doing.

this is going to be a challenge for me.  I have to seriously consider whether I’m suffering from procrastination with my writing or if I’m just lazy.  (I have my suspicions, but I’m not a shrink either.)  So I’m going to give this some serious thought and prayer and see what’s happening.

And that ought to give me another reason to do something besides write.

How ‘bout you?  Do you find you’re mostly lazy about things you have to do, or are you a procrastinator?  Or do neither of those labels fit you?  Are you one of those who has other problems with things you should be doing?

Speak out.  Confession’s good for the soul.


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14 thoughts on “Procrastination, or Laziness?

  1. 25% procrastinate, 20% are go-getters, the remaining 55% haven’t answered the survey yet.

    Well, the REAL joke is, those who are genuine procrastinators probably haven’t gotten around to it either. So those stats CAN’T be right.

  2. The guy in that article sounds exactly like me. In the article, procrastination is defined as “a needless, often irrational delay of some important task in favor of a less important, but seemingly more rewarding, task.” However, I’ve found that the “more rewarding task” isn’t a task at all, but simply not being faced with it. I’ve spent many days forcing myself to do things, because rationally I know there’s no reason not to. It’s totally anxiety-based, should-based, fear-based. I hate it.

    Yeah, that guy’s story struck me deep too, though I don’t know if I’m more lazy than “clinically” procrastinating. Especially where writing’s concerned, there’s some doubt raised by this article as to what I’m doing.

    I’ve found that going at my daily tasks with a desire-based outlook rather than a should-based one helps tremendously. I end up getting more done rather than less, because I’m less anxious.

    But manufacturing desire isn’t really possible. At least, not for me. You’re right, we do stuff we WANT to do more eagerly than other tasks, but if we don’t WANT to do something we can’t (at least, I can’t) MAKE ourselves want to do it. But if you are able to do that, PLEASE consider blogging in-depth about how you do it!

    Sounds like you’re a procrastinator, not lazy.

    Man I hope so. And thank you, sweet Sherri, for saying that.

    • I’m not manufacturing desire, though, and that’s the point. I guess it’s sort of hard to explain, but I’ll try. If I feel myself resisting the simplest tasks, just because, I give myself permission not to do them, or anything, really. The resistance usually comes from feeling the pressure of bigger things, and those bigger things are usually stuff I can’t control. So if I let everything go for as long as I feel like it, and letting go of the guilt too, it seems to free me up. Then I DO want to do the things I resisted before. Sometimes it takes an hour, sometimes a day, and the key is to really let go of the expectations. For me, anyway. The pressure is what freezes me up.

      Ah, I see. Okay, so you’re coming full-circle back around to those same things but on your own terms and timeline. That does make sense. Thanks! Bad news for me, though: I’m not doing the things I’m supposed to/should be and don’t know how to let the expectation of myself go, so I’ve not discovered the “want to” yet. 😉

  3. Hmmm.
    Seems to me that the researcher did an awful lot of work for something that seems to be common sense, and something that I believe is extremely personal. That said, it does give some useful information, just not sure it can be boiled down to an equation or how useful that equation really is in real life.

    I am a chronic “procrastinator.” Is it a bad thing? No, not necessarily. It works for me. Things that need to get done, get done before it’s too late. I work well with a deadline. It keeps me task-oriented. Do I procrastinate on doing laundry? Yep. Does it hurt anyone? No. Sweeping the floor? Yes. Anyone dying because of it? Nope. Should I be doing these things right now? Yeppo, I guess I “should” be. I “should” also be working. But I am distracting myself again, and guess what, it’s okay. Because apparently, my mind needs the distraction. I guess the fact that it doesn’t bother me could mean I’m being lazy–but I am anything but lazy, I’m quite the opposite. So essentially, whose “should” am I imposing on myself? Society’s?

    Okay, however (and I’m not trying to be argumentative here, D, so don’t take it that way), the researcher maintains not having the guilt or feeling bad about not doing those things is an indication you’re NOT procrastinating as defined in the article. A true procrastinator would feel the misery associated with putting off the tasks. Because you don’t indicates you’re BEING lazy about those things (as opposed to saying you ARE lazy, two entirely different things in my estimation though I’m not a shrink). Being lazy doesn’t mean you ARE lazy, it means you don’t feel like doing it right now. I get that a lot too.

    Not all procrastination is bad. Not doing things is also not necessarily lazy. I think the bigger issue here is WHY you put something off (big things, not sweeping:) ) and usually it’s out of fear, or it just simply isn’t the right time for something to be done for some reason. Maybe you need more information. Maybe something in your gut is trying to tell you something. So, you can manipulate your environment all you want, remove your email icons, turn the sound off, etc–but if you are afraid or anxious you’ll still be at a standstill. It is good to remove the temptation to distract yourself, but then I think you need to reevaluate the “shoulds” you impose on yourself, and then think about 1) Why “should” it be done now? WHOSE “should” is this? 2) Who will it impact? 3) Is there something else you feel deserves your attention at the moment? 4)If you still feel it needs to be done, today, right now– WHY aren’t you doing it? Be honest.

    Those are good questions to ask, and a nice inventory to take while you’re paralyzed. I know a lot of my stagnation is anxiety. Some of it is guilt. More of it is the idea that what I’m doing now isn’t a priority and what SHOULD (there’s that word again) be a priority may not be getting done either. The why on that last part is the important one to answer, at least for me.

    If it’s fear of failure, tackle it head on. Make a list of things you can do right now to help yourself over that hurdle, and make THAT your priority. Read a couple of stories of how other writer’s overcame that fear. Write about it. Talk about it. Doing these things is taking action, even if it doesn’t feel like it. Count each step as a victory, because it really is.

    I’m pretty sure it’s not fear of either success or failure. I don’t know for certain but I don’t think that’s it. Some of it is a sense of overwhelm, I think. Not sure what I’m overwhelmed about though.

    I highly doubt you are lazy, Darc. Only because I doubt Falc would tolerate it 😀 hee hee hee

    Oh, we’re pretty lazy together. We do what HAS to be done but not much more than that. It’s just our make-up.

    Whew! I’m finished pontificating…it just irks me when people get “labeled” to such a degree that it further exacerbates a situation rather than helps. 🙂

    I don’t know if this “labeled” me so much as might have cut on a light. For ME. It’s not going to help everyone though. I’m glad you vented your thoughts here though — they’re good ones. 🙂

    • Oh darn! You’re not being argumentative? I love a good argument. 😉

      Oh, don’t mistake me — I love to argue. Just not right now. 😉

      No, see, that’s just it–I don’t think I’m being Lazy about the laundry either. It’s not a priority at the moment. My mother-in-law might think so, my neighbors might do things differently–but I’m totally cool with the way I do things. (I’m making it sound like I never wash clothes–LOL–I’m really stretching this example here!) Lazy sounds so, I don’t know, negative. Is there another word we can use? I don’t like either of these. 🙂 I guess it all depends on how you would define the word. And yes, I believe one can “act” lazy and not “be” lazy.

      So do I. I’ve been lazy most of my life — still am — but when I have to do something I can be pretty motivated and get it done quickly. I can work hard if I have to. I never like it though. 😉

      I guess I don’t like the use of the word “procrastinator” because I feel that it covers up the other issues that cause the procrastination. So many people just leave it at that, and don’t dig deeper and then it becomes an excuse and/or a reason to get depressed. “Oh, I’m just a procrastinator.” So maybe it’s all just a matter of linguistics for me. I don’t think anyone should be labeled a procrastinator. To me it’s like saying somebody has a tumor without talking about the cancer that caused it. Procrastination is the result of something else, and you can procrastinate, but there are no procrastinators to me. And, sometimes, what you might call procrastination is nothing more than a difference of priorities, which is ok if the person who is suffering from “procrastination” can get okay with it.

      Well, you know shrinks — they need a name for everything we do, and an excuse for all our behavior. And I believe there are degrees of everything. I think a person losing a job or marriage over procrastination definitely has other issues besides procrastination, and this is probably true of lazy folks too. But that’s another post. For me, personally, I don’t think I’m necessarily doing either. Sometimes creativity just … stops. And I wonder if that’s where I am. Or if stress just killed it.

      I’m rambling. Ignore me. It’s still Fried Day. 🙂

      Seemed pretty coherent to me, D. Who knew recruiters make such awesome psychoanalysts? 😉

  4. I will admit that I am definitely both. When a paper was due in school I would put it off until the last day or so then bust my butt to get it done but that was actually a good thing. If I have a lot of time I will rework the paper to death and usually wind up with a lesser grade then if I didn’t do it until the last minute and then just clean it up and turn it in.

    Housework? I hate it and I am fairly lazy about doing it though I do before it gets too bad. Oh, the things I don’t mind doing get done quicker than the tasks I detest.

    I’m lazy to a degree and have no problem with it. Does that make me a bad person?

    I’d say it makes you a normal person. I think most folks fall into that sort of description; no one relishes every task and those we can avoid, at least temporarily, we will. I think the article is talking about people who can’t seem to get those important things done on time or in a timely manner to the point it starts costing them. You? Nah. You’re fine. 🙂

  5. I think I put things off because of fear…fear of failure and fear of success. Strange really since I am fond of change.

    I’m fond of money, so you’d think fear of success wouldn’t be an issue. Sometimes I wonder though. 😉

  6. Guess the end result of both of these is the same. The work doesn’t get done. Difference is intent. Procrastination is emotional based. Laziness seems to be bad habits. Signed, Dr. Freud 🙂

    Well, thank you Sigmund. 😉

  7. Sometimes I think procrastination is fear or stress. Work was a little crazy last week and it bogged me down on the serial novel. Now I’m not so bogged down at work but I’ll be damned if I can get chapter 48 to happen.

    I’m sure stress is at the core of at least part of it for me. Wouldn’t surprise me if it was for you too.

    Since this is a serial novel I know I am to a point up against a deadline of sorts- I may be 15 or so chapters ahead but how long can I spin my wheels before I find myself falling further behind.

    Self-imposed deadlines can be a killer. I know, I had one blow up in my face and I never got back on track.

    I wonder if at least part of it is fear- starting a story is fun… sometimes wrapping up the ending can be hard work.

    Do you have a plan, a structure or outline or synopsis, you’re following? If not, that could be the problem. You might need to take some time and pinpoint the ending before you go on. Either way, good luck!

  8. I’m glad to see this sparked a conversation. I liked the article and thought it put light on a few points. Of course, lazy is somewhat subject. I have students who truly believe they work hard, and I think they’re lazy. Some folks have a different idea about what constitutes hard work.

    True enough. For me, getting up and taking a shower can be a real bear some days. 😉

    But mostly I’m glad you got something out of this article! And thanks for linking back to me too–you can’t be that lazy. You take the time to link back, reply, and write that a real lazy person wouldn’t do.

    I did enjoy the article, and I felt it caught a couple of things for me too. Can’t take it all in, of course, but it did cast some illumination on a couple of things. And thanks — I try to give credit where it’s due. 🙂

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