Understanding Laziness: Causes and Solutions | All About Laziness

Dr. Serenity
April 11, 2023

Exploring Laziness: Debunking Myths and Finding Solutions

In American society, being called “lazy” is a serious insult, yet many people are quick to use this label to describe themselves and others. According to surveys by the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans believe that people are lazier today than in the past, and some experts see this as a result of cultural pressures rather than individual behavior.

Psychologist Devon Price, PhD, believes that laziness is a misconception, and that lack of motivation may be due to exhaustion, trauma, lack of support, or a lack of incentive. However, other experts suggest that laziness is related to procrastination, a well-researched phenomenon in psychology.

Despite these different viewpoints, the idea of laziness can be harmful, especially in a culture that values productivity and constant connectedness. This article explores the causes of laziness and provides practical solutions for overcoming it, so you can live a happier, more fulfilling life.


Understanding the Concept of Laziness: What It Is and How It Differs from Procrastination

While “laziness” is not a medical term used in psychology, it’s a popular culture term that has been defined by some psychologists. According to a 2018 study published in the journal Human Arenas, laziness can be described as a failure to act or perform as expected due to a lack of individual effort. However, this definition doesn’t always account for external factors that may affect someone’s behavior.

Procrastination, on the other hand, is a well-studied phenomenon that’s related to laziness but not interchangeable. Procrastination is a voluntary delay of an intended act despite expecting to be worse off. This means that for an action to qualify as procrastination, a person must have intended to do it in the first place.

While identifying instances of procrastination is often straightforward, pinpointing examples of laziness can be tricky. We all take breaks to rest or engage in activities that are pleasurable or restorative rather than productive. This makes it difficult to define exactly when a lack of work qualifies as laziness.

It’s important to make these distinctions because even diligent people may sometimes procrastinate. Michael Jacobsen, a professor of sociology at Aalborg University in Denmark, argues that laziness is always subjective. Therefore, the context and circumstances surrounding someone’s behavior must be taken into account when determining whether they are truly being lazy.


What Causes Procrastination?

Procrastination is a term often used interchangeably with laziness, but it’s important to understand that procrastination is a formal term studied by psychologists, whereas laziness is a subjective opinion. In this article, we will explore what causes procrastination and why some people procrastinate more than others.

  • Procrastination as a Coping Mechanism

According to Tim Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa, procrastination is an emotion-management issue. When faced with an unpleasant task, the thought of completing it can bring up anxiety or negative emotions. Procrastination becomes a logical and effective coping mechanism to get rid of those negative emotions by putting off the task. Research published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences supports the notion that procrastination can reflect an attempt to cope with negative emotions arising when people have to do something unpleasant or difficult.

  • Age and Brain Development

Young people tend to procrastinate more than adults, and Pychyl suggests that this may be due in part to brain development. The brain’s prefrontal cortex, which helps in planning, decision-making, concentration, and other “executive functions,” does not fully mature until a person’s twenties. This brain region helps control emotional impulses and guides behaviors that require a longer-term outlook. It’s harder for adolescent brains to prioritize school work, a form of toil that may not provide any immediate benefits or incentives, over playing video games.

  • Habitual Behavior Factor

Procrastination can become habitual like any other behavior. If your brain learns to cope with unpleasant tasks by avoiding them, it can be hard to shake this response. Wendy Wood, a habit researcher and provost professor of psychology at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, explains that habits come from repeating actions consistently that give you some immediate enjoyment. Procrastination can check all those boxes: putting off unpleasant chores can offer a sense of relief, which is enjoyable. And so, like other bad habits, procrastination can snowball.

  • Environmental Factors

Laziness is a behavioral attribute that we may learn from others. If your colleagues mess around and blow off work, you’re more likely to do the same. It’s essential to be mindful of the environment you’re in and how it can impact your behavior.

  • Energy and Willpower (and Sleep)

Energy and willpower, or a lack of both, can also lead to procrastination. When shift workers are sleep deprived, their willpower drops, and they become more likely to procrastinate.

  • Personality Characteristics

Personality characteristics can also contribute to procrastination. These include low conscientiousness and impulsivity. Some forms of perfectionism, a desire to meet a high self-defined standard, can load tasks with unpleasant emotional baggage that can lead to procrastination.

  • Distractions

Distractions are a major driver of procrastination. Technologies like social media sites and other enticements make it more difficult for many of us to get started on a difficult task and stick with it. Research in Computers in Human Behavior has shown that social media use and high smartphone use are both predictive of some forms of academic procrastination.


In summary, procrastination is a coping mechanism that people use to deal with negative emotions that arise when faced with unpleasant or difficult tasks. Age, brain development, environmental factors, energy and willpower, personality characteristics, and distractions can all contribute to procrastination. It’s essential to understand what causes procrastination and work towards reducing it to become more productive and achieve our goals.


The Impact of Laziness on Your Health: What You Need to Know

Despite its prevalence in our daily lives, there is little research on how being lazy affects our health and well-being. However, when it comes to procrastination, studies have shown that it can hinder people from adopting new and beneficial behaviors such as starting an exercise program or developing a healthier approach to eating, according to a 2018 review published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Furthermore, for individuals who struggle with procrastination, putting things off can lead to significant psychological distress, which may result in anxiety, poor mood, and decreased overall well-being, as highlighted by the same review.

While people who consider themselves lazy may not necessarily be so, this self-perception can cause issues. According to Price, individuals who believe they are lazy are often those who are overwhelmed with tasks and have limited support. He says, “If your to-do list is 20 items long but you only have the energy to get 10 things done per day, you are always going to feel lazy even though you are repeatedly pushing yourself past the brink.”

Consider if you only had five things to accomplish in a day instead of 20. Even though you would accomplish the same amount of work, you may feel more productive and less lazy.

Additionally, technology is a potential contributor to feelings of laziness. As new technologies allow us to check email, instant messaging apps, or self-improvement apps at any time and from anywhere, there is increased pressure to be productive all the time. This pressure may come from the individual or their employer and can lead to a sense of laziness if one is not always doing something productive online.


6 Tips to Overcome Laziness and Increase Productivity

Here are 6 tips to help you overcome laziness, as suggested by various experts. Whether it’s about learning to be kinder to yourself or adopting habits that minimize distractions, these tips are designed to motivate and inspire you to take action.

  1. Prioritize Your Tasks

Don’t try to do everything at once. Instead, identify what’s most important to you and focus on those tasks first. Cut your to-do list in half and ask yourself what you’re willing to let go of. By setting clear priorities, you’ll be more motivated to complete tasks that matter.

  1. Be Specific and Set Goals

Procrastination often stems from vague intentions. To combat this, set clear goals and define specific actions to achieve them. Create reminders in your phone or calendar to help you stay on track.

  1. Make It Enjoyable

Repetition is the key to forming new habits, but doing something you enjoy will make it easier to stick with. Find something you like about a new activity that makes it enjoyable, such as listening to your favorite podcast while exercising.

  1. Minimize Distractions

Technology can be a major distraction, so consider taking tech-free breaks or using apps that limit access to problem sites or apps. Create a distraction-free environment by putting your phone in another room, or start with small blocks of undistracted time and work your way up.

  1. Practice Mindfulness

Procrastination often stems from habit, and mindfulness practices can help break those habits. Train yourself to be more present and aware of your own thinking. Mindfulness can also help you ignore distractions and stay focused on the task at hand.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

Forgive yourself when you procrastinate or fail to meet your goals. Being too hard on yourself can lead to negative feelings and self-doubt, making procrastination more likely. Focus on making progress, but accept that setbacks are a natural part of the process.

Author Dr. Serenity

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