Laziness vs. Procrastination – Task Displacement and You

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Recently, I have become ultra-aware of the tendencies of the human body towards laziness and procrastination.  Up to this point in my young adult life, I have found myself susceptible to this time wasting problem that is VERY prevalent in today’s society!

The more I think about it, however, the more I have decided that the two words don’t seem to be interchangeable like most people would probably assert:

Laziness – (n.) The attribute of being resistant to work or exertion; disposed to idleness.

Procrastination – (n.) The act of postponing or delaying and action needlessly.

I think on the surface, these two terms seem to be interchangeable, and for the most part people would say there is no real difference between the two words, however, recently I have been seeing alot of articles in forums for Video Gaming addiction about “procrastination” specifically used as a coping mechanism… here is what I could find as far as resent articles from this topic:

Stop Procrastination Now! -  Update 5/12/2008  -  About.com/Depression

Killer of All Dreams: Procrastination – 5/14/2009 – http://theloop21.com/

Whereas “laziness” seems to be an attitude that is pervasive to a person’s character, (you are usually considered either an “active” or a “lazy” person as a general characteristic of your person), procrastination can be a delaying/coping mechanism used to avoid problems/uncomfortable situations, either intentionally or unintentionally.

For example, I know for myself personally, my specific brand of procrastination was very specialize… I would go so far as to term it “task displacement”.  (I totally made this up, if it refers to an actual term, I claim no ownership).

Chart courtesy of http://www.davecheong.com/

Chart courtesy of http://www.davecheong.com/

In my mind, I define “task displacement” as comforting oneself when NOT doing something of importance and that should be taking precedence over any other task, (i.e. looking for a better job, paying bills that are late, etc), you “displace” this guilt/discomfort with one, (or usually more), less meaningful tasks that, while not being “lazy” by any means shows a lack of initiative.

For example, let’s say Mike, (a totally FICTITIOUS and hypothetical person), needs to finish a very important assignment for his schooling, (high school, college, master’s, doctorate, take your pick), but instead of working on this task, (which should take precedence over other less important tasks), Mike decides he needs to refinish his deck first… and then clean his garage out, then clean his living room carpet, etc, etc).

Procrastination can give the IMPRESSION of being busy and working on important tasks, but ultimately the goal is to AVOID the most uncomfortable/hardest work in favor of more comfortable/easier work.

IMHO, this makes procrastination all the more dangerous then just plain laziness – whereas laziness can be pointed out and dealt with, procrastination make detecting the problem much harder to outside concerned parties, and makes for ultimately a harder intervention, (“but I AM doing a ton of things”/ “I’m so busy right now with these other tasks”).

todo

Being aware of your “task displacement” is probably half the battle, for I believe most people do this unintentionally or subconsciously… as long as you are DOING something, you feel you are being productive.  I find that if I list out the priorities of the task I have at hand, I am better able to identify “task displacement” and redirect my efforts to the most important goal at hand.

While I’m sure this is not always the way procrastination works out, (i.e. most people who interchange “lazy” and “procrastination” might argue), this is the particular brand of procrastination I deal with on a daily basis, and one that I am working on ;)

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Laziness vs. Procrastination – Task Displacement and You

  1. Diane Cusson

    Good for you! “to-do lists” are the only way I get things done myself!

  2. Man, I always hear people complaining about “honey-do” lists… but sometimes that is the only way I find I can keep myself focused when facing a list of things to do of varying levels of priority ;)

    Thanks for the comment! I’m sure the “to-do” thing is genetic to some extent, eh? :D

  3. Not meaning to detract from your point. I agree with you and suffer from procrastination myself. I would like to suggest that sometimes procrastination can be a way of not doing tasks which don’t need to be done but which someone (usually your boss) asks for, doesn’t understand and won’t use anyway. Obviously judgement is required here.

  4. wow Ralph, that is a very Dilbert-ish attitude you have there ;)

    and yes, I totally agree with ya!

  5. Having goals in the first place is a right step to completing them. ^_^

    I liked to used peer pressure to ensure myself that I will complete goals. For instance, I told everyone a few years back that I will finish a half-marathon. After that, there was no backing out, and I had no choice but to start practising for it. =p

  6. Oh, good point! Positive peer pressure!

    So when did you run that half marathon? ;)

  7. I’m kidding! I hope you actually already did it!!

    Wow, what a jerk I just was there!

    (He knows I’m just messing with him, right Shingo? :D )

    I actually get a little of that with my Master’s thesis… it is half done and just sitting in a file somewhere, and tons of people know it and ask me about it ALL the time… I KNOW I KNOW!!

  8. Half done doesn’t count of course but you need to consider what you will get with the completion of the thesis. Will the result be worth the time and effort? That may be the reason it is half finished and it so, its not procrastination but judgement.

  9. Sigh… unfortunately; in this case it is most likely pure procrastination… I would be unable to be PERMANENTLY certified to teach English unless I do it AT SOME POINT… and to me that is (now) definitely worth doing.

  10. Then “geter done!”

  11. LOL

    Actually, since you left your message, I was checking in Virginia and they DON’T require a Master’s degree to teach… soo….

    we’ll see ;D

  12. Sometimes procrastination is positive.

  13. I certainly hope so in this case!

  14. Pingback: Procrastination gets a bad rap! | ralphcarlsonblog.com