Procrastination: Laziness or something deeper?

“Am I a procrastinator or am I just lazy?” This question comes up a lot in my work with people and it’s time we work to set the record straight. Procrastination and laziness are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct concepts that require different understandings and approaches. Procrastination is a common behavior that can be rooted in various underlying factors, including anxiety. It can significantly impact both students and employees, hindering productivity and success. This article aims to clarify the difference between procrastination and laziness, explore the role of anxiety in procrastination, and provide practical strategies for combating procrastination.

Differentiating Procrastination from Laziness

Procrastination and laziness may appear similar on the surface, as both involve a delay or avoidance of tasks. However, laziness implies a general lack of motivation or willingness to engage in any activity, whereas procrastination involves the voluntary postponement of specific tasks despite being aware of their importance or consequences (Steel, 2007). Laziness is often a stable trait, while procrastination can be a temporary behavior pattern that individuals engage in under certain circumstances (Sirois, 2014).

Understanding the Role of Anxiety

Anxiety plays a really big role in procrastination. When faced with demanding or challenging tasks, individuals may experience anxiety and negative emotions, which can lead them to procrastinate as a way to avoid those uncomfortable feelings (Svartdal, 2016). Procrastination provides short-term relief from anxiety, but it ultimately reinforces a cycle of stress and diminished self-efficacy (Ferrari, 2010). Additionally, perfectionism, fear of failure, and the desire for perfection can exacerbate anxiety and contribute to procrastination tendencies (Rozental et al., 2014). In students, you might see them wait until the last minute to write the term paper. If they still get a good grade, the procrastination behavior is reinforced making it likely they’ll do it again.

Combating Procrastination

Overcoming procrastination requires a combination of self-awareness, planning, and effective coping strategies. Here are some practical suggestions to combat procrastination:

  1. Set realistic goals and deadlines: Break tasks into smaller, manageable steps and set specific deadlines for each. This approach reduces the overwhelming nature of tasks and provides a clear structure to work within.
  2. Create a conducive environment: Designate a dedicated workspace that is free from distractions, such as social media or television. Minimize interruptions and ensure a comfortable and organized space to enhance focus and productivity.
  3. Practice time management techniques: Utilize techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, where work is divided into focused intervals followed by short breaks. This method promotes productivity and helps overcome the urge to delay tasks.
  4. Develop a routine: Establishing a consistent daily routine can enhance motivation and minimize decision fatigue. By scheduling regular study or work periods, individuals can condition their minds to be more disciplined and focused.
  5. Employ self-reward systems: Set up a reward system that provides positive reinforcement upon completing tasks or reaching milestones. This can serve as an incentive to stay motivated and avoid procrastination.

Implications for Students and Employees

Procrastination can have profound implications for students and employees alike. For students, it can lead to poor academic performance, increased stress levels, and missed deadlines (Ozer & Demir, 2012). Employees who procrastinate may experience decreased productivity, impaired job performance, and increased job-related stress (Steel, 2007). Recognizing the detrimental effects of procrastination is crucial for individuals and institutions to implement strategies that foster proactive behaviors and support well-being.


Understanding the distinction between procrastination and laziness is essential for individuals aiming to overcome their procrastination tendencies. Procrastination, often fueled by anxiety, can be managed through self-awareness, planning, and adopting effective coping strategies. By implementing the suggested techniques and cultivating a proactive mindset, students and employees can improve their productivity, reduce stress, and achieve their goals.

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