Procrastination Is Not Laziness

I'm sympathetic to but ultimately must disagree with Seth Stevenson's take on procrastination, a topic I sadly know a great deal about.

Why did I subject myself to so much stress, instead of starting my work earlier like “normal” people do? Well, you've no doubt heard all manner of theories regarding the root cause of procrastination. Fear of failure. Crippling perfectionism. Abnormally low type-2 phloxiplaxitus levels.

I'm here to tell you that it was none of these things. The root cause of my procrastination, in technical terms, is this: I'm lazy. Extremely lazy.

Don't judge, pal—you're lazy, too. It's why you procrastinate. When there's a difficult, disagreeable, or tedious chore that needs to get done, guess what? You don't want to do it. So you don't. Until you have to.

It's just that simple, my slothful friend.

I'm sure I procrastinate as much as Stevenson, but the thing is, I'm not lazy! I am in fact super-industrious. It's just that I am always motivated to do something other than the thing that most needs to be done. Stevenson mentions Da Vinci was a flaky, distractable procrastinator. OK.  But lazy? That's retarded. Doing something else is not laziness; it's misdirected industriousness.

No discussion of procrastination is complete with John Perry's now-classic essay “Structured Procrastination.” You can even buy a “I'm not wasting time, I'm a structured procrastinator  t-shirt!”


I hate it. I am terrible at it. As a consequence, I bought nothing in Turkey other than tickets to various things, room, food, and a poster of Ataturk. And I overpaid for all of these things, I'm sure, which has left me a bit bitter about the place. Surely this is inefficient overall, no? I understand the price discrimination argument for haggling, especially in a country with a lot of poverty and tourism. But probably hundreds of my dollars stayed in my pocket because I didn't have good information about the quality of products and I knew the retailer is better at bargaining over the surplus than I am, so… there was no transaction and no surplus. Sure, there is a lot of successful gouging going on, but add up millions of instances of “I know you're going to screw me,” and I suspect that the average retailer is doing worse rather than better under the haggling system. And how about the average native consumer? In competitive posted-price markets, the system basically pre-haggles the price down to the point where the consumer gets most of the surplus. This is why Wal-Mart is a humanitarian triumph, and a shining symbol of civilization. In the world of Wal-Mart, when it comes to divvying up the surplus from exchange, the retailer has very little freedom to try to take you to the cleaners, but profits by assuring you that you will win the argument.


Yesterday Kerry and I rented a ridiculously large boat with a crew of two in the little fishing village of Selimiye, near the point where the Aegean meets the Mediterranean. They took us around to little islands off the coast and to good swimming spots. The water, as you can see, is astonishingly clear and, in the shallows, is the color they paint the bottom swimming pools, I guess to make them look like the Aegean. The highlight of the trip was our time exploring a small island containing the ruins of a Greek Christian monastary, now inhabited only by a herd of goats and a lonely donkey.

Today, we're in Pammukale, which is weird and awesome. Kerry's got a pic.