Inherent Laziness – Why are we Lazy?

A characteristic that I believe all human beings have in common is our potential to be lazy and procrastinate. Even actions or behaviors we know will be extremely beneficial or necessary for success we end up neglecting. We seem to have inherent laziness.

Keen-eyed readers will note that I stated “potential”. This is because we know for a fact that there are members of society that deviate from this observation. These are typically people that excel and are renowned in their respective industries or groups. We often question very naively, “What is their secret?”, with a shameful hope of an answer that aligns with our desire for minimum effort or easy implementation.  However, the answer is basically always the same – hard work and sheer discipline. The potential to be lazy and procrastinate is present but these individuals overcome it.

With 99% of the population suffering from this inherent laziness, it should be quite observable in everyday life. Two observable laziness truths I’d like to discuss are Parkinson’s Law and the Pareto Principle.

Parkinson’s Law and Inherent Laziness

Have you ever sat in a three-hour examination writing an essay, and perhaps despite the simplicity, you had to use the entire three hours to complete it? Or maybe you only had a few short tasks to complete at work for the day, but you only completed them just before the end of your shift/workday? If you answered yes to any of these, you may have experienced something called Parkinson’s Law. Essentially, Parkinson’s Law occurs when “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” If something must be done in a year, it’ll be done in a year. If something must be done next week, it’ll be done next week. If something must be done tomorrow, it’ll be done tomorrow.

Parkinson's Law Chart of Effort vs. Time impact on inherent laziness
Parkinson’s law displayed as Effort vs. Time (credit to https://www.mysassybusiness.com/)

The foundation of Parkinson’s Law is the timeframe. Human beings tend to complete tasks when due, so rather later than sooner. This is literally the definition of procrastination. I believe that procrastination prevents us from becoming the best version of ourselves simply because we fail to set personal goals with definitive deadlines.

The Pareto Principle and Inherenet Laziness

The Pareto Principle (also known as the 80:20 Principle) states that roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. There are plenty of examples in the world such as:

  • 20% of criminals commit 80% of crimes
  • 20% of drivers cause 80% of all traffic accidents
  • 80% of pollution originates from 20% of all factories

The list only goes on. Another interesting example relating to teams and groups of people is that 20% of the team is responsible for 80% of the work. I’ve seen this numerous times in academics and business involving teamwork. If this is a natural phenomenon in society, is there a bias for individuals to lean into either the 20% or 80% group?

Demonstration of 80-20 principle impact on inherent laziness
The Pareto Principle (credit to https://quotiss.com/)

If so, one could argue that there is a tendency for individuals to succumb to group laziness. Based on the above, generally, 80% of a group will slack on execution because they know or assume the other 20% will rise to the occasion. If this is true, we make a conscious decision about which group we fall into. Even worse, if you fail to hold yourself accountable for this decision, the majority of the group is displaying the same behavior as you, creating a difficult situation for the minority carrying the majority of the load.

What do you think?

Do you agree with these conclusions or have any examples to share? Besides our failure to create strict timelines for our personal goals and tendency towards group laziness, what other phenomena do you think impacts our inability to reach our full potential? Do we have inherent laziness or is there something we can do about it?

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