There are two kinds of lazy

Lazy, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary means “disinclined to activity or exertion”.
There are two kinds of lazy. One is the good kind, and another is the bad* kind.
The good kind of lazy
Sometimes you find yourself being caught up with some menial labour. It can be therapeutic sometimes. It doesn’t have to be a waste of time. But then you think that having more free time doesn’t hurt. So you think about a way of getting something done without spending that much resources (i.e. time, energy) on it. You’re not inclined to get things done in a laborious manner if it can be done more efficiently. By definition you’re lazy, but in a good way.

It could be designing an automated or semi-automated system that takes out some or all of the grunt work involved. This doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds.

If you have extra money, it could be paying someone to do it while you can use the saved time for something else (privileged Southeast Asians can be very thankful for their domestic helpers). It could be buying an expensive but time-saving devices like a dishwasher or a washer-cum-dryer.

It could be re-evaluating the need to do something and testing your hypothesis by not doing that thing for a few days or weeks and see whether the quality of life of the stakeholder(s) (you and anyone involved) stays the same or decreases or maybe even improves.

As we can see, this kind of lazy is not that lazy after all. It follows this observation by Peter Drucker in his book the Effective Executive: “The more physical work you want to eliminate, the more mental work you must do.” Efficiency often looks effortless and elegant but in fact it comes from hours of thinking and iteration.
The bad kind of lazy
When we’re lazy in a bad way, we’re not inclined to activity and exertion that is mental or intellectual in nature. I believe everyone suffers from this in one form or another with a varying degrees. Everyone has probably thought of a way to change it. Everyone has probably failed to change it.
Maybe using a concept as an analogy can help us understand it a little bit better. I choose the concept of inertia (“everything inside you will fight improvement”). Who would have guessed that our thinking is subjected to Newton’s First Law.
David Wong from wrote this:

“The human mind is a miracle, and you will never see it spring more beautifully into action than when it is fighting against evidence that it needs to change. Your psyche is equipped with layer after layer of defense mechanisms designed to shoot down anything that might keep things from staying exactly where they are — ask any addict.So even now, some of you reading this are feeling your brain bombard you with knee-jerk reasons to reject it. From experience, I can say that these seem to come in the form of …”

Then he went on to list down the defensive things our fragile ego does to protect us from the assault of external forces that actually can do you good. (Question: why do you listen to sad songs when you’re sad? Aren’t you better off if you get out of the sadness, which can be done better by not listening to sad songs?)

Read the rest of the article (

My point is the bad kind of lazy is this inertia that manifests itself in the ego (or is it the other way round?) which resists changes and external forces. I suspect it’s manifested not in just your unwillingness to study today for the exam that is happening next week. I suspect this kind of lazy is more sinister than that. With a great risk of over-simplifying things, I shall list down the suspected manifestations of lazy and some bad things in which lazy may play a part, all of which I’ve been guilty for.

  • Unwillingness to start something obviously beneficial in one’s life e.g. regular exercise/healthy eating, accompanied with creation of excuses (e.g. no time) or unwillingness to replace habits that may be not bring long term benefits… like, uh… watching a lot of series…
  • Unwillingness to complete things you start (*having a guilt attack now*) because of various unspoken or admitted, valid or invalid reasons e.g. “Life gets in the way”, “My job doesn’t allow me to do it and it’s not my top priority”, “I need to sleep”. This point is so personal it hurts. Ha. Further reading: the War of Art by Steven Pressfield
  • Unwillingness to change or minimize the damage of one’s bad trait e.g. bad temper or tardiness because of 1) the laziness to empathize with the other party who suffers due to your shortcomings or 2) if this is caused by “because others have done this unto me” kind of sentiment, the laziness to reject that invalid sentiment. In both cases I strongly suspect it’s because of laziness to fight our impulses.
  • (Often unconscious) unwillingness to stop talking in the conversation, arguably due to the unrealized laziness to realize the importance of being a decent listener in a social setting. Or the inability to give good response to what the other party says due to laziness to think of a decent response. (Is “I’m not a good conversationalist” or “I’m shy and awkward” a valid reason? Maybe, if you haven’t been living around talking humans, it is)
  • Voicing ignorant opinions in public (in conversation as well as social media) without qualifying words to indicate one’s uncertainty or even worse, with conviction, due to the laziness to do the work required to have an opinion (
  • Related to the previous point, prejudice and discrimination against others. This is a huge, complex issue with a lot of factors coming into play (evolutionary, socio-cultural, historical, education, etc). Let me state the context first to minimize the risk of voicing an ignorant opinion in public: I’m talking about prejudice and discrimination against others in the modern, information-era world, where people can find out about things if people want to.
    Prejudice (“an unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, etc”) and discrimination (“the practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people”) can be caused by upbringing where parents inform you that certain groups have certain qualities with anecdotes that back their opinions, unfortunate personal observation or experiences which may not be statistically sound (“All men are jerks”, “Foreign women just want your money”?), the media, etc. There are many instances of laziness in generalizing, jumping absurdly far to conclusion, forming opinions with so many fallacies as if the list of fallacies is treated as the guideline to forming opinions. I suspect that this is all caused by the laziness to understand the other side (just like the personal trait-related laziness); one may be too lazy to educate oneself about others by having enough direct interactions with members of the other group, traveling overseas to see different ways of life, by reading articles or books about other cultures, or maybe about evolutionary science to understand how similar to each other we actually are (and how did I get here from talking about being lazy?)
It seems like we can sum up the bad kind of laziness as the disinclination to exertion of reasoning and empathy to overcome the less savoury part of our human nature.
The disinclination to activity or exertion, both in the good way and the bad way, often makes a person. And the peculiar distribution of the disinclination among our species (e.g. the fact that some industrialists take efficiency to the next level while many people don’t think about it. Or the fact that some people overcome their personal demons to become great while most don’t) makes our modern civilization.
(*Note: What is “good”? What is “bad”? In a very simplistic manner, I’ll take “good” and “bad” here as how those words mean to me. “Good” things have potential long term benefit for an individual and the society and “bad” things are the opposite. It’s a poor definition but let’s save that for another philosophical discussion one day.)

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