10 Of The Most Impressive Acts Of Laziness In Human History

1. Da Vinci Turns Procrastination into Genius

Relaxing da Vinci Statue

Photo credit: Vladimir Shelyapin

The Mona Lisa is one of the greatest portraits in history. It’s so iconic that we don’t even have to show you a picture; you can imagine it already. It’s also kind of small: The canvas measures only 76 centimeters (30 in) by 53 centimeters (21 in), about the size of a smallish TV. But given that it’s a masterpiece, you’d probably expect it to have taken a while to paint. How long do you think? Six months? A year?

Try 15 years. For a decade and a half, da Vinci failed to finish his iconic portrait, not because it was so difficult, but because he was so lazy. That’s not us being judgmental. On his deathbed, the great man himself even admitted to his chronic procrastination when he apologized “to God and Man for leaving so much undone.” For comparison, it took Michelangelo a mere four years to paint the entire Sistine Chapel. The area his masterpieces covered? Around 1,100 square meters (12,000 ft2).

But a lazy genius is still a genius, and da Vinci was probably the biggest genius of them all. Although it took him forever to finish artworks (the Virgin of the Rocks took 25 years to finish, from a seven-month commission), he put his procrastination to great use. It was in his downtime that he filled his notebooks with doodles and ideas. Some of those doodles would later turn out to be inventions that could have changed the course of history.

You’ve probably heard that da Vinci invented the helicopter, tank, scuba gear, and parachute. Well, this was when he did it—when he should have been working. Some of the greatest examples of human ingenuity only came about because da Vinci was too lazy to stick with his painting. Remember to tell your boss that next time he catches you binge-watching Game of Thrones when you should be working.

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