I consider myself a fairly productive guy, and in general, I will call myself a work-horse; and people who know me well will attest to that. Yet, there are moments (and sometimes days) where I feel down-right lazy.
If you are a student of productivity like me, I am sure it bothers you when this happens to you.
You want to get shit done, but due to whatever reason you are not able to. I decided to do some research and to really understand Laziness. I wanted to learn how to stop being lazy during those moments.
In this post, I will share my research and what I have deduced about Laziness.
What is Laziness?
This is not something that requires a lengthy explanation. We have all felt it at least once in a while. But to get some clarity I decided to find its definition.
According to Merriam-Webster, here is the official yet simple definition of Lazy – “not willing to work hard or to be active”.
The key thing to note here is that laziness is not defined as an inherent character or the definition of a person, but rather a temporary situation wherein one is not active, or a situation where one is not willing to work hard.
What are the Causes of Laziness?
The traditional understanding of laziness is that a person is inherently lazy. Dr.Leon F Seltzer in an article for Psychology Today debunks that myth. He explains that there is no such thing as a lazy personality.
Dr.Seltzer’s conclusion is that Laziness is really about motivation and other psychological reasons. It’s about a lack of motivation.
He explains that there is an inter-connectedness between self-confidence & self-discipline, and the lack of both/either diminishes motivation.
This, in turn, causes one to be lazy. It is a vicious cycle – if we are not confident that we cannot get a task completed, we don’t have the discipline to do it.
And when we don’t have the self-discipline to complete the task, our self-confidence takes a hit. In short, the causes of laziness often are psychological.
The second factor is the task at hand itself.
Have you found yourself completely energized about one aspect of your job; and totally indifferent about another task? If the task is too tedious (add not challenging) we are likely to avoid it altogether. It is human nature to avoid those things that we see as a burden.
For instance, take the treadmill. The act of running on the treadmill seems like drudgery to me. I don’t get excited about going to the gym and spending time on the treadmill. Luckily for me, there is other equipment in the gym and they keep me motivated.
On the other hand, I have a friend who loves the Treadmill. He does not mind spending 60 minutes walking on the treadmill. He finds it pleasurable.
So there is a relationship between how much you enjoy the task at hand.
Besides these, Dr. Seltzer talks about other fears & psychological factors that might lead to laziness. Such as:
- Sense of Discouragement
- Fear of Failure
- Lack of Faith that the action will be worth the effort
- Fear of Rejection
In short, it is a combination of fears, self-doubts, the work not being challenging, and other reasons that causes laziness.
I want to repeat that Laziness is not an inherent human condition, but rather a problem caused by lack of motivation; and lack of self-discipline.
8 Ways to Stop Being Lazy
Now that we have identified what laziness is, and what some of the potential causes are – let’s explore some ways to overcome laziness. Note that some of the ideas are preventative mechanisms, and some are things that you can do once you experience laziness.
1) Positive Thoughts
Napoleon Hill in his timeless book “Think and Grow Rich” introduces us to the concept that Thoughts are things. And often, the results that manifest in our lives are directly related to the type of thoughts we allow in our minds. Positive Thoughts yield positive results, and negative thoughts yield negative results.
There have been many studies wherein it has been proven that we average about 50000 to 60000 thoughts in a single day. And most of the thoughts are negative. There are a variety of biological, environmental and evolutionary reasons for why most of our thoughts are negative.
Every day we read the news – it is filled with doom-and-gloom stories on how the world we live in is screwed. On top of that, let’s face it – most people we come across in our lives are negative (in some cases toxic). It is hard not to be pulled down into this downward spiral of constant negativity. Soon enough we start feeling dejected, hopeless, depressed.
It’s imperative, that we constantly watch the thoughts that enter our mind and feed the mind with productive & positive thoughts.
A strong antidote to negative thinking is to constantly remind ourselves of the things that we are grateful for. Take a moment to reflect on the things that we can be grateful for.
“The traffic sucks”. Hey, but at least you have a car and a place of work to go to.
“I pay too much taxes”. That’s a far better situation than someone who finds herself downsized & suddenly unemployed.
Gratitude sometimes seems delusional to most people. Yet, this is one of those things that one does not experience the direct benefits unless he/she gives it a try.
I urge you to give it a try, and I guarantee you will feel an immediate surge in motivation. Next time, you start mumbling to yourself about how unhappy your current situation is – pause and reflect on the things you are grateful for. You will notice an instant change.
3) Rest & Relaxation
I know this sounds extremely counter-productive. We are looking for an answer to overcoming laziness. But here I am suggesting us to Take a Break.
Making sure we get optimal sleep is a preventative mechanism against laziness. Ensuring that we have an adequate 7 to 8 hours of sleep will help us to maintain our energy levels throughout the day.
Ever went to work the night after you only slept for 3 hours? How did that feel? Were you able to get anything done?
Many studies have shown the correlation between Sleep and Productivity. And the upside of adequate sleep to our overall wellness.
The other aspect of Rest is to ensure that we are taking adequate breaks/vacations – either on a weekly basis or an annual basis. We have all felt the immediate effects of taking a vacation, and how energized we feel about returning to work.
If you are constantly feeling demotivated and lazy – it is a good idea to take a moment to reflect. Maybe you are burnt out and over-worked.
4) Proper Nutrition
Recently my buddy suggested we go to an All-You-Can Korean Grillhouse here in Toronto. It was a Sunday and the price was cheap (all-you-can-eat for $13). Are you kidding me?
Anyway, we decided to splurge. I forgot how much meat I had eaten on that particular day, probably 5 pounds of meat (not exaggerating). Towards the end of the meal, I know I was in trouble. I could not even stand up. I was exhausted.
My Sunday afternoon was ruined after that. All I could do was sit on the couch and watch TV. I had my Homer Simpson moment.
Ensuring that we are supplying your body & mind with proper nutrition – has a direct bearing on our energy levels. I am not a nutrition expert – I encourage you to do your own research. However, consuming a clean, lean, green diet helps us to stay healthy and perform at optimal levels.
5) A Labor of Love
Ever since Steve Jobs delivered the famous Stanford Commencement speech – there is no shortage of literature that talks about the idea of passion. And how one must choose the work that he/she loves to do.
I am not suggesting that you pack your bags, sell your possessions and travel to an exotic location just because that is what you think you love to do (Steve Jobs never implied that in his speech).
We are talking about the type of job/vocation/career that motivates us to jump out of bed in the morning, and head to work enthusiastically. There is a combination of purpose, passion, enthusiasm, etc. here.
“Give a man the sort of work that harmonizes with his nature and the best there is in him will exert itself. One of the outstanding tragedies of the world is the fact that most people never engage in the work for which they are best fitted by nature” – The Law of Success In Sixteen Lessons, Napoleon Hill
If you choose a job that you love to do, an environment where you are completely in-sync – there will rarely be moments when you are not motivated.
6) Say “No” More Often
We have a natural tendency to say “Yes” to everything. Too often, we overestimate our capabilities & underestimate the time/effort it takes to complete a task. We find ourselves in situations where we have more tasks and limited time. And this becomes a strong detriment to our products; and affects the quality of our work.
In addition, there is also applies to the distractions that are part of our days
- Checking Your Facebook Feed every hour
- The Breaking News story
- Chatter/Gossip with our colleagues
- Unproductive meetings
- Information Overload
(To be honest, I have been guilty of all the above things). And before I know it – I am halfway through the day & have already depleted my energy reserves. Then I complain that I am feeling lazy.
“Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance” – Brian Tracy
Planning your day/week in advance ensures that you are focusing your energy only on the most important tasks. A simple to-do list or one of the many productivity applications can help us with this.
Science has confirmed this for us. A proper exercise regimen not only releases endorphins (the feel-good drug) but also drastically improves our energy levels. There is a direct correlation between exercising and productivity. Regular Exercise reduces our cortisol levels (stress-inducing hormones) and improves our mood.
A key benefit is that a regular exercise schedule builds our self-discipline muscle. And like anything the more we use the “self-discipline” muscle the stronger it becomes. And if we are self-disciplined in one area of our lives- there is a good chance that it might spill over to other areas as well.
8) Take Action
Sometimes, the best antidote to inaction is action.
Getting into a Flow State or a Peak Performance state is simple (but hard). And it takes tremendous discipline to do it. Just get to work.
Whatever you are currently procrastinating on – just freaking do it. You will exert tremendous willpower in the beginning, but as time progresses you will find yourself in a position where you don’t have to exert much pressure thereafter.
I had been procrastinating on writing this particular post for a while. I had the idea but not the willpower, plus it is the holidays. Yet, I forced myself to get my butt in the chair and to start writing. I had to face lots of mental resistance, but now I am writing without much effort.
A few years ago, I was selling copiers. And my job involved knocking on the doors of potential business customers. On a cold Winter day, it was always difficult. Every day – getting started was an insurmountable task. But when I pushed myself to knock on those first 3 doors (and had a few conversations) the days went by very well. After the first 3 sales calls, the rest of the day took care of itself. I just built on the momentum thereafter.
Sometimes the solutions are simple. And we know the answer most of the time. Sometimes it is common sense – but who follows common sense, right?
The best medicine for inaction is action!!
In summary, we have defined what Laziness is.
We have identified that Laziness is not inherent but caused by various factors. Laziness is not a definition of an individual but rather a situation.
We have also explored the various potential causes of Laziness. Some of them psychological, some physical and some environmental. In some instances, it could just be the situation that a particular task is not challenging/exciting.
Then we explored some ideas on how we can prevent laziness. Also some steps we can take to overcome laziness.
What else would you recommend adding to the list?
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