We all have days during which we wish we could stop being so lazy, stop wasting 30 hours a day doing nothing, or doing everything but the actual important stuff.
I used to be a really, I mean really, lazy person. I have wasted YEARS because of laziness. You could say that my own laziness is what made me fail at school, University, sports, and other areas of life.
But now, have I quit being lazy? Yes and no. I mean, I still enjoy the feeling of not doing much and simply relaxing. What actually changed is that now I don’t let my laziness control my days like before.
In this article, I am going to show you the best strategies that have helped me go from being a sloth to being able to work on my most important tasks and still have the time and, most importantly, the willpower to practice new skills or work on personal projects.
Why Are You Lazy?
Many people think that they are naturally lazy, that they have always been like that, but they’re wrong.
Most people are NOT naturally lazy. There’s always a specific reason behind one’s laziness, and you need to find yours.
The following are the most “popular” causes of laziness:
- You don’t plan your days effectively
- You are tired
- You are overwhelmed by the things you have to do
- You are too distracted
- You are unclear about what you should be doing
- You are always waiting for the right moment
- You are too much of a perfectionist
There are probably others, but these are the most common ones.
Have you identified the cause of YOUR laziness? Good. Keep reading, and you’ll find something that works for you.
Let’s start with the first strategy.
1. Actually DECIDE That You Want to Stop Being Lazy
You must recognize that you are in charge of yourself. You have control, so you decide whether you want to stop being lazy or not.
If you make a conscious decision, you will find ways to support your goal.
If you don’t, you will keep wasting your time and justifying your behavior by using the most common excuse of all time: “I know that I should _____, but _____.”
2. Make an Effective PLAN
Decision-making is hard. No matter how small a decision is, it nonetheless requires energy, and the more decisions we make, the more tiring decision-making becomes.
Following a good plan is one of the best strategies to avoid procrastination, since all you have to do is already written down and you just have to do it.
To-do lists are great for planning your day, and they can really make the difference. That is, if they’re made correctly. Many people think that to-do lists don’t work, but that’s actually because they don’t know how to write their lists effectively.
I have written a guide on the topic (The Essential Guide to Writing a To-Do List That ACTUALLY Works), so you might want to check it out.
Anyway, these are the top 3 tips I can give you for creating an effective to-do list or plan in general:
- Identify your most important tasks (recommended tool: The Matrix), and work on them before everything else.
- Expect the unexpected. Plan what you will do in case of unexpected things.
- Faithfully follow your plan. Try not to get off course. Trust your own plan.
3. Just START
You are in control, right? So just decide to start whatever it is that you have to work on.
Don’t wait for the right moment, because it (probably) won’t come.
The only reliable way to find the right moment for doing something, is to just start doing it.
The simple act of simply starting is so important because, if used correctly, it takes advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect.
The Zeigarnik Effect is basically the explanation to why you always want to watch one more episode of your favourite TV show.
Once you have started wasting time, it’s easy to waste even more of it. For the same reason, once you start working or studying, it’s easier to get in the rhythm and keep going.
It’s just that simple, so don’t overthink it. Just look at your to-do list and start working on whatever task you have written on it.
The only reliable way to create the right moment for doing something is to just start doing it.
4. Take More BREAKS
We are humans, not machines.
We can’t possibly work for hours and hours without feeling exhausted both physically and mentally. I mean, even machines need to take a break and cool their engines, so…
We need short breaks to recharge our energy and concentration levels. Otherwise, we will only become more tired, which in turn makes us even lazier. To stop that from happening, you should make sure to alternate focused, undistracted work time with quick breaks to relax your body and your brain.
The Pomodoro Technique (25 minutes of work + 5-minute break) does exactly that, and it’s a good place to start.
But remember: a break must be a real break. Use these pauses to really relax yourself. Don’t engage in any new activity that might require some mental effort, and don’t do distracting things such as scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, checking your email, and watching TV or YouTube videos. There’s a thing called Zeigarnik Effect, remember? 😉
5. Set Your Own REWARDS
Everyone is reward-driven. There’s no doubt about that.
When we know that we’re going to get a reward for doing something, we feel more motivated and more willing to work.
Without a reward, most of us would prefer spending all day watching paint dry, which can be oddly satisfying, especially for people who are Super Procrastinators (it’s not a compliment!).
If you know how habits work, you probably know how important rewards are for building new habits, and how these rewards can generate a strong craving.
Cravings excite us and motivate us to start working on a certain task, all in order to get a specific reward.
So take a look at your goals, and set rewards accordingly (based on the size of the goal).
Now, rewarding yourself for completing a goal is certainly important, but giving yourself a tiny prize for simply working toward a goal is equally essential, because motivation needs to be fueled constantly.
For example, this is what I do:
- When I complete a project I’ve been working on for some time, I celebrate by going bowling or watching a movie at the cinema.
- Every evening or late afternoon, when I take a look at how I spent my time and see that I have worked on my most important goals for a certain amount of hours (which I decided beforehand), I reward myself with an episode or two of a TV series I like.
- If I haven’t been productive during the day, and if it is my fault (meaning, I wasted time on my own, and not because something unexpected came up), I don’t get any reward.
Of course, this is what works for me, and it might not work for you. Perhaps you don’t like bowling or watching movies. That’s why it’s important that you choose what works for you.
But you should definitely keep the third point in mind: only reward yourself if you have at least worked on your most important tasks. Don’t cheat. Rewards need to be earned, otherwise there’s no point in setting them. You don’t want your brain to think “Why bother working hard when I can get a reward anyway?”.
6. Be KIND to Yourself
Don’t beat yourself up for being lazy. It doesn’t work, and it only makes you even less motivated.
If you want to stop being lazy, you need to understand that negative self-talk won’t get you anywhere.
Just think about it for a moment.
Are other people happy and motivated when you scold them for their mistakes? I don’t think so.
Are YOU happy when other people make you feel bad for being lazy?
Probably not. Then why would you be so harsh on yourself? You know it will only make you feel worse, right?
Stop getting angry for being a sloth. Instead, acknowledge that it takes some time and effort to successfully stop being lazy, and keep trying until you succeed.
Be your own motivator. There’s already plenty of naysayers out there, you don’t need to be one.
7. Take SMALL STEPS, One at a Time
It’s so easy to be overwhelmed by all the things we have to do, that becoming lazy is almost inevitable.
But the problem is not just how many tasks there are, but also how difficult and how big these are.
Big and difficult tasks are daunting, require a ton of willpower, and can reduce your motivation from 100 to 0 in the blink of an eye.
The solution is to break big goals into smaller ones, and then break these small tasks into tiny ones.
Make every step so small that you won’t be able NOT to take it. This way, you will be able to get started much more easily, and you will therefore take advantage of the Zeigarnik Effect.
You can’t stop being lazy and become super productive right away just because you want to, you have to get out of laziness gradually, one (small) step at a time. That’s why the best way to do that is to make every task ridiculously easy to start. It’s all about creating momentum.
8. Follow a HEALTHY Lifestyle
If you constantly feel tired and don’t want to do anything, chances are, you are neglecting the “Good Health Trio”: sleep, exercise, and diet.
Productivity, focus, discipline, goals, success, etc. All these things are useless and don’t mean that much if we don’t take care of our health.
We should all:
- Do regular exercise: at least 3-4 times a week
- Get adequate sleep: at least 7 to 9 hours every night.
- Follow a healthy diet: at least 3 healthy meals every day.
It’s such a shame that so many people say that they “don’t have time” for this, when what they really think is “it’s not a priority for me”. If they paid more attention to the Good Health Trio, they would get so many benefits:
- Increased energy levels
- Higher levels of focus and concentration
- Better performance both physically and mentally
- Improved mood
- Increased memory and learning capability
- And more.
Now, creating a healthy lifestyle is not easy, but remember what you just read in the previous point? Take small steps.
Don’t try running for 2 hours right away. Start with just 5 minutes.
Don’t change your sleep schedule drastically. Start by waking up only 10 minutes earlier than usual.
Don’t change your diet completely from Day 1, do it gradually. (Here’s a good article to help you with that.)
9. Make DISTRACTIONS (Almost) Inaccessible
“Out of sight, out of mind.”
If you find that you can’t stop being lazy, you might have the bad habit of getting distracted too much.
As you might already know, one of the best ways to break a bad habit is to put the “game” on hard mode.
Take smartphones, for example. To stop getting distracted so much by your phone, the best way is to put it directly in another room. Another great strategy that works both on desktop and mobile is to use specific software and apps that allow you to block access to certain web pages, social platforms, and apps for a set period of time.
Always make your bad habits more difficult to execute.
PRO TIP: Schedule Distractions
I find this to be the absolute best way to deal with distractions: schedule “distraction time”.
This means that you will make sure to have, on a daily basis, a specific—but not too long—slot of time exclusively dedicated to activities that normally would be too distracting, such as scrolling social media, checking email inbox, watching YouTube videos, or playing games.
“What if a distraction comes up unexpectedly while I’m working on something? How do I get rid of it?”
In this case, the strategy is the same: schedule. If said distraction is not that urgent or important, write it down and postpone it until your distraction time, or at least until the end of your current session, in case it’s something that can’t wait for too long.
If, however, a specific distraction is actually urgent and important, you should stop what you’re doing and start working on this new activity, of course!
Just remember to always make sure you understand the real urgency and importance of every unplanned activity.
If you don’t deal with distractions like this, but instead let them distract you easily, the Zeigarnik Effect will destroy your focus and productivity. (Oh boy, this Zeigarnik Effect is seriously everywhere!)
10. No ZERO-Days
Never spend a whole day doing everything except what you should actually have been working on. NEVER.
Every day, make absolutely sure to work on your most important tasks for more than 0 minutes. Even as little as 30 minutes will do. Just don’t waste an entire day without even touching your most important goals.
Why is this so important? The answer is momentum.
When you waste an entire day, you generate a bad momentum that makes it easy to waste another one, then another one, and so on. But if you work for at least 30 minutes (even better, 1 hour) on your most important tasks, every single day, you will develop a positive rhythm that will allow you to do more and more, and finally stop being lazy.
How to avoid these “zero-days”? You already know the answer: just start, and take small steps.
11. Cut Down Your Perfectionism
Many lazy people are lazy because they are perfectionists. They always plan carefully and want everything done extremely well, so if something can’t be done perfectly, they prefer not doing it at all. They can’t even stand doing “only” 80% of what they initially planned.
You might be thinking, “Aren’t lazy people those who DON’T do things well exactly because they are too lazy?”, and you’re not wrong. It’s definitely common to think of a lazy person as someone who never feels like doing anything and usually does things in a half-assed way.
But, as we’ve seen at the beginning, there are many causes for laziness.
So, even though it seems like perfectionists are the ones who are more willing to work, they are actually more likely than others to procrastinate exactly because they want everything to be perfect.
If you are a perfectionist, you need to stop. Get rid of the all-or-nothing mindset, or you will keep being lazy and procrastinating everything.
Understand that doing 80, 50, heck, even 20% of what you had initially planned is still better than 0%, and that being able to follow your plan and complete everything smoothly is never a given.
The goal is, again, to avoid the Zero-days we’ve talked about in the previous point, and to just start.
12. Refresh Your Memory, and Take a Look to the Future
Sometimes, to stop being lazy and find the motivation to pursue our goals, we need to ask ourselves some questions.
“What are my top goals?”
“Why do I really want to achieve these goals?”
“What will happen if I keep being like this?”
“Which bad consequences will there be if I keep wasting time and never take action?”
These thought-provoking questions are important because they make you remember the root motivations behind your goals, and they motivate you to take action by also making you think about the undesirable future that you will get if you don’t do something about it.
Sometimes we are lazy because we have forgotten our direction, so it’s important to refresh our memory about our top priorities once in a while.
You CAN Stop Being Lazy
Laziness is not something that you either have or don’t have.
There’s always a reason for your laziness, and there’s always a way to overcome it.
You might not need all the 11 strategies in this article to stop being lazy, but I actually recommend incorporating all these ideas into your life, since they are good habits in general, and not just for fighting laziness.
But don’t do it all at once. Just pick one at a time, one that you think will work well for you right now, and focus on it for a few days or a week or two.
Be patient and, little by little, you will definitely stop being lazy.
Ok, maybe you won’t stop completely, because, let’s be honest, we will always enjoy lazing around at least a little every once in a while. 😉
BUT, you will certainly prevent laziness from ruining your days. That’s for sure.
[BONUS: Hey there! This article was about fighting laziness, but ended up containing many good habits for life in general. If you want to know which other good habits you should develop, fill the form below and download the free PDF containing the 14 best daily habits that will definitely improve your life A LOT (+ how to develop them).]