The desire to be idle and to do nothing can be overpowering at times. Especially when you’ve been working hard for several hours straight, or even for several days. It’s necessary to make time for rest and to have the occasional lazy day. However, it’s almost too easy to fall into a pattern of being consistently lazy and eventually feeling unmotivated in life.
If this happens too often and you struggle to get back to work, keep reading for 3 ways to overcome laziness and start being productive.
1. Determine if you really are ‘lazy’
Before you can overcome laziness, you need to determine whether or not you’re truly lazy. Laziness is defined as: “the quality of being unwilling to work or use energy”. Personally, I believe that laziness is more of a generalised label that we use to explain certain behaviour. It’s almost like a symptom. So, in order to overcome laziness, you need to understand the underlying causes of your behaviour.
For instance, rather than just being lazy, it’s possible that you’re really feeling:
We live in such a fast-paced world, that you can push and push to keep up with deadlines and expectations, but be left feeling exhausted. With a tired body and mind, it’s difficult not to crash and to lack energy and motivation. In these situations, it’s not lazy for you to take some time off and rest. In reality, it would be unhealthy for you not to take this time.
All of these deadlines and expectations mean that responsibilities and tasks pile up on you, which can be extremely overwhelming. You’re only human, and the stress of taking on too much at once can also leave you demotivated and not knowing where to start. Just because you aren’t working on any tasks right this second doesn’t mean that you’re lazy.
Maybe you’re looking for a new job, or you’ve taken on a new type of project that you’ve never done before. It’s natural to be scared and to put it off because you’re afraid of being disappointed with the results. But again, this fear doesn’t necessarily make you lazy.
2. Focus on the actual problem
Only once you’ve identified the true problem will you be able to address it and overcome ‘laziness’.
If you’re feeling tired:
If you’re feeling tired, then make sure you schedule some time for relaxing. Constantly pushing yourself is an unhealthy and unsustainable way to live, as eventually your mind and body won’t be able to handle it.
Even if your schedule doesn’t currently allow for it, you may need to make some sacrifices to find the time. It can be difficult to do this if you feel that everything on your to-do list is important but be careful not to lose perspective. Are these obligations really more important than your well-being?
If you’re feeling overwhelmed:
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, then you need to find a way to prioritise and break down your tasks. It’s easy to think that all tasks are equally important and need to be done at the same time, but in reality, this is rarely the case.
Tasks can seem unachievable if they’re too large or difficult, which often causes this overwhelming feeling. To overcome this, break down such tasks into smaller, more realistic sub-tasks. Once you’ve done this, try using a technique such as the Eisenhower Matrix to prioritise your new and improved to-do list. This method is especially useful as it pushes you to determine the importance of tasks with one simple question – does this task help you to achieve your personal or professional goals? If the answer is yes, then this task is important. If no, then it’s not considered to be important.
Depending on the due date of the task, you can then determine its urgency. Based on the urgency and importance of your tasks, you’ll be able to easily arrange them into the four quadrants: Do first, Do later, Delegate and Eliminate (or, let eisedo auto-prioritise them for you). This way, you won’t be feeling lost and overwhelmed, but instead will know exactly which tasks need to be done and when to do them.
If you’re feeling afraid:
If you’re feeling afraid, then what exactly are you afraid of? Are you afraid of reaching your goals? Or fulfilling your potential? Fear can be irrational at times, especially with regards to your own future and success.
As Richard Yates once said: “if you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes backbone to lead the life you want”. So sure, if you don’t try and don’t apply to any jobs, then you won’t be able to get rejected. But if you want to achieve a successful life and career, then you need to push yourself to try and overcome ‘laziness’.
Now, this doesn’t mean that the first job you apply to will be successful, but it’s a step in the right direction. The more you put yourself out there and try new things, the more you will grow as a person and the better you’ll become at those activities.
3. Get in the right frame of mind
We’ve looked at some underlying causes of ‘laziness’, but what if we can’t identify any? How can we overcome laziness on those days that we simply don’t want to do anything or go anywhere, for no apparent reason?
These feelings of laziness are most likely related to how we’re feeling about ourselves or life at that particular moment. So, here are a few easy mood-boosters to try:
Clean up your home/office:
Although the activity of cleaning may not be the most exciting one, the results are sure to boost your mood. After a long day at work, the last thing you want to come home to is a messy, cluttered house. Coming home to such an environment can be upsetting. You may feel too uncomfortable to relax, but also too tired to do anything about it.
Studies have found that women who described their homes as ‘cluttered’ were actually more depressed, fatigued and stressed than those who felt that their homes were ‘restful’ and ‘restorative’. So why not make the time to clean up a little each day, and see if coming home or going to sleep in a clean, tidy house makes you feel any better. This is also the case for your workspace, try taking a productive 5-minute break to clean up your environment and see how you feel.
Listen to (the right) music:
For centuries now, researchers have been exploring the possible mood-boosting benefits of music. There has also been a rise in music therapy, which has been used to help people with mood disorders. According to Dr. Ferguson: “music activates areas of the brain known to be associated with other experiences that are pleasurable”.
On the one hand, listening to happy, upbeat music has been found to improve moods and to boost happiness. But these benefits aren’t just limited to a happier mood. This happiness has been linked to better physical health, higher income, and greater relationship satisfaction.
On the other hand, there is conflicting research about listening to sad songs. Some argue that it can positively impact your mood as it acts as a substitute for a loss. Sad songs have been compared an empathetic friend, who truly understands what you’re going through. But on the other hand, many studies show that listening to sad music can actually make you feel even more upset. For instance, we associate certain songs with sad memories, or even the lyrics of new songs can be a remind us of pain.
So, listening to the appropriate music (happy or sad!) can help you to boost your mood and to feel less stuck.
Surround yourself with productive people:
“People inspire you or they drain you – pick them wisely”
– Hans F. Hansen
Have you ever heard this quote before? I couldn’t agree with it more. Although we’re ultimately responsible for the decisions that we make, the influence of others is undeniable.
For example, let’s say that you have a big group project due. If you’re surrounded by classmates or colleagues that couldn’t care less, then it’s far too easy to adopt their opinion and to also stop caring. You can’t blame them for the failure of the task, as they did not force you to stop caring and contributing. You made that choice. However, the social pressure and lack of concern/motivation surrounding you can make it difficult to go against the status quo.
On the other hand, imagine that it’s you who doesn’t care about the project. If you have a highly driven and motivated team, then it’s likely that you’ll feel encouraged to step up and pull your weight. So, in which situation are you more likely to be successful? The one when you’re surrounded by people who care or those who don’t?
It can be challenging to overcome laziness, but it’s more achievable once you identify the true causes of this feeling. Once you understand why you’ve lost your motivation, you’ll be able to take the necessary actions to get back on track.