Most of us are lazy, at least some of the time. It’s only natural.
Being lazy just means you want to expend as little effort as possible—and who in their right mind would want to spend extra time or energy where it’s not warranted?
Of course, being lazy is also problematic. If you’re feeling lazy and unmotivated, you won’t take proactive action on achieving your goals, and you may struggle in both your personal and professional life.
Fortunately, several strategies can help you defeat this darker side of your mind.
If you want to stop being lazy, it’s going to take a concentrated effort on your part. But don’t worry—once a few of these tactics kick in, you’ll find it much easier to sustain your momentum.
1. Learn to Accept Your Own Laziness
For the most part, this article is designed to help you fight back against laziness as if it’s a dastardly villain intentionally trying to sabotage your success. However, this can be counterproductive. If you hate the idea of being lazy, chances are you’ll end up resenting yourself.
This leads to a cycle of negative self-talk, which is scientifically demonstrated to have a negative effect on mood, increasing stress.((Mayo Clinic: Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress)) Low mood and high stress lead to even lower productivity, which leads to low self-esteem, and the cycle continues.
The way to break out of this is to learn to accept your own laziness. It’s okay to feel lazy. It’s natural to feel lazy. You can work to address your laziness without feeling bad or guilty about it.
2. Understand Your Source of Laziness or Lack of Motivation
Next, take the time to understand the roots of your laziness and/or lack of motivation. This is one of the most challenging steps to take but also one of the most important.
If you can figure out what’s making you feel lazy and unmotivated, you can find a way to prevent or mitigate the effect.
For example, do you always feel unmotivated at a certain time of day? Do feelings of laziness creep in when you don’t have work that challenges you?
Stress is a common source of a lack of motivation. Fifty-seven percent of high-stress employees feel unproductive, compared to 10 percent of low-stress employees.((EmailAnalytics: 51 Productivity Statistics to Improve Your Team’s Performance))
Pay attention to your environment, the time of day, the people around you, and the type of work you’re doing. Chances are, there’s a pattern.
3. Break Your Personal Cycles
In many cases, laziness is a byproduct of habit, either directly or indirectly—and this is especially true if you find yourself feeling lazy around the same time of day or in the same circumstances.
Accordingly, you can reduce your feelings of laziness by simply breaking your habits and cycles. This is especially important if you work from home or if you’re stuck in the same office every day.
Consider working in a new environment, giving yourself different working hours, or even dressing differently. Any major change can have a positive effect on you.
4. Set More Reasonable Goals
Sometimes, people are lazy because the goals they’ve set for themselves are too intimidating.
For example, let’s say it’s a hot day and you’ve set a goal to run outside for 10 miles. That’s a tall order even for an accomplished runner. So naturally, you’ll procrastinate and dread beginning the exercise.
But what if you reduced your goal to a 2-mile run? It would be much easier to summon the motivation to go, and 2 miles is certainly better than 0 miles.
Use SMART goal criteria to set appropriate goals for yourself, and don’t be afraid to lower the intensity of your goals if you’re feeling unmotivated.
5. Accomplish Something Small
Feeling accomplished is a tremendous motivator. If you can accomplish something and feel good about it, that positive energy will continue onto your next endeavor—even if it’s something you dread doing.
You can optimize your workload or even your day for this. Choose a small, easily accomplishable task at the beginning of your day to begin your momentum. One of my favorite productivity tips is if something takes less than 2 minutes, do it right now.
The 5-second rule is similar.((Calendar: How the 5 Second Rule Can Help You Combat Laziness)) If you have an impulse to do something productive, you have 5 seconds to act on that impulse. Take advantage of those fleeting feelings of productivity and don’t hesitate to act on them!
If you find yourself stuck in the middle of the day, find something to do that will make you feel good—even if it means deviating from your usual plan.
6. Use the Pomodoro Technique to Quarantine Your Laziness.
The Pomodoro Technique is a well-known time management strategy meant to help people remain productive. The main idea is to break your work down into focused work and small breaks; the original idea was to work for 25 minutes, then break for 3 to 5 minutes, and take a longer break after 4 cycles.
However, you can use whichever timing methods work best for you. Use this method to effectively “quarantine” your laziness. Allow yourself to be perfectly lazy during the short breaks, then be ready to resume focus when the timer ends.
7. Recognize and Shut Down Your Escape Routes
Most forms of laziness are contingent upon an “escape route.” It’s easy to be lazy if you’re tempted by the endless scrolling content of your favorite social media platform or if you only have one more episode in a season of your favorite TV show.
Learn to recognize these escape routes, and do what you can to shut them down.
For example, can you turn off notifications on your mobile device? Can you work in a different room than the TV? Can you temporarily disable internet access?
8. Make the Most of Your Laziness
It’s perfectly fine, and even good, to be lazy sometimes. When you decide to be lazy and decompress from work, make the most of it.
For example, you can take a few vacation days if you find yourself completely unmotivated to work, and during those days, you can absolve yourself of all responsibilities. Breaks and vacations are shown to have a net positive effect on productivity and wellbeing.
For example, frequent travelers tend to have a 68.4 score on the Gallup-Heathway Well-Being Index, a measure of health and wellness, while infrequent travelers only score a 51.4.((AllinaHealth: Importance of taking vacation))
9. Minimize Your Sense of Perfectionism
Perfectionism is an enemy of productivity, and it has the power to make you feel less motivated and lazier. More than that, scientific studies have shown that perfectionism is bad for your health. People with high perfectionism scores have a 51 percent increased risk of death.((Live Science: The Dark Side of Perfectionism Revealed))
Fight back by reducing your compulsion toward perfectionism. Understand and accept that all work is flawed and so are you, and that’s completely okay.
10. Set a Reward for Yourself
Most of us find ourselves much more motivated when there’s a reward at the end of a daunting journey. The next time you find yourself feeling lazy or unmotivated in the face of a tough task, plan to give yourself a reward.
For example, you can treat yourself to a snack, splurge on a new product, or just take an extended break.
11. Get a Partner
It’s way easier to be motivated when you have someone by your side. Not only will they help you tackle the project directly, but they’ll also be a source of positive energy—and possibly, some inspirational words.
Depending on what you’re trying to do, finding a partner may be difficult. If you can’t find someone to help you do the work directly, consider calling a friend or family member to talk through your issue and provide support.
Sometimes, the kind words of someone you care about are enough to motivate you to take action.
12. Surround Yourself With Motivated People
Attitudes and energy tend to be contagious. If you’re surrounded by lazy people who frequently complain and generally have a pessimistic outlook, it’s going to be impossible not to share the same negative feelings.
Conversely, if you’re surrounded by peppy, optimistic, highly motivated people, you’ll feel more motivated yourself. Seek these people out however you can by selectively hiring them, engaging with them in a group, or even passively consuming the content they create.
13. Set Awareness Alarms
If you’re like most people, you at least occasionally find yourself in a lazy rut, not because of a conscious decision but because of an unconscious default.
For example, you might check Twitter impulsively, scrolling past 100 tweets before even realizing the phone is in your hand, or you might simply stare off into space.
You can combat this by setting “awareness alarms.” These alarms go off at periodic intervals, at times of your choosing, but preferably erratic. When they go off, take a moment to think about what you’re doing.
Is this productive? What should you be doing instead?
14. Gamify Your Most Tedious Tasks
More than 50 percent of organizations managing innovation processes are gamifying at least some of their work.((Tampere University: Does Gamification Work? — A Literature Review of Empirical Studies on Gamification)) With some caveats, gamification is shown to make people more motivated and engaged.
Generally, people like games, so turning your most tedious tasks into a game can make you feel much more motivated to accomplish them.
For example, doing the dishes isn’t fun, but what if you create a scoring system that rewards you for cleaning them as quickly as possible? What if you invent unique challenges for yourself while tackling a tedious assignment?
15. Channel Your Laziness Into Something Productive
Believe it or not, being lazy can actually help you be more productive.
How? By encouraging you to find low-effort solutions that still solve your problems.
Remember, productivity isn’t about how much effort you expend, but about how much you can get done. Laziness could encourage you to develop an algorithm or buy an app that automates a task that takes too much of your time. Ultimately, this allows you to achieve more in less time while demanding less effort.
The same is true for hiring additional staff or delegating tasks to people who can handle them more efficiently.
“I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because he will find an easy way to do it.” — Bill Gates
It’s completely reasonable to feel lazy some or even most of the time. And even the most productive among us are challenged by our inner laziness.
However, your laziness and lack of motivation do not have to hold you back from getting the results or achieving the goals you want. Find a strategy or combination of strategies that work for you, and stick to them.
More Tips to Overcome Laziness
7 Ways To Stop Being Lazy And Start Getting Things Done
11 Tips for Nuking Laziness Without Becoming a Workaholic
6 Quick Ways To Get Motivated When You Feel Lazy