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So you’ve set all these incredible goals for yourself in your aesthetic online planner and visualized them happening but can’t bring yourself to actually start working. If you often prioritize leisure over productivity, you came to the right place!
In this post, we’ll look into some popular causes of laziness and procrastination, and learn how to be productive when you feel lazy and unmotivated.
There are plenty of things you can be doing that don’t bring you closer to your goals. They keep you in the same place for years or even take you farther and farther away from everything you want.
Realizing that you are wasting precious time of your life on activities that keep you away from your dreams is the key to becoming a productive person!
If you are reading this, you surely want to spend your time more effectively than you do now. Let’s see how you can do this without pushing yourself too hard!
Is it OK to have a lazy day?
In modern society, it’s very common, and even encouraged, to put too much pressure on yourself.
In the book called Laziness Does Not Exist, Dr. Devon Price explains the need to accept “doing enough” instead of always aiming to “do more”. The idea is that you are not defined by your productivity levels, and embracing it lifts a big chunk of self-imposed stress off your shoulders.
Too much hard work and high expectations may lead to burnout very soon if you don’t allow yourself to rest every once in a while. If you feel like you need a day off from thinking about your business, your studies, or whatever keeps you busy, take it and don’t feel guilty!
Make arrangements the day before to make sure nothing collapses while you don’t work. In most cases, it won’t but you need this step so you don’t spend your free day worrying instead of resting.
And don’t choose a day before a deadline to be your lazy day! Push yourself a little bit if necessary but cut yourself some slack later when you don’t have strict timelines.
Make sure you do stuff you enjoy doing on your lazy day. Binge-watching Netflix may be something you like too, but it can easily swallow the whole day and not be worth it in the end. Go for a walk with a good friend, read an interesting book, watch a cool movie, eat something special, take a nice bath… Whatever makes you feel good, do it to make this day about you!
Is procrastination a sign of laziness?
Although it can be for some people, in most cases it’s not.
A naturally lazy person is unwilling to put in any effort and doesn’t see the need to accomplish anything. Procrastination, on the other hand, is an active process of delaying the task, usually driven by an underlying feeling of anxiety, fear, perfectionism, or lacking self-confidence.
If you care enough to read this post, you are not a lazy person. Think about it like this: do you really want to sit and do nothing, or are you happy to do anything but that one thing? This is basically what differentiates a lazy person from a procrastinator.
Why is being lazy so much easier than being productive?
An interesting study by researchers at the University of British Columbia shows that it takes significantly more brain power to move away from lazy activities.
This is explained by our natural behavioral patterns that come from the early stages of humankind when conserving energy was essential for surviving.
You clearly need less physical energy for chilling on a couch than for doing a workout, and it’s much less effort for your brain to watch TV than to actively work on some difficult task.
This is why a sedentary lifestyle with easy leisure activities feels much easier than being active and productive in any way!
Thankfully, we are intelligent species and can make decisions for ourselves instead of just relying on our ancient brain patterns!
Now, let’s see what you can actually do to make it easier for yourself to be productive at those times when laziness takes over.
How to be productive when you feel lazy: 7 steps
1. Motivate yourself with success stories
Instead of watching another episode of some fun TV show, choose something inspiring that will spark your motivation!
I like to start my day with a motivational Ted Talk or a success story video from one of my favorite YouTubers.
When I see other people achieving things that I want for myself, it drives my motivation through the roof! Sometimes I literally pause the video and go straight into the working phase as I don’t want to delay myself from getting that same success any longer!
If other people’s success makes you resentfully envious instead of motivated, here are some things you can do to alter this behavior. Also, consider talking to a professional therapist as the cause of this may be hidden deeper than you think.
Besides watching and reading success stories and relying on someone else to motivate you, build a habit of self-motivation as well! Make a list of your favorite productivity affirmations, add a few affirmations to beat procrastination, and repeat them daily with intention.
Whatever way you know can lift up your mood when feeling lazy and unmotivated, use it! Even if it just means turning on some energizing music.
Most importantly: don’t let this step become your new way of procrastination!
Receive your single dose of positive vibes and proceed to the next steps right away!
2. Find someone to hold you accountable
Accountability is a powerful concept that can significantly boost your productivity and make you get to work even when you don’t want to!
When you’re being observed or regularly asked about progress, the stakes feel higher, pushing you to actually complete tasks and meet deadlines. While personal connections can be powerful, you can also rely on technology and proven methods to keep you accountable.
Start by identifying a reliable accountability partner. This could be a friend, mentor, or even an accountability group. You can use my accountability partner checklist that outlines the key points you should look at when choosing an accountability buddy.
If you want to really push yourself and focus 100% on your goal with no excuses, apps like GoalsWon can take your productivity to the next level.
The app pairs you with a professional accountability coach who checks in on you every day, tracks your progress, celebrates your successes with you, provides constructive feedback, and motivates you along the way.
If you can afford it even for a couple of months, GoalsWon is genuinely the best thing you could invest in to achieve goals faster. And the subscription doesn’t cost nearly as much as some of the one-to-one coaching services you can find online!
Sometimes, though, you may not need direct interaction but just the presence of another person working alongside you to get into the groove. This is where body doubling websites come into play. These platforms allow you to virtually co-work with someone else.
They are backed by scientific studies related to ADHD that found that a mere presence of another person, even digitally, can be a powerful motivator to stay focused and productive.
By integrating these tools and techniques, you create a robust accountability system that virtually eliminates room for laziness. Having someone keeping tabs on you can be exactly what you need to get stuff done!
3. Eliminate all time wasters
When you feel lazy, you reach for easy pleasures that don’t even require you to get out of bed. This includes movies, video games, TV shows, social media, and other obvious and not-so-obvious time-wasters.
Sometimes they mask under ‘being useful’ and ‘educational’ categories in your brain so you don’t even realize you procrastinated until it’s too late and half of your day is gone.
You absolutely don’t need to read all 20 best books on procrastination or watch 20 videos called ‘how to stop procrastinating’ on Youtube unless you are doing thorough research for work (and maybe even then). Read/watch one or two, take notes, and try to go and implement the main ideas right away!
In any case, the least you can do is set up some restrictions for yourself.
For example, my Youtube app notifies me when I watch videos for too long.
There are also numerous apps and browser extensions that offer multiple useful features to stop sites like Facebook, Netflix, Youtube, Reddit, and others from keeping your attention. Whether it’s blocking chosen sites for your working time window or hiding social media feeds, they do an incredible job!
How many times have you opened the Facebook app to see something specific just to realize half an hour of scrolling later that you still didn’t do whatever you came for? Happens to the best of us.
I also have an extension for my mailbox that has a Do Not Disturb mode. I can’t recommend it enough for focused work without distractions!
Eventually, when you hide all the entertainment options from your eyesight, you’ll feel the urge to do something very soon. I don’t know anyone who would rather sit still for hours in a quiet room than do anything useful!
When all the natural needs (like sleep and food) are satisfied and you have nothing to do, you might as well start working on your project.
Lastly, while site blockers definitely help get you started, you can follow my pro tips to minimize cell phone distractions even further when you are working. There is nothing better than being productive and happy with your achievements at the end of the day!
4. Visualize the perks of getting things done
The art of visualization has been discussed a ton in books and blogs over the years.
The idea here is to imagine yourself successfully finishing the project. What perks does it bring you? Why is it important? What will you gain when you make it to the end? Let yourself dream a little!
You may even want to write it down and review it when you feel unmotivated again!
Creating a bright vision of success and achievement triggers the reward centers in your brain. This makes you feel happier and gives you enough motivation to start doing something so you can get that vision into reality.
If the project is a chore or needs to be done but isn’t gonna give you any noticeable perks, maybe promise yourself a small prize for finishing it!
Sometimes we have to do things that we’d rather not do. That’s where procrastination, which is basically delaying the process of effective work, comes into the picture.
By having a defined reward waiting for you at the end and visualizing it, you can beat laziness and go straight into getting it!
5. Don’t get busy instead of productive
We all get creative when we don’t want to do something.
How often do you find yourself decluttering your mailbox or cleaning your desk and calling it “working”? And then looking back at those 6 hours of “work” and hardly seeing anything important done?
Even though these are good and sometimes necessary things to do, they probably aren’t part of your main important task for the day.
Remember: Procrastination doesn’t always mean being a lazy couch potato!
Quite often it means that you stuff your schedule tight with minutiae tasks that are kinda related but don’t matter much for achieving your goals.
You must recognize this pattern ASAP and make the time to cross the important things off your list first. Only then will you see the real progress and will be able to count your day as productive!
6. Break down large projects into measurable chunks
The huge pile of work that needs to be done to reach the final project goal can often make you feel overwhelmed. And you can’t expect to be effective with your time when you are overwhelmed!
Most likely you’ll either make yourself busy with unimportant tasks (as I mentioned in step 4) or give up completely and get back to being lazy again by playing games or watching TV.
The more you overwhelm yourself on a daily basis, the closer you get to burnout. And this is definitely not what we want, right?
It often happens that you can see a dream come true endpoint but you have no idea where to start. So you don’t start at all.
This is why you need to sit down and think about how you can break down your big scary task.
Write down a few things that need to be done as parts of a bigger task, and break each one down again! Up to the point where you have some small doable tasks that you can even do right now. These ones shouldn’t look scary anymore! If they do, break them down again.
Make sure each task is measurable and has a timeline so you have at least some discipline with deadlines and can’t surrender to laziness forever!
7. Start with a small task
When you are procrastinating for too long, starting doing something useful seems like the hardest thing in the world! The more you are slacking, the more willpower it takes to get to work.
I mean, it’s only gonna get harder later, so you might as well start working right now!
Choose the easiest doable task from the list you created in the previous step and just start. Set a 10-minute timer and don’t do anything else but that task. 5 minutes, if 10 feels like too much at the moment.
More often than not, you’ll get into a state of flow where there is minimum resistance. Continue working is much, much easier than starting! That’s why I recommend choosing the simplest task to be the first one.
Even if 10 minutes are the only ones you spend working, it’s still better than nothing. But chances are good that you won’t stop there. Just don’t think about it right now. Set your timer, start small, but start now!
What are the main causes of laziness and procrastination?
Laziness and procrastination can hold you back from doing your best work every day. But you wasted enough time already – now is the moment to break free and take control of your life!
It’s time to stop making excuses and start taking action toward your dreams. While there are at least 18 reasons why people procrastinate, it’s important to recognize that you have the power to overcome all of these obstacles.
With a little motivation and determination, you can break free from the cycle of inaction and achieve your goals. Let’s look at the six main reasons you feel lazy and unmotivated and how you can avoid procrastinating as much.
1. Unlimited distractions
These days we have numerous social networks, the whole success of which relies heavily on keeping our undivided attention. They are great at understanding what you like and are happy to keep showing you related stuff as long as you don’t leave the app.
Surely, it’s hard to be productive and focus on work when your phone beeps every second with some “news.” If you look at studies, there are lots of shocking effects of distractions on your productivity and brain power.
Make an effort to set up a distraction-free workspace for yourself that lets you put all your attention toward your project.
2. Lack of self-belief
Another very common cause of procrastination is lacking self-confidence. This may come from low self-esteem, having a tough inner critic, unhealthy comparison to others’ success, or even perfectionism.
You’d rather not do anything at all than do it badly? That’s actually a great mindset (I’m like that too!) as long as you stay on the ‘doing things right’ side and not the ‘do nothing’ side.
When constant worrying about not being “good enough” stops you from progressing, you need to work on your mental health first!
Incorporate a growth mindset and use positive self-talk to relieve anxiety when you struggle the most. Consider online therapy to find and solve any hidden issues that may stop you from success!
3. No defined plan
Seeing this huge scary task that seems like a mountain of work in front of you may be overwhelming. When you see a final point on the horizon and no clear path to get there, choosing to be lazy and not move anywhere is understandable. You’d rather do anything else than climb that giant mountain, right?
To plan properly for success, you need effective planning tools. You can start with one of the best online planning apps or get a good productivity planner if you prefer paper.
To avoid confusion regarding the first steps you need to define a plan for yourself. Find a clear way to get to the final point and break it down into small manageable tasks. When you have it all crystal clear in front of you, you can just look at the first step and not worry about the other tasks until you finish this one.
One step feels like nothing compared to a long staircase into the unknown! It’s suddenly not scary anymore and that little first task looks doable, so why not go and do it now?
If it doesn’t feel doable, break it down again and again until it does! If you aren’t familiar with Atomic Habits bestseller, it includes a so-called 2-minute rule. It’s in the context of creating new habits but can be applied to any task you may have. The idea is to define a habit as something that can be done in less than two minutes.
So let’s say you want to create a habit of daily workouts. Instead of wording it like that, define it as ‘put on yoga pants and get on a mat’. This is basically the same thing but this simple trick makes you feel less intimidated and produces much less resistance in your brain.
Or let’s say you need to write a book. Your first task shouldn’t be “write the first chapter”. Break it down so you have “open the document and write the first sentence”. Often that’s all you need to get into a state of flow and you’ll probably end up with a full chapter anyway. But even if not, you will at least write something as opposed to looking at a big scary task and doing nothing!
Also, crossing things off your to-do list is another way to trigger reward centers in your brain that produce “happy” hormones and make you feel good. Don’t you get the feeling of accomplishment every time you check another task as “done”? Why not create more of those smaller tasks then? It definitely won’t hurt!
4. Unorganized workspace
If you really want to be productive and not lazy, you have to organize your workplace the right way. This includes both your physical working environment and your digital one.
Have you ever heard the saying “a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind”? The messier room you have, the more distractions it creates for your brain when you are trying to focus on work. Every item is a potential threat to your concentration which altogether leads to you being unproductive at work.
Every time you spend too long to find a thing you need in a clutter (whether it’s on a desk or on your computer), you are losing the flow state and potentially have to start over again. And as we already know, starting is the hardest part of any project! Keep everything handy, have a clear structure, and your productivity levels will grow exponentially!
5. Failure or absence of success
When you have been doing something for a long time and don’t see any results, it can be demotivating. Especially when you see all those examples of people who succeed in doing the same and it seems so easy for them!
But what’s important here is that they probably failed a lot, started over and over again, and put tons of work and dedication into it before getting to that point of success.
If you haven’t heard about the Iceberg Theory, here is a great video by the Productivity Guy channel that explains it well.
The thing is, and all the really successful people in the world know this, that you can only succeed if you don’t give up. Failure is a natural process for growing and getting better every time you get back up, so you shouldn’t let it break you and stop you from working any further.
Don’t be afraid of failure! It can happen, but it will teach you to do better next time.
6. Wrong place to work
Not everyone has a separate room for a home office, but if you work from home often it’s better to organize some special area that you’ll treat like your “office”. Don’t sleep there, don’t play games, watch TV, or do anything “lazy”!
Working in bed is significantly harder for your brain as it has strong neural connections between this place and the sleeping process. You may start feeling sleepy soon even when you are well-rested just because that’s what your brain thinks you came in your bed for.
On the other hand, working in bed can mess up your sleeping as you start to send mixed signals to your brain. So next time you come to sleep, your brain may think that it’s time to work and not shut down for a while… Sounds familiar?
I suggest you jump to Pinterest for some cool ideas on how to organize a home office in a small space if that’s your case. People get crazy creative with this task and you’ll definitely find something that works for your home!
If working at home is always a struggle for you, consider going out with your laptop to get some work done. For many people, it’s easier to work from a cafe or some coworking space nearby, especially if they have children at home.
Sometimes it may be just too loud for you to work, whether at home or at a cafe. I love to use noise-canceling headphones and free services like Noisli to generate background noise that helps me focus. My favorite “noises” are rain, ocean, and train!
Final thoughts on being productive when you feel lazy
I hope this was helpful and now you have a few ideas that will help you overcome laziness and get to work! Follow these seven steps to beat procrastination and become a productive person!