Feeling Lazy Today? This Is How You Break the Laziness Loop
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Last night, before I went to bed, I mapped out what I was going to do today. After my morning routine, I planned to crank out this article before 11 a.m., answer emails, grab lunch and prepare for my afternoon meetings. I was going to wrap up my day by writing another article.
That’s a productive day.
As 10 a.m. approached, I realized I wasn’t going to get this piece completed. Rather than type away ferociously, I dragged my feet. I tinkered with my fantasy baseball team, stared out the window, watched a TED Talk video, went for a walk and looked over my to-do list -- was there something else I should be working on?
Am I actually not the productive person I thought I was? Sure, some days are lazy. Other times, you just need a break to recharge and refocus. Neither is bad -- but you don’t want to get trapped in the dreaded laziness loop, where this become a habit.
Procrastination isn’t terrible.
First off, procrastination isn’t always a bad thing. There are actually some benefits to it; it gives you time to evaluate a situation so you can create better circumstances rather than rush and make an impulsive decision. Likewise, slowing down gives you the chance to listen to your intuition.
It also prevents you from caving to peer pressure, and it assists you in managing pointless deadlines. When you’re not actively working, you’re giving your brain the time to develop new ideas. Perhaps best of all, it helps you set priorities. After procrastinating on a task, you may realize it’s not really a priority and shouldn’t be on your to-do list.
This doesn’t mean you should camp out on the couch watching TV. Instead, when you feel like doing “nothing,” take the time to reflect. Go for a walk outside. Write in your journal. Meditate. These are ways you can be productive while procrastinating.
Related: 11 Ways to Beat Procrastination
Are you really lazy?
What happens if you’re still not “in the zone” after taking the time to reflect? You have to determine why you’re dragging your feet.
Procrastination "really has nothing to do with time management,” Joseph Ferrari, professor at DePaul University, told Psychological Science. “To tell the chronic procrastinator to just do it would be like saying to a clinically depressed person, cheer up.”
Instead, Ferrari believes there are two main reasons why even the most productive people procrastinate: (1) We're delaying taking action because we're not in the right mood or frame of mind to make a decision, and (2) we assume we'll be in the right mood later.
Here's the problem with that: It puts us in the “procrastination doom loop.” Instead of working, you check your emails, tweet, wash dishes or take a nap in the belief that you’ll be in the zone when you're done. Most of the time, these are excuses to just waste time. As a result, you feel guilty, becoming even less likely to tackle the task.
Again, take a step back and reflect; your procrastination could be telling you something. It could be something as simple as being hungry or needing a break. It could also be something more complex -- you aren’t satisfied with your work, have too large a workload or have something else on your mind.
By doing a little self-reflection, you can get to the bottom of why you’re procrastinating and take steps to rectify the problem. If you’re hungry, go eat. If you’re unsatisfied at work because it’s no longer "fun," you may want to look at delegating responsibilities to other teammates so you have more time to spend on the big picture.
Psychologist Leon F. Seltzer suggested in an article in Psychology Today that we ditch the word "lazy" from our vocabulary. Considering yourself “lazy” won’t resolve the problem when you’re lacking motivation or self-discipline.
“My experience, both as an individual and therapist, has led me to conclude that laziness as an explanation of human behavior is practically useless,” writes Seltzer. “Referring to -- or rather, disparaging, or even dismissing -- a person as lazy seems to me a glib and overly simplistic way of accounting for a person's apparent disinterest or inertia. And resorting to this term to categorize a person's inactivity suggests to me a laziness more on the part of the describer than the person described.”
Breaking the cycle of laziness.
Even after you’ve identified what’s causing you to procrastinate, you still may have some trouble getting back on track. When that happens, here’s how you can break out of the loop.
Follow the “two-minute rule.” Similar to a strategy used by David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, if something takes less than two minutes to complete, just do it. You can also manipulate yourself using time in a different way: Set a 10-minute alarm. Psychologist and procrastination expert Timothy A. Pychl suggests you make a deal with yourself to commit to something for just 10 minutes. Once you've started, it's more difficult to quit.
Make your chore or assignment as pleasant as possible. Experts like Fuschia Sirois of Bishop’s University recommend you find anything that makes the chore or task more enjoyable or meaningful. Try gamifying your task or tying the task to your values or long-term goals.
Make overwhelming takes more manageable. Oscar-winning Pixar director Pete Docter creates a list of the problems he’s putting off so he can batch them into smaller chunks. "Usually, soon into making the list, I find I can group most of the issues into two or three larger all-encompassing problems. So it's really not all that bad. Having a finite list of problems is much better than having an illogical feeling that everything is wrong," he told Pixar president Ed Catmull in "Creativity, Inc."
Changing your environment can also shake the cobwebs off. Get out of your office and go somewhere else to work, whether it's a co-working space or coffee shop. Research has found we’re motivated by being surrounded by productive people. You can also take a gym break -- achieving something in the gym can give you the motivation to achieve something away from it, too.
Don’t break the chain. This technique, popularized by Jerry Seinfeld, includes adding an 'X' on a wall calendar every time you've done something, from writing blog posts to issuing invoices. Eventually, there will be a chain you won’t want to break.
Finally, delegate. If there’s something better suited for someone else, delegate that responsibility to him or her. As Renzo Costarella writes, “Taking on a job that’s best fit for another colleague is not efficient.”
This isn’t an extensive list, but it’s a great place to start when you’re procrastinating and on the verge of falling into the laziness loop. While laziness in itself isn't bad -- and may just be your overwhelmed brain taking a break -- it can also ride your entrepreneurial efforts off the rails. Keep laziness in check so both you and your business succeed.