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How To Stop Being Lazy: A Guide To Overcoming Your Laziness

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Increase your personal value and become more productive by learning how to stop being lazy.

So many people want to stop being lazy and take action. They want to get healthier, improve their finances, and achieve their life goals but can’t seem to find the motivation to do so.

Chronic laziness is a bane of humanity. It impedes our long-term happiness by preventing us from getting the things you want.

Unfortunately, traditional remedies for laziness have basically consisted of already-motivated individuals like Gary Vaynerchuk screaming at you to “get off your bum” and start working, an approach that hardly ever works. You need to assume full responsibility.

Yes, developing productive habits to stop being lazy is difficult, but it’s not impossible for anyone determined to be better.

In this comprehensive guide on how to stop being lazy, I explore the nature and causes of laziness and share the habits and techniques that have helped me overcome it so that you can do the same.

What Is Laziness?

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Just because you appear to be lazy doesn’t mean you are actually lazy.

Also known as indolence, idleness, and sloth, laziness is defined as the unwillingness and failure to do what you are supposed to do despite having the ability to do it.

Laziness is often used as a pejorative and is commonly associated with terms like “couch potato”, “slacker”, and “bludger.” Some would go as far as to call it a vice.

Laziness is habit and not a mental disorder, so it would be a mistake to attribute it to people who suffer from mental disorders (depression, anxiety, etc.) that impair their ability to work and be active.

Also don’t confuse laziness with procrastination or idleness. Although the three are interconnected and involve a lack of motivation, there are distinct differences.

Laziness vs Procrastination

To procrastinate means to delay or postpone a task in favor of other tasks that are usually easier or more pleasurable but are typically less important.

Postponing a task for constructive or strategic purposes is not procrastination. Postponement only amounts to procrastination when it stems from poor, ineffective planning and results in a higher overall cost to yourself (e.g. stress, guilt, financial loss, or loss of productivity).

As an example, it’s one thing to delay filing a tax return until you have all the numbers, but quite another to put it off and get fined because you considered the task daunting.

Basically, unlike a lazy person, a procrastinator aspires and intends to complete the task and usually does, but at a higher cost to himself.

Laziness vs Idleness

Idless is defined as a state of inaction. That is, to not doing anything.

Being idle could mean you are lazy, but it could also be due to not having anything to do, or choosing to rest or recuperate after completing a task.

Idleness doesn’t have the same negative connotation as laziness. On the contrary, it often romanticized as a virtue.

Idleness is a central theme of mindfulness in meditation, as well as the minimalist lifestyle. It connotes peace, calmness and harmony.

Indeed, research shows that Idleness — that is, unfocusing the mind from our frazzling daily lives and letting it wander — can promote creativity, health, and overall happiness.

Humans Are Naturally Lazy

Humans are hardwired to be lazy. According to scientific findings, our survival as a species has been predicated on the “survival of the laziest” rather than by Charles Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest.”

The pursuit of instant rewards and gratification, especially as they relate to food and sex, has been the driving force for our evolution.

Back when there were no guns, modern medicine, or grocery stores, our ancestors needed to conserve energy to compete for scarce resources and fight or flee enemies and predators. Expending energy on anything other than short-term advantages could literally mean death.

Not only did they not have the luxury to be lazy, but they also had less need to think long term. Actions were geared towards immediate gratification.

The industrial revolution changed all of that. With our survival easily ensured by advances in technology, we now have a lot more free time to do as we please

Unfortunately, being hard-wired to focus on instant gratification makes us reluctant to pursue strategic activities that are likely to lead to the best socio-economic outcomes but are not instantly rewarding.

Intelligence and perspective can override this instinct, but most people seem to lack both. Fortunately for you, your desire to learn how to stop being lazy is an indication that you’re one of the lucky few to be blessed with perspective.

What Are The Main Causes Of Laziness?

Stressed Depressed Man

Uncovering the root cause of your laziness will allow you to more effectively overcome it.

If humans are inherently lazy, then why are some people lazier than others? More importantly, why do you think you are lazy?

A key part of learning how to stop being lazy is uncovering the root cause(s) behind your laziness. Studies of motivation suggest there are least 10 main causes of laziness.

As you read through the list of causes, take note of the ones that are most relevant to your situation, and work from there.

1. Lack Of Personal Agency, Self-Efficacy.

Personal agency refers to the feeling of being in control of your actions and their consequences (the ability to originate and direct actions for given purposes), while self-efficacy is the conviction that if you put you mind to something, you will be effective with it.

See: 8 Ways To Develop Your Personal Agency For A Better Life

Both self-agency and sense of efficacy require adequate self-confidence. Without it, you may not feel capable of doing the thing you want and end up not attempting it.

2. Lack Of Purpose

Psychologists believe that many people are lazy not because they are intrinsically lazy, but because they haven’t found what they want to do.

A lack of purpose can make you feel directionless, as if you are just drifting through life. With no end point in mind (goal, vision, etc.), you expend all your energy on instant gratification at the expense of long-term fulfillment.

If you’re like most people, you probably suffered greatly from a lack of direction at some point in your life. In my case, I frittered away until my early 30s, when I was finally able to develop a vision of the life I want to live.

3. Thinking It’s Not Worth It

You might not commit to an activity if you’re not convinced that it will be useful, valuable, or satisfying.

Without the belief or guarantee that a particular act or enterprise will somehow improve your quality of life, it’s hard, if not impossible, to muster up the drive to carry it out.

Remember, humans are hard-wired to conserve energy and seek instant gratification.

4. Lack Of Interest

Even if you believe a certain activity will improve your quality of life, you might not apply yourself if it’s boring or tedious.

All of us have had a job that we couldn’t be bothered with. For instance, having your boss tell you to draw circles on a piece of paper all day isn’t going to get you excited and might even make you question the meaning of life.

5. Lack Of Recognition

People often undertake an activity with some expectation of a reward, be it material or emotional.

When our efforts don’t get us the positive feedback we desire, we are less likely to apply the same amount of effort later on.

6. Fear of Failure And Rejection

Fear is a common cause of laziness. If you fear the consequences of failing at something, you will be less inclined to take action.

Some people use laziness to sabotage themselves because they fear success, while others use it to avoid certain situations that evoke undesirable experiences and preconceived ill results.

7. Lack Of Self-Discipline

You can talk all you want about change, but without self-discipline, nothing is going to happen.

Self-discipline is the ability to pursue what you think is right despite inconveniences, hardships, obstacles, and temptations. It is strongly linked with self-agency, self-efficacy, and self-confidence.

So no matter how interested you are in something, how worthwhile it might be, or how fearless you are, a lack of discipline will keep you in a lazy stupor.

8. Excessive Perfectionism

It seems counterintuitive, but perfectionism can make you lazy. Why? The fear of not being able to perform up to your ridiculously high standards can lead to inaction.

It’s one thing to pursue excellence and have pride in all you do, it’s another thing to set standards that are so high that they either cannot be met, or result in great difficulty and suffering.

Perfectionism can make you feel frustrated, anxious, angry and even depressed. When perfection becomes the goal, it becomes the enemy of progress.

9. Having Low Energy

Low energy levels is the main cause of laziness for most people. No one feels like doing anything when they are hungry, tired, and/or stressed.

Low energy is often the result of an unhealthy lifestyle. Insufficient sleep, a poor diet, not drinking enough water, not getting enough exercise, and poor stress management can all make you lazier and less inclined to get things done.

10. Poor Concentration

Like most people, distraction is a problem for me, not necessarily because I have a short attention span, but because I’m drowning in a world full of distractions.

Information moves faster and more conspicuously than ever before, while entertainment, marketing, and social media have never been so in-your-face.

They relentlessly beg for our attention and focus, diverting our energy away from activities that actually matter.

11. Attitude Of Pessimism, Cynicism

The challenges and unfairness of life can make us bitter, disillusioned and disenchanted with the world, so much so that we view our efforts as benefiting only others rather than ourselves and, therefore, pointless.

Sometimes, we can become so jaded that we actively object to doing the things we know are good for us and can be done with little difficulty.

How To Stop Being Lazy: 10 Things You Can Do Now

Meditation increases self agency

Making small tweaks to your mindset and daily routine will allow you to overcoming laziness.

We all want to know how to stop being lazy and get more done. Knowing the main causes of laziness is a good start, but it’s only when you adopt the appropriate corrective measures that the real work begins.

Here are ten things you can do right now to curb your laziness and become more productive.

1. Find Out If You’re Really Lazy

Are you really lazy? Seriously, instead of asking “why am I lazy,” first find out if your “affliction” fits the definition of laziness.

Remember, laziness is defined as not wanting and failing to do something you’re supposed to do despite being capable of doing it (emphasis on “capable”).

Mental health issues such as depression, social anxiety, ADHD, and sleep disorders can result in avolition, a medical condition characterized by a total lack of motivation to initiate and perform self-directed purposeful activities.

Although avolition might appear like laziness, don’t confuse the two. With one, you have the capability; with the other, you are incapcitated.

If you are actually lazy, keep reading to find out how to stop being lazy. If you think you might be suffering from a mental illness, your first priority should be to seek professional help.

It’s not uncommon to hear stories of people who thought they were lazy experience major life improvements after discovering that they were actually depressed and undergoing treatment.

2. Find The Root Cause

Assuming you are the textbook definition of lazy, you need to find the root cause of your laziness.

Are you always too tired to want to do anything? Do you have problems concentrating?

Perhaps you don’t have enough self-discipline, feel overwhelmed, are too afraid to fail, or you just have zero interest?

We provided a list of the main causes of laziness in the previous section. If you haven’t already, go through it and determine the ones that apply to you.

These are discrete problems with separate solutions, so finding out the particular root cause(s) of your laziness can help you to more effectively make the changes needed to become more energetic and productive.

The next eight tips can deliver great results no matter the cause of your laziness.

3. Remember Your Reason

Life can throw us things we just can’t get passionate about no matter how hard we try, but even the tasks we love can sometimes become dreary and mundane.

When this happens, remind yourself why you started doing it in the first place. Surely, you had a compelling reason at some point, otherwise you wouldn’t be bothering with it.

Try to look on the bright side. Instead of focusing on the parts of the work that suck, remember the good points and what you will gain from completing it.

By turning negatives into positives, you develop a more positive outlook about anything you do, dreary or not.

4. Get Organized

A cluttered environment creates a cluttered mind. It can lead to laziness by interrupting your flow, both with regards to your ability to move and your ability to think.

Many studies on stress, life satisfaction, and physical and mental health have attested to the numerous benefits of decluttering. It promotes healthier eating, improved mental health, and more efficient visual processing and thinking.

You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by making your home, car, office, bags, and bedroom are well-organized.

5. Break Up Your Time

People work more efficiently and are, therefore, less lazy when they have ample rest time.

A study by Draugiem Group found that employees who worked in short, focused bursts were far more focused and productive than those who worked for long stretches.

What’s the ideal work rhythm? According to Draugiem Group’s researchers, it is 52 minutes of work time followed by a 17-minute break. However, some people find that 25-minute work blocks with a 5-minute break (the Pomodoro technique) works better.

As you probably already know, not all breaks are created equal. To get the best results, you must completely disengage from whatever you are doing and walk away.

In fact, taking a short walk is one of the most effective ways to take a break. Don’t like walking? Reading for pleasure and chatting with other people are also good ways to recharge.

Just refrain from watching YouTube videos, OK? It will only make you lazier.

6. Work More Efficiently

The expression “Work smarter, not harder” should be a mantra for anyone who wants to stop being lazy. Afterall, people are more likely to put off something they perceive as challenging.

Working smarter doesn’t mean taking shortcuts that undermine your long term success. It means using your creativity and imagination to formulate solutions that best address the task at hand in the most efficient way possible.

To boost your motivation, find ways to work smarter instead of harder. Doing so will make you feel more engaged and motivated than if you were operating from rote memory.

6. Work More Efficiently

The expression “Work smarter, not harder” should be a mantra for anyone who wants to stop being lazy. Afterall, people are more likely to put off something they perceive as challenging.

Working smarter doesn’t mean taking shortcuts that undermine your long term success. It means using your creativity and imagination to formulate solutions that best address the task at hand in the most efficient way possible.

To boost your motivation, find ways to work smarter instead of harder. Doing so will make you feel more engaged and motivated than if you were operating from rote memory.

7. Exercise Regularly

Not only can exercise improve your physique and cardiovascular health, but it can also improve your mental health.

Indeed, research suggests that low or moderate intensity exercise can boost your overall mood, help you sleep better, and relieve stress, making you more energetic, alert and focused.

Instead of chatting with friends, how about doing some pushups and squats during your breaks?

You don’t even have to be a couch potato to benefit from regular exercise. It’ll do wonders for you in every area of your life.

8. Ask For Help, Get A Partner

No matter how much pride you take in your ability to work alone, we all need a little push sometimes!

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it, especially from a more motivated friend, colleague, or family member.

Having support — that is, someone to motivate you and hold you accountable — can be all it takes to get you moving.

You may even be returning the favor by motivating them to work harder. A little friendly competition never hurt anyone!

9. Change Your Clothes, Dress Up

This tip may seem unorthodox, but it works. Research shows that the clothes you wear actually change the way you act and perform.

Not only do your clothes and presentation communicate volumes about you as a person, but they also impact your thinking and behaviour. You adopt the characteristics associated with the clothes you wear.

If you can’t find the energy to stop fooling around on Facebook and get your butt to the gym, consider putting on your gym clothes.

If you need to start writing a proposal for work and need to concentrate, consider changing into more professional attire.

10. Force Yourself

Sometimes, a job or task is so uninteresting that no good advice and wishes in the world can make it more appealing. In those situations, you have to realize what’s at stake, get off your butt, and take action.

You shouldn’t have to force yourself to leave the house everyday (this is a warning sign of depression and other mental illnesses that you definitely shouldn’t ignore), but every once in a while, we need to force ourselves to do certain things we don’t want to.

It could be grinding to put food on the table for your family, conquering your fear of talking to girls, or following a diet or eating plan to lose weight — while such activities may not be fun at the time, you will look back one day and take pride in what you were able to do.

How To Stop Being Lazy: Conclusion

Man Transmuting Sexual Energy Into Power

If I can beat laziness, so can you. Now is the time to stop being lazy by taking action.

No one wants to be lazy, but laziness is a natural part of the human experience. It is in our genes.

Laziness becomes a problem when it consumes our lives and renders us impotent. Sometimes we just need a kick in the butt to get up and moving, but oftentimes, there is a deeper and darker cause that we don’t want to acknowledge.

A key part of learning how to stop being lazy is developing a solid understanding of what constitutes laziness and what the primary causes are. Once you have that down pat, you need to find the causes that speak most clearly to you.

Shining a light on the causes of your laziness will give you the power to fight back, allowing you to more effectively take steps to overcome it.

I’ve beaten laziness by practicing what I preach, and so have many other people from all walks of life. There is no magic bullet, but making small tweaks to your mindset and daily routine will eventually lead to a breakthrough.

If I can beat laziness, so can you. Now is the time to take charge of your life. No excuses, and no ifs, ands, or buts.

Kwame Owusu (K.O.) is an MBA and the founder of Too Manly. As a seeker of manly truths, healthy living enthusiast, and practitioner of the TooManly lifestyle, he is committed to helping men everywhere look, feel and live the prime of their life at any age.