How to Stop Being Lazy: 12 Tips to Overcome Procrastination

written by Dan Silvestre
Procrastination, Productivity
how to stop being lazy

Are you wondering how to stop being lazy? People have been struggling with this for thousands of years. I can cure you forever.

The problem with laziness is simple — you don’t get things done. Everything takes too long, tasks build up.

Opportunities are missed.

You get stressed.

Feel hopeless.

You get even less done.

This, dear friend, is a horrible cycle that leads to failure.

It needs breaking.

I’m going to show you how.

What is Laziness (And What Isn’t)?

Laziness is habitually choosing to avoid tasks and effort. It’s failing to do the things you need to complete, for no good reason.

Laziness covers a range of issues. A lack of motivation, discipline, confidence, energy, or direction can bring about laziness.

It starts with putting things off, missing targets. Doing it once or twice isn’t a big deal. Suddenly, occasional procrastination has become a habit. You’ve become lazy.

Laziness must be prevented and stopped if you want to achieve your goals. First, we have to understand what is causing unproductive behavior.

Depression Is Not Laziness

Depression is not laziness. Neither is anxiety or sleep disorders. Medical conditions do affect behavior, but should not be treated the same as laziness.

Health issues make it hard to get things done. Cursing yourself and calling it laziness won’t help. These need to be diagnosed and treated by professionals.

You can’t schedule your way of depression. But good planning and healthy living can certainly help. Procrastination breeds anxiety, which is never good. Let’s look at what causes laziness, and how to stop it.

What Causes Laziness?

You have to understand what is causing you to avoid work. It’s different for everyone.

Aside from medical conditions, I put causes of laziness into a couple of separate categories: Physical and Psychological.

Physical Causes of Laziness

Poor health and low energy result in laziness. It is much harder to start tasks and sustain effort when you’re tired and weary.

Simply, if you treat your body badly, it won’t perform well. This includes your brain.

The main problems are:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Lack of exercise
  • Bad sleep/rest
  • Lack of mindfulness

I’ll give you some key strategies to deal with all of these. Look at your health as a whole. Each element matters, especially if you need to overcome unproductive habits.

Psychological Causes of Laziness

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room: Procrastination.

Procrastination is another term for avoiding tasks. Putting things off, despite having time to get them done. Sound familiar?

The avoidance easily spirals into consistent negative behaviors. This pretty quickly becomes a habit. A lazy habit.

Whether you’re pretending to work, or sitting around all day, opportunities are slipping.

The most common reasons for procrastination are:

  • Perfectionism
  • A disconnect between work and outcomes
  • Self-doubt
  • Lack of direction or starting point

Work you’ve done isn’t perfect, or you don’t even know where to start. You doubt yourself, your plan, and can’t see a link between today’s tasks and your ideal life.

The issue with this is, you then do nothing. You don’t even try. You choose inactivity over an attempt.

Strategies that overcome this make it easy to get started and build momentum.

Turning positive behaviors into a habit is the key to curing laziness.

Do You Wait Until the Last Minute? Parkinson’s Law Explains Why.

Humans tend to preserve energy. For thousands of years, it was in our advantage to save calories in case of a threat. Unfortunately, that’s no longer a good reason to watch Youtube all night.

Tasks with deadlines tend to take as long as the deadline allows. This is Parkinson’s Law.

Putting things off until the last minute is in our nature. Give yourself a week to reply to one email and watch it take up hours and hours of your time.

Whilst the obvious fix is to create shorter deadlines, there is another lesson here. Understand that it is in your DNA to put things off, and wait until the last minute. It’s not your fault, and it can be overcome.

12 Tips to Stop Being Lazy

Tips to Stop Being Lazy

An afternoon on the couch won’t lead to failure. Doing nothing every day will. This is about making better decisions more often — and getting work done.

The idea is to build positive habits over time until getting things done is easy.

Look at your whole life, and apply as many of these as possible. Double down on the ones that work best for you. Keep going until they are all in action.

How to Stop Being Lazy: 5 Organization Tips

The first few tips address your organization and approach to completing tasks.

#1 Set Goals and Look at Them

This is a great place to start. If you are going to stop being lazy, you have to define the things that need to get done.

Decide what you want to achieve in the next 6 months. Outline specific, measurable and actionable objectives. Figure out the tasks you can work on today to move you closer to the goals happening.

Write these goals down. Keep them beside your bed, or on your desk. You need to see them often. You need to know why the tasks are important — what they drive you toward.

Eventually, you will internalize your goals. The link between finishing tasks and reaching your goals will be clear. You’ll find it easier to get motivated and be productive.

#2 Reward Your Progress

Choosing to avoid work and do something fun is easy. You get a reward for this — short-term gratification.

It is important to associate work and effort with feeling good too. Give each task a reward, starting with small steps.

When you finish the first task on your list for each day, take a break and do something fun. Pick something that won’t distract you from getting back to work later. I like to take a coffee break outside for 10 minutes.

As you get better and finishing tasks, extend the amount of work needed to get the reward. Never break the connection between getting things done and the reward.

Keep your rewards positive and healthy. Chocolate may be the most powerful motivator known to man but creating a sugar crash for future-you might not help in the long run. I like to use walks or reading breaks.

#3 Use Interval Timers

If you are going to use rewards to break up work, it’s good to schedule this. Interval scheduling involves working for set time chunks, with fixed breaks in between.

The clock works as motivation, leading you to the next break. It also trains you to follow a schedule. Being productive when the clock says so is a powerful habit to master.

A common interval length is working for 30 minutes and having a 5-minute break. I add longer breaks for meals, exercise and rewarding successful days.

Shorter work intervals and longer breaks are easier to stick with and build momentum. As you improve, you can increase the amount of work time and shorten breaks.

I set a timer for my interval length and turn the phone face down. I don’t quit the timer app for any reason until the time’s up. This deals with reluctance to get started, and perfectionism.

You aren’t committing to work for a whole day. You’re just being productive for a few minutes, which is easy.

#4 Set Small, Easy Steps to Get Started

Trying to be perfect, or even just thinking about big tasks causes procrastination.

Set very small targets. In the beginning, just doing something is a big improvement on avoiding everything. Writing one sentence is better than nothing. Washing one plating is better than none.

You will find that taking the first step is often enough to get things moving. Overcoming the hurdle of starting is the biggest step.

Achieving a target, however small, feels good. It’s satisfying. It makes you want more. If you break up tasks on your to-do, each step is easier. You get to tick them off more often.

As you make progress, take bigger steps. You will train yourself to get more things done in each session.

#5 Track Positive Habits and Build Streaks

Humans like visual cues. We also like to maintain streaks. Use this to your advantage.

Jerry Seinfeld has a great technique. Set a small, achievable task, and mark every day on a calendar that this is completed.

In his case, it was to write one joke. Doing this lets you see the streak build, and makes you want to keep it alive.

Sitting down to finish one easy task is often enough to overcome the reluctance to get started. You will achieve way more than you set out to. As the days and weeks build-up, missing one day will seem unthinkable.

It doesn’t have to literally be a calendar you mark with a big red ‘X’. Keep a tally of successful days at your desk, or use a habit tracking app (set reminders in the beginning). Find a style that suits you and use it.

The point is to monitor the habit and reinforce completing tasks.

How to Stop Being Lazy: 4 Health Tips

exercise to stop being lazy

Ok, so we’ve got some systems in place to tackle procrastination. Now we need to look at preparing the body and mind to get started and keep at it.

The best way to sustain long-term productivity is to create healthy habits. Your mind works best when you take care of it, and feed it well. The next four tips do just that.

#6 Exercise for a Few Minutes

Active bodies have more energy. Exercise releases endorphins, which make you feel energetic and productive. This is great for overcoming laziness.

I also notice that doing a workout makes me more likely to finish work tasks. I take the momentum of ticking one box and keep the ball rolling all day. This is great for overcoming laziness and stopping it from coming back.

If you don’t do any exercise, then start small. Get 5 minutes of exercise every day, if that’s what it takes to start.

Do pushups in your living room. Take a walk outside. The point is to be active and break cycles of laziness.

Increase the length and intensity over time, focussing on consistency.

#7 Eat More Protein and Less Sugar

Sugar is terrible for concentration. It causes spikes and horrible lows in energy and mood. This is not good for getting work done.

Foods that are high in protein are great for sustaining long work sessions. This includes eggs, fish, almonds, chicken, oats, beans, and lentils. Eat more of these and less sugar. Avoid candy, ice cream, and soft drinks (I am sorry, but it’s important).

You definitely shouldn’t use sugar to fuel work. That’s a cycle you can’t keep up with. You will pay a huge energy cost at the end and a momentary buzz just isn’t worth it. Not to mention sleep problems, which we will get to below.

#8 Practice Mindfulness

Being productive requires a clear, effective mind. You can help your brain by practicing mindfulness. I’m not asking you to find a temple and be at one with the universe, but you should give time each day to clear your mind.

Use an app (like Headspace) or website and try guided meditation. I like instruction that focuses on releasing tension in all areas of the body. This is really great for processing the stress and busyness of one day, whilst preparing for the next.

Mindfulness is hard. Really hard. Give it a try, and stick at it. It always takes practice.

The benefits are genuinely huge when you master it.

A bonus tip: practice at night time. Restful sleep will come easier if you wind down, which increases the benefits.

#9 Schedule ‘Screens Off’ Every Night

We’ve all heard this before. That’s because it matters. Being productive is way easier if you sleep well. Your brain needs the rest.

The tip here is setting a time for turning off your screens. Mine is at 9 pm. Use a recurring reminder to stop looking at devices an hour before you go to bed.

Stop mindless scrolling, thinking about work, and getting anxious about the news.

This works on a few levels. Decreasing light and information exposure lets you wind down. This is when your brain needs to be releasing melatonin (the sleep hormone).

I also start an evening routine once the screens go off. I drink some tea, listen to relaxing music, prepare for the next day, and get ready for bed. As I mentioned above, this is a good time to meditate.

Sticking to the same routine locks in a sleep cycle. It builds a healthy habit.

Sleeping well is obviously going to make it easier to leap out of bed and tackle tomorrow. With some discipline, you will see fast improvement.

How to Stop Being Lazy: 3 Simples Hacks

Some of the strategies I have given require pretty large changes to daily life. I have also found a few things you can use today, to overcome laziness immediately.

#10 Dress Well to Break Bad Habits and Work Better

This is a psychological trick. Dress to impress yourself, like you mean business. Putting on nice clothes will make you feel confident, and empowered. It convinces yourself that you are intelligent, and you will be productive.

This shift in mindset isn’t going to solve all of your problems. It will establish a mindset of being prepared and serious. You can break the cycle often enough to establish good habits.

#11 Change Your Environment

A great way to break negative habits is to change things you can control. Change is as good as a holiday, right?

Get out of your house or office and find a new place to work.

Our brains like new stimulation. We respond well to a fresh perspective. You can use this to create new, positive behaviors. I like working in cafes, so if I am having problems getting things done, I pack a bag and spend the day going from cafe to cafe.

This lets me leave behind all of the anxiety and distractions I collect in my office. I always get lots done and enjoy the change.

Another option is to move furniture around. Freshen up your space, consider it preparation to get things done, and get stuck in.

#12 Make a Game Out of It

People hate losing. They like winning.

Find someone who also has things to do. Create a game or competition out of completing tasks.

Try to keep it friendly. Focus on positive metrics like completing tasks, not who has done something better.

Use small wagers if any and remember the point of the game — defeating your own task avoidance. Schedule a catch-up or check-in time after a week or two, and compare notes. Share your strategies and results. Encourage each other to keep improving.

You will benefit from your competitive spirit. This also makes you accountable for your own tasks.

Laziness can only be stopped through your action, and it helps to be reminded of this.

The Key to Overcoming Laziness: Consistency

I’ve said it a few times already, but I can’t let you go without being very clear.

You will stop being lazy through consistent positive behaviors. You need good habits.

Eventually, it will be easy. You will be habitually productive. But the habits must be built. Your body and work systems must be maintained.

Start small, work up. Rest, and eat well. Apply the strategies and go easy on yourself.

Simple as that.

Good luck, my friend.

Field Notes

How to stop being lazy? Create positive, productive habits. Treat your body well and take small steps in the right direction.

  1. Set goals and look at them often. This motivates you and creates a link between the work today and the ideal life you are working toward.
  2. Reward your progress. Make sure finishing tasks is fun and satisfying. Use breaks and activities you enjoy.
  3. Use interval timers. Start with small work blocks and long breaks. Build discipline over time and avoid distractions during work time.
  4. Set small, easy steps to get started. Prevent and overcome procrastination by setting very manageable goals for the day. Doing anything is better than nothing.
  5. Track positive habits and build streaks. Pick an easy and important task to do every day. Mark a calendar every day you complete the task. Maintain the streak and you will find your productivity improves a lot.
  6. Exercise for a few minutes. Even just a little exercise every day improves your energy and mental clarity. Do whatever activity you like, and start out small. Build up over time.
  7. Eat more protein and less sugar. Protein-rich foods are great for concentration and sustained energy. Sugar is terrible and should be avoided.
  8. Practice mindfulness. Get in the habit of clearing your mind, and relaxing. Use guided meditation recordings in the beginning.
  9. Schedule ‘screens off’ every night. Pick a time and turn all of your screens off when it comes. Establish an evening routine to improve sleep cycles and get the rest you need.
  10. Dress well. Nice clothes will make you feel confident. This can be enough to break bad habits and give you a chance to create better ones.
  11. Change your environment. Get out of the house or office to work somewhere new. Our brains benefit from change.
  12. Make a game out of it. Find a friend who has work to do and create a competition out of getting things done. Not wanting to lose will help you both get things done.

Tags:: procrastination

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