How To Avoid Laziness
Have you ever met one of those people that just can't seem to slow down no matter what they're doing? The aunt who comes for a visit and tidies up your kitchen while she chats, or the co-worker who takes on more projects than everyone else and also runs 3 miles on her lunch break? If those people were superheroes, their super powers would be avoiding laziness. They buzz in circles around everyone else like there's a bunch of bees in their pants, multi-tasking like a boss while putting the rest of us to shame.
Since you're reading this article, you probably wish that you could be more like those people-energized, full of purpose and life, highly motivated, and practical. Well, what if I told you that you can be one of those ultra-productive people, even if right now you're the epitome of laziness? All it takes is a little help from psychology and the simple desire to want to change, but the first step to overcoming any challenge is to understand it.
Laziness is a Science
First, let's clear the air about the word laziness and remove its negative connotation. Laziness is what kept our human ancestors alive, and it's a key concept in chemical reactions, laws of physics, and basically everything else. It's coined under different terms, but they all mean the same thing-that every natural process will follow the easiest path possible.
There are laws about laziness
Hallelujah! There IS a scientific explanation for why it's so hard to keep your house clean and organized-just look in any high school chemistry or physics book. The laws of thermodynamics prove that the function of the entire universe is based on laziness. A favorite of mine is the law of entropy, a measure of disorder which states that in any given system (for example, my house), the system will head towards the maximum amount of disorder possible unless energy (work) is introduced to the system. This means that constant energy needs to be poured into maintaining organization, which is an unnatural occurrence. Even science is predictably lazy!
Without laziness, our ancestors would have died
Evolution has worked its way into our brains telling our bodies to rest as much as possible, so that when we're not hunting or running from predators, we're saving up extra energy. Someone who exercised just for fun thousands of years ago or who spent their time tidying up their cave instead of focusing on food, safety, and rest would have been wiped out of the gene pool rather quickly. This primal instinct we call 'laziness' is just a by-product of survival. In fact, a recent study proved that our bodies are inherently 'lazy' when they tried to alter the walking gaits of test subjects with robotic leg braces. The humans corrected their gaits every time to be more energy efficient, leading the researchers to conclude: "Here we have provided a physiological basis for this laziness by demonstrating that even within a well-rehearsed movement like walking, the nervous system subconsciously monitors energy use and continuously re-optimizes movement patterns in a constant quest to move as cheaply as possible."(Source) Science has proven that our bodies nickel and dime for every ounce of energy. It's not our fault that we're lazy, it's evolution's fault!
Being lazy is normal
Now, you see, everything and everybody is inherently lazy in the name of conserving energy. Laziness is nothing to feel bad about and it doesn't mean you're weak, so stop letting others tell you differently. Your body is doing exactly what it evolved to do, it's just no longer necessary. Overcoming laziness is just a matter of adapting your habits for modern society now that we have no physiological need for energy conservation for survival.
As you already learned, creating order from something that is naturally disordered takes energy. Our bodies will always want to naturally revert back to energy preservation mode, AKA laziness. To avoid laziness, we essentially need to hack our own brains by using tools such as habits, goals, and self-regulation to get ourselves at the level of productivity and motivation needed to hold down a job and function in everyday life.
Laziness Brain Hack #1: Habits
Have you ever gotten into your car and driven somewhere, only to get to your destination and find that you barely remember the drive? It's because you were practicing a habit and you didn't have to think about what you were doing. In the book The Power of Habit (which I highly recommend), Charles Dugan reports that “most of the choices we make each day may feel like the products of well-considered decision making, but they're not. They're habits.” In fact, more than 40% of our daily actions are habits according to a published study in a psychological journal
What do habits have to do with overcoming laziness?
In the case of overcoming laziness, you can use habits to your advantage by breaking bad habits and re-forming them slowly into good habits that help you stay organized, focused, and motivated. This takes the daily mental struggle away in the long term. Creating healthy new habits that result in productivity will pay off in the long run. Teaching yourself to go to the gym every day from 7-8PM or packing your lunch the night before work will no longer be a hard decision. Since your brain will begin working on auto-pilot when practicing these habits, you will no longer have to make the conscious, exhausting decisions to be productive. Ironically, your brain will be resting more once you form a habit and it no longer has to make so many decisions daily.
Real life example
I've started getting into the habit of prepping healthy snacks, lunches, and dinners on Sundays to keep our weekday spending down and to increase our healthy food intake. At first I dreaded Sundays, knowing that I had a ton of work ahead of me, but the process has gotten easier every week as I remember what works well, what I did last time, and what didn't turn out. It's not such a dreaded task anymore because I've started developing good habits, which have helped to streamline my process and overcome my laziness about preparing food. Defeat your own cooking laziness and follow my boards on Pinterest for some great meal prep ideas.
Studies have shown that it can take a person anywhere from 18 to over 200 days to solidify a new habit. (Source) So, while making a new habit to combat laziness, such as going to the gym daily, working a side hustle to earn more money, or preparing healthy meals in advance, you will need to use some other tools, like self-regulation and goal setting to give yourself an incentive to keep going and overcome being lazy for good!
Laziness Brain Hack #2: Self-regulation
Self-regulation requires policing yourself and blocking negative influences from your life that indulge your laziness, interfere with your well being, and negate the good habits you wish to create. Self-regulation can be difficult to practice because it requires significant self control, but it can be very effective. Examples would be cutting cable or getting rid of an addictive video game. Those products feed laziness and allow us to procrastinate instead of focusing on more pressing aspects of life.
Real life example
My husband and I have deleted addictive games and news apps from our phones that we were wasting entirely too much time on. We have also blocked certain 'click bait' news websites from our computers because we were getting too distracted by interesting headlines and wasting hours of our time every day reading things that ultimately don't matter. It's not like we don't ever read news or play games anymore; we only got rid of the worst offenders. It has, however,decreased our levels of laziness and increased our motivation and time spent on more important projects.
Laziness Brain Hack #3: Goal Setting
Most motivation and self-improvement programs out there are based on setting goals, which are very powerful tools to elicit results. Just the simple act of writing a goal down has been shown to increase the chances of successfully achieving that goal by 20-30% (Source)
What does goal setting have to do with overcoming laziness?
Goal setting is the spark to get you moving and motivated again. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with laziness, my favorite thing to do to avoid working just yet is to make a list of short term goals to help me get moving. Maybe it's just a touch of OCD talking, but there's something so therapeutic and motivating about writing a list of goals and then checking them off, one-by-one. I'm not talking about a soul-searching, 'where do I see myself in 5 years' kind of goal list, I'm talking about a simple 'to-do' list with very simple goals, because when you're feeling lazy, everything seems out of reach.
Easily attainable goals=motivation for more
A caveat to goal setting is not to bite off more than you can chew. Tiny successes over time will increase your motivation and put an end to your laziness for good, but expecting too much from yourself all at once will likely end in failure. For example, if you want to exercise more, write down a specific, easily attainable goal to begin exercising more, such as 'I will walk for 20 minutes today,' instead of 'run 3 miles next week'. Smaller goals are less threatening, according to Dr. Robert Maurer, author of One Small Step Can Change your Life: The Kaizen Way. He describes that “our brain perceives such stark change as a threat to our current state of balance. For that reason, our “fight or flight,” response kicks in” when we try to set lofty goals without breaking them down into smaller chunks, and we freeze in place or avoid the goal altogether.
Real life example
I mentioned above how I am a glutton for lists, but writing a list with goals that are too complicated will backfire. I'm successful at achieving goals because I'm able to break them into manageable tasks. When exercising seems too daunting, I set a goal of brisk walking for 20 minutes, which is easy for me. A few minutes into my walk, I usually feel good enough that I end up exceeding my goals by running and completing my workout like normal. Making an easily attainable goal for yourself will always make you feel good, whether you achieve it or surpass it-it's a quick win to get you motivated!
The act of writing your tasks down not only increases your odds of completing them, but it also allows you to achieve quick success by writing down smaller portions of goals. Use those facts to your advantage and hack your own brain with enough motivation to form some new habits so you can overcome being lazy!
The Laziness Cure
By combining the techniques of goal setting and self-regulation, you will be able to focus on yourself and accomplish easily attainable goals that will help you to build the habits necessary to avoid laziness from now on and feel great while doing it! Before you know it, your new good habits will take over and you'll be buzzing around like the queen (or king) bee that you always knew you were.