Feeling Lazy? Here Are 5 Ways To Get Things Done
All week, your pile of laundry has been mounting – slowly, gradually, rising ever toward the ceiling from your hamper’s humble beginnings on the floor. The dishes in your sink threaten to form a second layer if left unattended for much longer, and there are enough dust bunnies under your bed to start their own family.
At work, your inbox is overflowing with unread emails, many of which are marked “urgent” or “important.” Your desk is cluttered with half-finished projects and paperwork that needs to be filed. You know you should be getting more done, but somehow you just can’t seem to get started.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry – you’re not alone. It’s easy to fall into a slump and feel like you can’t get anything done when your to-do list is miles long. But there are ways to fight back against laziness and get yourself moving again, and we’re here to help.
What causes laziness, anyway?
The first step in ridding yourself of crippling laziness is to know your foe intimately.
There are two main types of laziness: mental and physical. Physical laziness is when you just don’t feel like doing anything – your body feels heavy, your eyelids droop, and all you want to do is veg out on the couch with some Netflix. This type of laziness is usually caused by fatigue or a lack of motivation.
Mental laziness, on the other hand, is when you’re not lazy in the traditional sense. Perhaps you have the physical bandwidth to get up and clean the dishes; you might even be hyped up on caffeine, ready to sort through your emails.
But procrastination, depression and anxiety, or a simple lack of focus put walls up between you and your to-do list, making it seem insurmountable.
And then, of course, you can get the dreaded duo – a mix of mental and physical exhaustion that has you feeling like it’s impossible to do anything at all. This is the most dangerous type of laziness, as it can quickly spiral out of control and leave you feeling hopeless.
No matter what type of laziness you’re experiencing, there are ways to get yourself moving again. So let’s get started.
1. Visualize the process, not the result.
If you grew up in the golden age of phys-ed curriculum, you would have received the ‘picture your goals!’ lecture at some point or another; a sports coach encouraging you to visualize the golden sheen of your first prize trophy, or the muscles rippling across your chest as you finish your race in the lead.
The theory is (or was) that by picturing your desired outcome, you’d be more motivated to achieve it. But here’s the kicker: a spot of research conducted by NYU scholars in 2011 found that visualizing the desired outcome actually decreases motivation.
“…positive fantasies yielded a larger decrease in energy when they pertained to a more rather than a less pressing need.”
In other words, picturing yourself as prom queen is going to convince a tiny, highly gullible part of your brain that you’re already there – which means it will be less inclined to help you put in the work to achieve your goal. So what’s a better way to get things done?
Simply, you need to visualize the process and not the outcome. Picture every step that you’ll take to complete your goal, no matter how small. See yourself researching your paper topic, making a schedule and sticking to it, and typing out each sentence with care.
2. Find someone to keep you accountable.
People who share their goals publicly have a 65 percent chance of success. With an accountability partner, however – someone who knows and understands your goals, and who you’ve promised to keep updated on your progress – that figure goes up to 95 percent.
Find someone in your circle who’s willing to be your sounding board and your cheerleader, whether it’s a colleague, friend, or family member. If you don’t have anyone in mind, try joining an online forum or starting a blog to document your progress.
Even better if your partner has goals of their own; that way, you can support and encourage each other.
3. Make use of the GTD method – aka, Getting Things Done.
Ever heard of a Mr David Allen? It’s high time you did. David constructed an incredibly simple five-part system that gets you from the ideation stage of a project to its completion.
Capture: Quit storing things in your brain, or they’ll collect dust forever. In this stage, you write down anything and everything that’s been taking up space in your head, so you can finally analyze it in the light of day.
Clarify: Sort your thoughts into Projects, Next Actions, and References. This is the part where you get to decide what’s actually doable, and what can be delegated or put on the back burner.
Organize: Create a system that works for you, whether it’s an online tool, a good old-fashioned notebook, or – dare we say it – sticky notes. Arrange your tasks within the system depending on their priority and how long they’ll take; sort every task into your calendar or schedule. Create actionable steps for each task.
Engage: Follow your system according to the plan you created in the Organize stage. If you need help getting started, set a timer for two minutes and start working on the smallest urgent task. Work your way up to the biggest urgent task, then down to the smallest non-urgent task.
Review: No, you can’t skip this step! Here you’ll reflect on what’s been working, what hasn’t, and how you can improve your system for next time.
If you’re feeling tech-savvy, tools like Todoist and Notion are super helpful for streamlining the GTD process. But if you prefer to keep things old-school, a simple notebook will do the trick.
4. Remove your temptations and distractions.
Meet your limbic system, the part of your brain that makes impulsive, rewards-driven decisions – otherwise known as the “lizard brain”. This little guy will jump at the first sign of instant gratification, whether it be a $1 large fries deal or an episode of The Office (no judgment, we’ve all been there).
In order to get things done, you need to outsmart your lizard brain by making it harder for him to say yes to distractions. That means creating a physical and psychological space that’s conducive to productivity and keeping temptation at bay.
Start with your physical space. Is your desk cluttered? Are you working in a comfortable chair? Is the lighting good? Make sure you have everything you need within reach so you’re not wasting time getting up and looking for things.
Then take a look at your psychological space. What’s on your mind? Are you worrying about things that are out of your control? Make a list of the things that are stressing you out, then brainstorm possible solutions or ways to let go of them. If something is truly beyond your control, try to accept it and move on.
And of course, turn off your phone. It has no business interfering with your work. Smartphones are an epicenter of distraction, so put it on silent and stick it in a drawer if you can. If you need it for work, set specific times when you’ll allow yourself to check it, and stick to those limits.
An app like Actuflow or Cold Turkey Blocker can help you out by making it harder to access distracting websites.
5. Give yourself some credit, alright?
One of the most neglected strategies in self-discipline and motivation is positive reinforcement – in other words, giving yourself a pat on the back when you do something right.
Your brain is wired to respond to rewards, so give yourself a little something extra every time you check an item off your to-do list. It doesn’t have to be anything big; it could be as simple as taking a five-minute break or treating yourself to a cup of coffee.
The important thing is that you make it consistent so your brain starts to associate productivity with pleasure.
What’s causing you all this trouble?
Most of the time, what we consider ‘laziness’ is actually a form of intense procrastination. Anxiety, fear of failure, lack of confidence, or any number of psychological traps can make it hard to get started on a task.
These five strategies can boost your productivity to new heights – but without understanding where your procrastination truly comes from, you’ll always be at its mercy.
Here at Virtuemap, we don’t believe in Band-Aid solutions. We believe in real, actionable insights that bring you closer to happiness and fulfillment. Take our simple questionnaire to get your curated procrastination plan from our team of experts, and find out what’s really holding you back