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5 Secrets to Instantly Stop Laziness In Its Tracks

5 Secrets to Instantly Stop Laziness In Its Tracks

Let’s face it, all of us have lazy days. You know, the ones where you’re moving as slow as molasses — if you’re moving at all. Everything seems more important than what is actually on your to-do list…like binge watching that new series on Netflix and eating takeout. In your pajamas.

The problem with laziness is that it can snowball downhill, and fast. You put off work, more work piles on, you feel overwhelmed and choose to avoid your tasks and all of a sudden, you are buried under a heap of things you have to do. All this can add to stress and anxiety, which can get pretty ugly. As they say, prevention is the best medicine.

Here are 5 ways you can instantly stop laziness before you have to dig yourself out of a stress pit.

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Break Big Tasks Into Smaller Ones

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. This ancient Chinese proverb has stood the test of time because it applies to all the big projects we undertake. When you feel bit by the lazy bug, it is probably caused by fear.

If the fear of starting a huge task is bigger than the task itself, do yourself a favor and break it down into it’s smaller components. Have a proposal to write? Break down “write proposal” into stages: research, outline, first draft, edit, revisions, polish. Take breathers when you finish a component so you can approach the next bite-size chunk with a clean palate. If the top productivity pros are preaching this, it’s a probably an approach worth exploring.

Enlist Someone to Keep You Accountable

Studies have shown that when people hit the gym with a workout buddy, they’re more likely to stick to their fitness regimen. Knowing someone else wants you to reach your goals can keep you motivated and encouraged.

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If you are struggling with getting your work done, ask a colleague or mentor to help keep you accountable. Set up a weekly 10 minute call to review what you have to do that week and a follow up end-of-the-week call where you report what you were able to accomplish. Knowing that someone will ask how productive you were this week can push you to get more done.

Have a Cheat Day

Got a huge proposal off your plate or hit a grand-slam with a presentation? Worked effectively two days in a row? Why not reward yourself with a complete unplugging or a half day. Do something completely for yourself.

This “cheat” can help keep you balanced and happy. Knowing you have something to look forward to, like a trip to the spa or just a nice coffee with an old friend, will help you stay on track before and feel rejuvenated afterwards.

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Outsource Tasks Not Worth Your Time

Treat your time, working and non-working hours, as billable. Assign an hourly rate for yourself and then assess the tasks that take up your valuable time but could be more cost-effective to delegate to someone else.

You can outsource to an intern, hire a part-time assistant or a virtual assistant. If you are spending one hour of creative thinking time cleaning your house or running errands, compare the two on value: creative thinking at $100/hour can create a new revenue stream, cleaning your house at $100/hour can give you peace of mind and fresh smelling sheets.  Find someone to take some things off your plate at a better rate than yours and more things can get done simultaneously.

Automate Your Life As Much As Possible

Automation is laziness in action. What does that mean? If laziness is a resistance to work and exertion, then finding ways to automate means even less work and exertion.

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Technology has made automation even more accessible for everyone. Make sure your weekly items are populated in your digital calendar with reminders. Use software to keep your networking contacts organized and budgeting apps to keep an eye on your finances. Whenever you can automate and better organize yourself, you give yourself one less excuse to get things done and take more things off your mind so you can stay focused to the tasks in front of you.

Now don’t get us wrong. A lazy day here and there is completely reasonable. Netflix can be a gold mine! But the laziness you’re trying to stop exhibits as consistent mental blocks that can derail you so far off track, you find yourself frustratingly hamster-wheeling your way back. Try a few of these tips and start feeling energized every day.

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Last Updated on April 19, 2021

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

The Art of Taking a Break So You Will Be Productive Again

Think of yourself as a cup. Each day, you wake up full. But as you go about your day—getting tasks done and interacting with people—the amount in your cup gradually gets lower. And as such, you get less and less effective at whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing. You’re running out of steam.

The solution is obvious: if you don’t have anything left to pour out, then you need to find a way to fill yourself up again. In work terms, that means you should take a break—an essential form of revitalizing your motivation and focus.

Taking a break may get a bad rap in hustle culture, but it’s an essential, science-based way to ensure you have the capacity to live your life the way you want to live it.

In the 1980s, when scientists began researching burnout, they described this inner capacity as “resources.” We all need to replenish our resources to cope with stress, work effectively, and avoid burnout.[1]

When the goal is to get things done, it may sound counterproductive to stop what you’re doing. But if you embrace the art of taking a break, you can be more efficient and effective at work.

Here are five ways on how you can take a break and boost your productivity.

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1. Break for the Right Amount of Time, at the Right Time

When I started my first job out of college, I was bent on pleasing my boss as most entry-level employees do. So, every day, I punched in at 9 AM on the dot, took a 60-minute lunch break at noon, and left no earlier than 5 PM.

As I’ve logged more hours in my career, I’ve realized the average, eight-hour workday with an hour lunch break simply isn’t realistic—especially if your goal is to put your best foot forward at work.

That’s why popular productivity techniques like the Pomodoro advocate for the “sprint” principle. Basically, you work for a short burst, then stop for a short, five-minute break. While the Pomodoro technique is a step forward, more recent research shows a shorter burst of working followed by a longer pause from work might actually be a more effective way to get the most out of stepping away from your desk.

The team at DeskTime analyzed more than 5 million records of how workers used their computers on the job. They found that the most productive people worked an average of 52 minutes, then took a 17-minute break afterward.[2]

What’s so special about those numbers? Leave it to neuroscience. According to researchers, the human brain naturally works in spurts of activity that last an hour. Then, it toggles to “low-activity mode.”[3]

Even so, keep in mind that whatever motivates you is the most effective method. It’s more about the premise—when you know you have a “finish line” approaching, you can stay focused on the task or project at hand.

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There are many applications and tools that can help you block distracting websites and apps (such as social media) for specific periods of the day. Similarly, you can also use some mailing apps like Mailbrew to receive all the social media content or newsletters you don’t want to miss in your inbox at a time you decide.

So, no matter how long you work, take a break when you sense you’re losing steam or getting bored with the task. Generally, a 10-15 minute break should reinvigorate you for whatever’s coming next.

2. Get a Change of Scenery—Ideally, Outdoors

When it comes to increasing a person’s overall mental health, there’s no better balm than nature. Research has found that simply being outside can restore a person’s mind from mental fatigue related to work or studying, ultimately contributing to improved work performance (and even improved work satisfaction).[4]

No lush forest around? Urban nature can be just as effective to get the most out of your break-taking. Scientists Stephen R. Kellert and Edward O. Wilson, in their book The Biophilia Hypothesis, claimed that even parks, outdoor paths, and building designs that embrace “urban nature” can lend a sense of calm and inspiration, encouraging learning and alertness for workers.

3. Move Your Body

A change of scenery can do wonders for your attention span and ability to focus, but it’s even more beneficial if you pair it with physical movement to pump up that adrenaline of yours. Simply put, your body wasn’t designed to be seated the entire day. In fact, scientists now believe that extended periods of sitting are just as dangerous to health as smoking.[5]

It’s not always feasible to enjoy the benefits of a 30-minute brisk walk during your workday, especially since you’ll most likely have less energy during workdays. But the good news is, for productivity purposes, you don’t have to. Researchers found that just 10 minutes of exercise can boost your memory and attention span throughout the entire day.[6]

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So, instead of using your break to sit and read the news or scroll your social media account, get out of your chair and move your body. Take a quick walk around the block. Do some jumping jacks in your home office. Whatever you choose, you’ll likely find yourself with a sharper focus—and more drive to get things done.

4. Connect With Another Person

Social connection is one of the most important factors for resilience. When we’re in a relationship with other people, it’s easier to cope with stress—and in my experience, getting social can also help to improve focus after a work break.

One of my favorite ways to break after a 30-or-so minute sprint is to hang out with my family. And once a week, I carve out time to Skype my relatives back in Turkey. It’s amazing how a bit of levity and emotional connection can rev me up for the next work sprint.

Now that most of us are working from home, getting some face-to-face time with a loved one isn’t as hard as it once was. So, take the time to chat with your partner. Take your kids outside to run around the backyard. If you live alone, call a friend or relative. Either way, coming up for air to chat with someone who knows and cares about you will leave you feeling invigorated and inspired.

5. Use Your Imagination

When you’re working with your head down, your brain has an ongoing agenda: get things done, and do it well. That can be an effective method for productivity, but it only lasts so long—especially because checking things off your to-do list isn’t the only ingredient to success at work. You also need innovation.

That’s why I prioritize a “brain break” every day. When I feel my “cup” getting empty, I usually choose another creative activity to exercise my brain, like a Crossword puzzle, Sudoku, or an unrelated, creative project in my house.

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And when I’m really struggling to focus, I don’t do anything at all. Instead, I let my brain roam free for a bit, following my thoughts down whatever trail they lead me. As it turns out, there’s a scientific benefit to daydreaming. It reinforces creativity and helps you feel more engaged with the world, which will only benefit you in your work.[7]

Whether you help your kids with their distance learning homework, read an inspiring book, or just sit quietly to enjoy some fresh air, your brain will benefit from an opportunity to think and feel without an agenda. And, if you’re anything like me, you might just come up with your next great idea when you aren’t even trying.

Final Thoughts

Most of us have to work hard for our families and ourselves. And the current world we live in demands the highest level of productivity that we can offer. However, we also have to take a break once in a while. We are humans, after all.

Learning the art of properly taking a break will not only give you the rest you need but also increase your productivity in the long run.

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Featured photo credit: Helena Lopes via unsplash.com

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