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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 July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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