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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 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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