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Most of us aren’t lazy but we all procrastinate from time to time. Saying “that’s just the way I am” is simply a lame excuse you shouldn’t use if you value your time and want to achieve anything at all!
Thankfully, you can totally overcome your procrastinating streak and become more productive at home and at work! Continue reading this guide to learn how to avoid procrastination and laziness and stay on track with your goals most of the time… if not all the time!
Whether it’s a dreadful super-important task at work, homework that you keep postponing until it’s almost too late, or just chores that you kinda don’t wanna do but still have to, this guide should be able to help you become more productive and less likely to procrastinate.
First of all, let’s define the concept of procrastination so we are all on the same page here.
Most people think it’s just a fancy word for laziness but in reality, these two aren’t the same! Understanding what’s what will help you conquer your procrastination habit by finding the root cause and building a productive routine. So let’s look into the differences right away!
What is the difference between procrastination and laziness?
Compared to an idle state of inactivity called laziness, procrastination is actually an active process of deferring important tasks by replacing them with less important, or easier ones. We willingly choose to do everything but the thing we should be working on. Procrastination usually has a specific mental reason that blocks you from productivity which can be recognized and dealt with. Laziness is more of a personality trait.
Is procrastination incurable?
You may think procrastination is incurable but it’s actually just a bad habit that you can work on and strategically overcome. By finding the root cause of your procrastination and developing an effective daily routine, you can get rid of your procrastination habit and stop letting it affect your life for good.
If you see procrastination as a huge monster that takes over your life and you can’t possibly get rid of it, I’d like you to watch this short video. It’s a piece of the great Tom Bilyeu’s interview with Mel Robbins, who talks about the ways our minds are wired and a science-based approach to getting things done.
I just love this woman’s intelligence and pure motivational energy! Isn’t she amazing?
Why is laziness so hard to overcome?
Laziness can be happening for a variety of physical and mental reasons. It’s difficult to overcome completely if it’s a part of your personality as you can’t just remove a piece of who you are on a whim. The good news is that laziness is not necessarily a bad thing and if you accept it it’s possible to make it work to your advantage.
You can literally become more productive by welcoming laziness instead of trying to rid of it! It may sound counterintuitive but that’s how it is. Thanks to natural laziness, people find easier ways to solve problems and invent many practical things that simplify our modern life a lot.
Make sure you don’t confuse laziness with procrastination! If you aren’t sure which one you have, revisit the difference paragraph at the beginning of this guide.
Now, as we understand the concepts of both procrastination and laziness, it’s time to get to the main point of this guide. Here is a clear 10-step strategy on how you can overcome procrastination and not feel lazy anymore!
10-step process to avoid procrastination and laziness
This strategy contains 10 tips for getting rid of your procrastination habit. There is no particular order of following them (although the first one is the best one to start with) but the more of these things you manage to implement into your life, the easier it will be to face procrastination the next time it sneaks up on you.
1. Understand what causes your procrastination and laziness
Defining the root cause (or causes) is the key to overcoming procrastination!
There is no one solution for all and what worked for your friend might not work for you if your reason for procrastinating is completely different. This is the time for you to be real and honest with yourself and find all the internal and external things that lead you into procrastination.
There is a ton of possible reasons for what may be stopping you from being more productive. I outlined 18 of the most common ones in my other post along with the possible solutions for each cause.
Make sure to go through the list and ask yourself if that’s likely to be your point of struggle! Then try to apply the solution and see if it helps. I’d love to hear about your results in the comments!
2. Eliminate all the distractions that mess up your focus
Frequent distractions in the workplace affect your productivity much more than you think.
Over time, constant distractions, context-switching, and multitasking have a cumulative negative effect on your brain, attention span, concentration, memory, and mental health. Various studies show the direct correlation between the amount of dedicated focused time and the quality of work you end up with.
In case you didn’t know, an average office worker only works productively about 2-3 hours per day. To stay far away from such awful inefficiency, read (and implement!) my best strategies for managing distractions in the workplace.
Also, here is my collection of inspiring quotes on the subject of limiting distractions and staying focused on your goals! Sometimes hearing wise words from other people, especially the ones who actually achieved something in their life, is exactly the push we need to stop procrastinating and get to work.
Hence my next tip…
3. Learn from famous procrastinators
Procrastination is very common and you are definitely not alone in this!
Most of the time on social media we only see the best parts of everyone’s day. Everyone shows the highlights, achievements, and productive bits to always look put together and impressive. That doesn’t mean they don’t ever procrastinate or give in to an unproductive mood, they just keep the parts of life they aren’t proud of to themselves!
Actually, if you ask a friend whose productivity you admire if they ever procrastinate, you’ll likely be surprised! Not only they are familiar with the concept but they also might struggle with it the same as you do! And if they don’t, they have definitely put in the work to incorporate some of the concepts I talk about in this guide into their life. So procrastination is not an issue anymore.
And you know what? You can do the same!
If it wasn’t such a common issue, there wouldn’t be so many motivational speakers and coaches talking about this and there wouldn’t be so many well-written books on a subject (here are 10 must-reads, by the way!).
Listen or read what productive people have to say about overcoming procrastination and do the same they did to become as productive as they are. They are humans too, you know! And they have the same 24 hours in a day as you do.
4. Set some goals that light the fire under you
This tip is more on a motivational side of the coin, but it’s here for two reasons.
First, if you did step one and solved your personal causes of procrastination, it’s out of your way. But you still just kinda moved yourself from a negative state to a neutral, and self-motivation can bring you all the way into a positive state of mind (we’ll talk more about why it’s beneficial in step 6).
Secondly, if you are really excited about your work and achieving the next goal, you can’t possibly turn your back on it all and go be all lazy! You’ll be happy to get to work and get yourself closer to the desired outcome!
That’s why you need to set clearly defined time-restricted goals that will do that for you. Always know your strong “why” behind each goal and remind yourself of it when a mere thought of procrastinating comes to your mind.
When you have goals that get you all excited and light the fire under you, procrastination doesn’t have a chance in hell!
5. Use good time-management tools
It’s awesome that we have willpower but sadly it’s not an unlimited resource.
Other than just relying on it until it runs out, why not make good use of a few time-management tools we all have available to us?
Some helpful tools or apps for staying productive may be:
- Social media blocking extension to prevent losing valuable time on mindless scrolling
- Time tracking tool to see where you may be unknowingly losing your time
- To-do list application that lets you keep all tasks in one place and check them off when done
- Project management system to plan and break down your big projects into doable chunks
- Calendar app to get reminders about important stuff and not keep everything in your head
That’s just a few ideas of potentially useful software! Obviously, there are many more interesting tools you can try depending on what you struggle with the most.
I listed some of my favorite productivity tools in another post, so check that out too if you want to improve your personal effectiveness!
Also, please share in the comments which apps are currently working well for your productivity. It might help me and other readers in our day-to-day routine!
6. Incorporate a positive mindset
Most of the successful people I follow name positive attitude as a non-negotiable part of achieving success. Not everyone is actively working on it with things like positive affirmations but I bet you they all start a day with a smile and excitement!
To give you an example of an extremely positive person I admire, let me show you Sunny Lenarduzzy! She is a self-made billionaire and has one of the most charming positive personalities I’ve ever seen. Just watch her talking about the morning mindset!
Are you impressed or what? She always makes me smile when I watch her on Youtube on Instagram!
I would love to be more like her. This is clearly the “successful person mentality”!
If you’d like to become a more positive person yourself, here are a few good resources:
- 60 Happy Affirmations That Instantly Make You Feel Better
- 7 Reasons To Love Mondays Only Successful People Understand
- 55 Productivity Affirmations For Being Effective At Home
- 7 Affirmations For Beating Procrastination
- 66 Inspiring Positive Quotes For Negative Thinkers
7. Find an accountability buddy
Later is probably a better time to do this thing…
I still have more than enough time to finish this…
I don’t feel well enough to do it right now…
This other thing is important too so I’d rather do it now…
Any of it sounds familiar? That’s often how we talk to ourselves.
For better or for worse, a human brain is smart enough to be able to talk us out of things it doesn’t want to do. We rationalize and renegotiate to the point that we feel that’s okay to not do it right now… or at all. Even if we aren’t consciously lying to ourselves, we kinda trick our mind and then easily forgive ourselves later.
Pulling it off is much, much harder when there are other people involved and they expect something from you. When it’s an office job, you have a boss or a manager tracking your progress. When it’s personal goals or when you work for yourself, there is nobody else to control you other than youself.
That’s why people achieve such amazing results when they are part of mastermind groups, communities, or hire a coach. That’s why a mindset coach is even a thing. Having someone other than yourself to answer to makes you more motivated to actually do the things you need to do.
You can easily find an excuse to talk yourself out of doing the work. But when you think of an upcoming call with your coach or accountability partner and imagine yourself coming empty-handed, all those excuses suddenly start to sound utterly lame.
Find someone with similar goals and keep each other on track.
It’s often more effective when it’s not a very close friend who loves you and forgives you for all your mistakes. Instead, try to find someone less attached to you and more focused on their own goals. This will make you feel motivated to do the job as you don’t wanna appear as someone who doesn’t live up to their word!
8. Set a specific deadline
You should always set time-sensitive goals to minimize procrastination.
To put it simply, instead of saying “I want to lose weight” you should say “I want to lose 10 pounds till October 1”, or something like that. This way you can track your progress and set the intention for reaching that goal. If at some point you see that you aren’t getting any closer, you can get back on track and work harder on achieving that before the deadline.
I recommend you do this for every more or less important task or project you have, whether personal or professional.
Todoist (the minimalistic to-do list tool I use) lets me set a deadline for each task in a natural way. So if I name it “write a post about X monday” it automatically creates a task “write a post about X” and sets it due Monday in a calendar. It’s really simple and the app is free so you may try it for yourself.
Even if you already have a deadline but still find yourself procrastinating, this might mean that your deadline is too far away to matter right now.
Out of all the existing quotes about procrastination, I especially love this one because it’s so relatable:
You could give me 10 years to write a 3000-word essay and I’d still do it the day before.
Are you also like that? If so, break down your task into a bunch of smaller tasks and set closer deadlines for each. Fun activities are much more enjoyable when the job is done and you aren’t constantly feeling guilty as the actual deadline is approaching.
9. Start with a small win
Procrastination can be a beast but you are smarter anyway!
Break down your task into oh-so-little tasks that are so easy to do that you might as well do them right now!
Let’s say you need to write an essay.
Your first task should be “Turn on the computer and open the editor window”.
It’s easy, right? It probably won’t take more than a minute so why not just do it now? And you get to check your first task off the list right away!
I sometimes use to-do list sheets like these to keep my tasks in front of me when I use this strategy. This way I can leave my phone in another room while I work to completely cut out digital distractions coming from it.
So your next task may be “Come up with a title” or “Write a first sentence”. Fairly easy, right?
The trick is that these seemingly small things get you into the flow of working so you’ll likely write more than just one sentence as your thoughts start coming in.
Besides, small wins like checking things off your list give you a tiny feeling of satisfaction and achievement. No matter big or small, it triggers the neurotransmitters in your brain that motivate you to achieve even more and get more of that satisfaction.
Basically, the brain chemically motivates itself! How cool is that?
10. Use your willpower to start
I mentioned above that our willpower is limited but we still have enough of it to start working!
And after we start and get into a flow, we don’t need willpower anymore. It’s generally only used for starting things and getting back on track after stopping. So don’t stop, alright?
If you haven’t read the book “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal but curious about willpower, it might be worth checking out. She talks in-depth about how willpower works and shares a few science-based concepts for improving it.
One good technique that you can use willpower for is described in Mel Robbins’s book “The 5 Second Rule”. Here is the gist of it: whenever you decide to do something, count down from 5 to 1 and go do it! It’s based on the idea of not allowing the process of generating second thoughts to start.
Personally, I like to just count 3, 2, 1, and go because five seconds is long enough for my brain to start coming up with excuses. Three seconds is more likely to do it for me, but you try and see what works for you!
Bonus tip to avoid procrastination and laziness
As if ten steps to overcome procrastination weren’t enough, right?
Well, this one is not so easy and you are probably not willing to do it. But it works like a charm!
Get rid of all the entertainment: Go hardcore!
We already talked about minimizing distractions when you are working, but this is about when you aren’t. Look at yourself in the worst moments when the laziness monster takes over and take away all its favorite toys!
Analyze what you usually do when you feel lazy and restrict your access to these things. You may even ask someone you live with to help you with these if you don’t trust yourself.
Here are a few ideas:
- Cancel Netflix subscription
- Block Youtube and Facebook feed
- Ask someone to hide your gamepad or TV remote during working hours
These may sound harsh (that’s why it’s a bonus tip!) but this will work when nothing else will. When you have no access to your usual entertainment, you may get so bored that working on a project may even seem appealing!
Even when procrastinating… find something productive to do at home
Unless the deadline is really close, it’s okay to procrastinate from time to time.
Don’t beat yourself up and feel all guilty and negative: this won’t do you any good.
Instead, use the time you have for something useful instead of meaningless entertainment!
Here is my list of 50 productive things to do at home you can turn to when you don’t feel like doing the real thing. This way you can at least stay productive even while procrastinating!
Final thoughts on avoiding procrastination and laziness
This was my full guide on overcoming procrastination and laziness!
The more steps from this list you incorporate into your daily routine, the more productive you’ll be. One day someone will get inspired by your achievements and ask you if you ever procrastinate! When it happens, share this guide with them please!
Overcoming procrastination is not an overnight process: it takes time and dedication. But as soon as you get rid from this nasty habit, nothing will stop you from achieving everything you want in life.
Good luck with your goals, go-getter!