This post may contain affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive a commission with no extra cost to you. For more information, please read my disclosure.
So you’ve set all those incredible goals for yourself and visualized them happening but can’t bring yourself to actually start working. If you find yourself choosing leisure over being effective too often, you came to the right place!
In this post, we’ll look into some popular causes of laziness and procrastination, and learn how to be productive when you feel lazy and unmotivated.
There are plenty of things you can be doing that don’t bring you closer to your goals. They hold you where you are at the moment if not making things worse.
Realizing that you are wasting the precious time of your life on activities that keep you away from your dreams is the key to becoming a productive person!
If you are reading this, you surely want to spend your time more effectively than you do now. Let’s see how you can do this without pushing yourself too hard!
Pin this for later!
What are the main causes of laziness and procrastination?
1. Unlimited distractions
These days we have numerous social networks, the whole success of which relies heavily on keeping our undivided attention. They are great at understanding what you like and happy to show you relevant stuff as long as you don’t leave the app.
Surely, it’s hard to be productive and focus on work when your phone beeps every second with some “news”. Make an effort to set up a distraction-free workspace for yourself that lets you put all your attention towards your project.
2. Lack of self-belief
Another very common cause of procrastination is lacking self-confidence. This may come from low self-esteem, having a tough inner critic, unhealthy comparison to others’ success, or even perfectionism.
You’d rather not do anything at all than do it badly? That’s actually a great mindset (I’m like that too!) as long as you stay on the ‘doing things right’ side and not ‘do nothing’ side.
When constant worrying about not being “good enough” stops you from progress, you need to work on your mental health first!
3. No defined plan
Seeing this huge scary task that seems like a mountain of work in front of you may be overwhelming. When you see a final point on the horizon and no clear path to get there, choosing to be lazy and not move anywhere is understandable. You’d rather do anything else than climb that giant mountain, right?
To avoid confusion regarding the first steps you need to define a plan for yourself. Find a clear way to get to the final point and break it down into small manageable tasks. When you have it all crystal clear in front of you, you can just look at the first step and not worry about the other tasks until you finish this one.
One step feels like nothing compared to a long staircase into the unknown! It’s suddenly not scary anymore and that little first task looks doable, so why not go and do it now?
If it doesn’t feel doable, break it down again and again until it does! If you aren’t familiar with Atomic Habits bestseller, it includes a so-called 2-minute rule. It’s in the context of creating new habits but can be applied to any task you may have. The idea is to define a habit as something that can be done in less than two minutes.
So let’s say you want to create a habit of daily workout. Instead of wording it like that, define it like ‘put on yoga pants and get on a mat’. This is basically the same thing but this simple trick makes you feel less intimidated and produces much less resistance in your brain.
Or let’s say you need to write a book. Your first task shouldn’t be “write the first chapter”. Break it down so you have “open the document and write the first sentence”. Often that’s all you need to get into a state of flow and you’ll probably end up with a full chapter anyway. But even if not, you will at least write something compared to looking at a big scary task and doing nothing!
Also, crossing tasks off your to-do list is another way to trigger reward centers in your brain that produce “happy” hormones and make you feel good. Don’t you get the feeling of accomplishment every time you check another thing as “done”? Why not create more of those smaller tasks then? It definitely won’t hurt!
4. Unorganized workspace
This includes both your physical working environment and digital one.
Have you ever heard a saying “cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind”? The messier room you have, the more distractions it creates for your brain when you are trying to focus on work. Every item is a potential threat to your concentration which altogether leads to you being unproductive at work.
Every time you spend too long to find a thing you need in a clutter (whether it’s on a desk or on your computer), you are losing the flow state and potentially have to start over again. And as we already know, starting is the hardest part in any project! Keep everything handy, have a clear structure, and your productivity levels will grow exponentially!
5. Failure or absence of success
When you have been doing something for a long time and don’t see any results, it can be demotivating. Especially when you see all those examples of people who succeed doing the same and it seems so easy for them!
But what’s important here is that they probably failed a lot, started over and over again, and put tons of work and dedication into it before getting to that point of success.
If you haven’t heard about the Iceberg Theory, here is a great video by Better Than Yesterday channel that explains it.
The thing is, and all the really successful people in the world know this, that you can only succeed if you don’t give up. Failure is a natural process for growing and getting better every time, but you shouldn’t let it break you and stop you from working any further.
You never fail until you stop trying.Albert Einstein
Don’t be afraid of failure! It can happen, but it will teach you to do better next time.
6. Wrong place to work
Not everyone has a separate room for a home office, but if you work from home often it’s better to organize some special area that you’ll treat like your “office”. Don’t sleep there, don’t play games, watch TV, or do anything “lazy”!
Working in bed is significantly harder for your brain as it has strong neural connections between this place and the sleeping process. You may start feeling sleepy soon even when you are well-rested just because that’s what your brain thinks you came in your bed for.
On the other hand, working in bed can mess up your sleeping as you start to send mixed signals to your brain. So next time you come to sleep it may think that it’s time to work and not shut down for a while… Sounds familiar?
I suggest you jump to Pinterest for some cool ideas on how to organize a home office in a small space if that’s your case. People get crazy creative with this task and you’ll definitely find something that works for your home!
If working at home is always a struggle for you, consider going out with your laptop to get some work done. For many people, it’s easier to work from a cafe or some coworking space nearby, especially if they have children at home.
Sometimes it may be just too loud for you to work, whether at home or at a cafe. I love to use free services like Noisli to generate a background noise that helps you focus. My favorite “noises” are rain, ocean, and train!
Is it OK to have a lazy day?
In modern society, it’s very common to put too much pressure on ourselves.
In the book called Laziness Does Not Exist, Dr. Devon Price explains the need to accept “doing enough” instead of always aiming to “do more”. The idea is that you are not defined by your productivity levels, and embracing it lifts a big chunk of self-pressure.
Too much hard work and expectation may lead to a quick burnout very soon if you don’t allow yourself to rest every once in a while. If you feel like you need a day off from thinking about your business, your studies, or whatever keeps you busy, you can totally do it!
Make arrangements the day before to make sure nothing collapses while you don’t work. In most cases, it won’t but you need this step so you don’t spend your free day worrying instead of resting.
And don’t choose a day before a deadline to be your lazy day! Push yourself a little bit if necessary but cut yourself some slack later when you don’t have strict timelines.
Make sure you do stuff you like to do on your lazy day. Binge-watching Netflix may be something you like too, but it can easily swallow the whole day and not be worth it in the end. Go for a walk with a good friend, read an interesting book, watch a cool movie, eat something special, take a nice bath… Whatever makes you feel good, do it to make this day about you!
Is procrastination a sign of laziness?
Although it can be it for some people, in most cases it’s not.
A naturally lazy person is unwilling to put any effort and doesn’t see the need to accomplish anything. Procrastination, on the other hand, is an active process of delaying the task, usually driven by an underlying feeling of anxiety, fear, perfectionism, or lacking self-confidence.
If you care enough to read this post, you are not a lazy person. Think about it like this: do you really want to sit and do nothing, or are you happy to do anything but that one thing? This is basically what differentiates a lazy person from a procrastinator.
Why is being lazy so much easier than being productive?
An interesting study by the researchers of the University of British Columbia shows that it takes significantly more brain power to move away from lazy activities.
This is explained by our natural behavioral patterns that come from the early stages of humankind when conserving energy was essential for surviving.
You clearly need less physical energy for chilling on a couch than for doing a workout, and it’s much less effort for your brain to watch TV than to actively work on some difficult task.
This is why a sedentary lifestyle with easy leisure activities feels much easier than being active and productive in any way!
Thankfully, we are intelligent species and can make decisions for ourselves instead of just relying on our ancient brain patterns!
Now, let’s see what you can actually do to make it easier for yourself to be effective at home.
How to be productive when you feel lazy: 6 steps to beat laziness
1. Motivate yourself with success stories
Instead of watching another episode of some fun TV show, choose something inspiring that will spark your motivation!
I like to start my day with a motivational Ted Talk or a success story video from one of my favorite YouTubers.
When I see other people achieving things that I want for myself, it drives my motivation through the roof! Sometimes I literally pause the video and go straight into the working phase as I don’t want to delay me getting that same success any longer!
Other than watching and reading success stories and always relying on someone else to motivate you, make a habit of self-motivation as well! Combine a list of your favorite millionaire affirmations, affirmations for entrepreneurs, or general happiness affirmations (whichever applies to you!) and repeat them daily with intention.
You can also write your own specific affirmations that work directly towards your existing goals!
Whatever way you may have to lift up your mood when feeling lazy and unmotivated, use it! Even if it just means turning on some energizing music.
Most importantly: don’t let this step become your new way of procrastination!
Receive your single dose of positive vibes and proceed to the next steps right away!
2. Eliminate all time wasters
When you feel lazy, you reach for easy pleasures that don’t even require you to get out of bed. This includes movies, video games, TV shows, social media, and other obvious and not-so-obvious time-wasters.
Sometimes they mask under ‘being useful’ and ‘educational’ categories in your brain so you don’t even realize you procrastinated until it’s too late and half of your day is gone.
You absolutely don’t need to watch 20 videos called ‘how to stop procrastinating’ on Youtube unless you are doing a thorough research for work (and maybe even then). Watch one or two, make notes, and try to go and implement the main ideas right away!
In any case, the least you can do is set up some restrictions for yourself.
For example, my Youtube app reminds me when I watch videos for too long!
There are also numerous apps and browser extensions like this one for Chrome that offer multiple useful features to stop sites like Facebook, Netflix, Youtube, Reddit and others from keeping your attention. Whether it’s blocking chosen sites for your working time window or hiding social media feed, they do the job!
How many times have you opened Facebook app to see something specific just to realize half an hour later that you still didn’t do whatever you came for? Happens to the best of us.
I also have an extension for my mail that has a Do Not Disturb mode. I can’t tell you how useful it is!
Eventually, when you hide all the entertainment options from your eyesight, you’ll feel the need to do something very soon. I don’t know anyone who would rather sit still for hours in a quiet room than do anything useful!
When all the natural needs (like sleep and food) are satisfied and you have nothing to do, you might as well start working on your project.
Lastly, while site blockers definitely help get you started, you can do even more to minimize cell phone distractions when you are working! There is nothing better than being productive and happy with your achievements at the end of the day!
3. Visualize the perks of getting things done
The art of visualization has been discussed a ton in books and blogs over the years.
The idea here is to imagine yourself successfully finishing the project. What perks does it bring you? Why is it important? What will you gain when you make it till the end? Let yourself dream a little!
You may even want to write it down and review it when you feel unmotivated again!
Creating a bright vision of success and achievement triggers the reward centers in your brain. That, in turn, makes you feel happier and gives you enough motivation to start doing something so you can get that vision into reality.
If the project is a chore or needs to be done but isn’t gonna give you any noticeable perks, maybe promise yourself a small prize for finishing it!
Sometimes we have to do things that we’d rather not do. That’s where procrastination, which is basically delaying the process of effective work, comes into the picture.
By having a defined reward waiting for you in the end and visualizing it, you can beat laziness and go straight into getting it!
4. Don’t get busy instead of productive
We all get creative when we don’t want to do something.
How often do you find yourself decluttering your mailbox or cleaning your desk and calling it “working”? And then looking back at those 6 hours of “work” and hardly seeing anything important done?
Even though these are good and sometimes necessary things to do, they probably aren’t part of your main important task for the day.
Remember: Procrastination doesn’t always mean being a lazy couch potato!
Quite often it means that you stuff your schedule tight with minutiae tasks that are kinda related but don’t matter much for achieving your goals.
You must recognize this pattern ASAP and make time to cross the important things off your list too. Only then you’ll see real progress and will be able to count your day productive!
5. Break down large projects into measurable chunks
The huge pile of work that needs to be done to reach the final project goal can often make you feel overwhelmed. And you can’t expect to be effective with your time when you are overwhelmed!
Most likely you’ll either make yourself busy with unimportant tasks (as I mentioned in step 4) or give up completely and get back to being lazy again by playing games or watching TV.
The more you overwhelm yourself on a daily basis, the closer you get to burnout. And this is definitely not what we want, right?
It often happens that you can see a dream come true endpoint but you have no idea where to start. So you don’t start at all.
This is why you need to sit down and think about how you can break down your big scary task.
Write down a few things that need to be done as parts of a bigger task, and break each one down again! Up to the point where you have some small doable tasks that you can even do right now. These ones shouldn’t look scary anymore! If they do, break them down again.
Make sure each task is measurable and has a timeline so you have at least some discipline with deadlines and can’t surrender to laziness forever!
6. Start with a small task
When you are procrastinating for too long, starting doing something useful seems like the hardest thing in the world! The more you are slacking, the more willpower it takes to get to work.
I mean, it’s only gonna get harder later, so you might as well start working right now!
Choose the easiest doable task from the list you created in the previous step and just start. Set a 10-minute timer and don’t do anything else but that task. 5 minutes, if 10 feels like too much at the moment!
More often than not, you’ll get into a state of flow where there is minimum resistance. Continue working is much, much easier than starting! That’s why I recommend choosing the simplest task to be the first one.
Even if 10 minutes are the only ones you spend working, it’s still better than nothing. But chances are good that you won’t stop there! Just don’t think about it right now. Set your timer, start small, but start now!
Final thoughts on being productive when you feel lazy
I hope this was helpful and you now have a few ideas that will help you overcome laziness and get to work! Follow these 6 steps to beat procrastination and become a productive person!
Have you recognized yourself in any of the mentioned situations? What is your main cause of laziness from the list above? Tell me in the comments!
Save this for later!