How not to be lazy
From lazy brain to laser brain
You might think you’re lazy.
"I don't want to do anything..."
“I’d get so much done if I weren’t so lazy”
“My life would be so much easier if I weren't so lazy.”
But here’s the thing:
we’re all genetically wired to be “lazy” in some situations to conserve our physical and mental strength.
However, when it matters to us, we can also expend extraordinary effort to get things done.
Laziness often shows up when something doesn’t matter to us. It’s not a part of your identity, it’s an indicator of the fact that you don’t enjoy or want to do something.
“Lazy” is a state of mind
Your brain thinks:
Something does not threaten our survival, but takes effort? → Let’s be lazy.
The more something appears to be non-threatening right now, the more tempted we’ll be to be lazy.
The more effort something appears to take, the more tempted we’ll be to be lazy.
But this automatic reaction can be less than helpful.
Long-term productive effort doesn’t appear to be threatening to us so our brain has a tendency to avoid it by making itself lazy. Lazy becomes a justification to not try.
Your mental state map
You can look at it this way: there’s a map of all possible mental states you can be in.
Lazy is on one part of the map. Productive is a different part of the map.
Every day, we take actions that move us further in one direction on the map (check email, check Twitter) or actions that move us in a different direction (work for 30 minutes, go for a walk.)
When we change our mental state (move on the mental state map), our perception of who we are changes ("I'm lazy" vs "I'm productive").
So let's take a look at how not to be "lazy".
How to not be lazy
There are activities and things that will make you more “lazy” by making everything seem hard.
What activities? Watching Netflix, scrolling Facebook or Twitter, watching YouTube…
These low-effort activities make everything that doesn’t require just tapping and scrolling look hard.
So, how to not fall into the “tap & scroll” trap?
Step #1: Realize that “lazy” is not a personality trait
When we’re in the Lazy mental territory, we think we are lazy. We find anything even remotely productive (without likes, comments, messages) hard, or even impossible to do. But that’s not true.
You aren’t lazy in every area of life.
Chances are that we’re extremely un-lazy in areas of our lives that we find motivating or easy: gaming, posting on social media, messaging with friends, shopping,... those all have rewards built in (points, likes, emojis,...).
How do we then become "not lazy" in the areas of our lives that matter?
Step #2: Stop doing what makes you feel lazy
There is a variety of things that can put us into the lazy mental state.
Here's a few lazy-inducing activities:
- Using social media apps
- Watching videos on Netflix or YouTube
- Eating pizza/ice cream
- Drinking alcohol etc
It doesn't mean you can't do the above ever again. You can be lazy without guilt or shame when you've done some work.
It simply means that if you want to be productive, you should be careful about those activities.
If you're feeling lazy and you need to get something done, the first step is to stop doing things that make you feel even lazier.
Stop scrolling. Stop eating. Stop watching. Stop.
Step #3: Slowly go to the productive mental state territory
If you’re deep in the lazy mental territory, it might take a while to get moving.
Just like with real walking, you need to take it step by step.
What are the steps on the mental state map?
Productive state inducing activities:
- Closing a distracting app (= step)
- Putting your phone out of sight, reach, hearing (= step)
- Taking a break to let the mind rest a bit (= step)
- Reading relevant materials casually (= step)
- Jotting down to-dos (= step)
- Working for 10 minutes (= 2 steps)
- Working for 30 minutes (= 3 steps)
We often think we need to jump straight from Lazy to Super-productive. That rarely works and often backfires.
Take small productive steps to get out of the lazy mental pit.
Summary: Lazy = current mental state, not your identity
When we say we’re “lazy,” it’s often because we don’t want to do something or don’t have the reason to.
Our brain is trying to trick us into thinking we’re lazy because then we don’t have to make the effort to try.
2 steps not be in the lazy mental state:
- Stop thinking of yourself as inherently lazy
- Stop digging yourself into a deeper hole by doing things that make you even lazier
- When you find yourself in the lazy territory, move step by step into the Productive mental state territory
Remember: don’t try to jump from lazy to productive in 3.6 seconds, that often fails.
Go as slow as you need. What matters most is moving in the right direction, step by step.