One of the best laziness-busting advice I’ve heard is this: observe your procrastinating, lazy self like you would observe an animal in the wild. Detach yourself from self-judgment and take notes on where, when, why and how you procrastinate and put off work instead of being productive.
What particular conditions give your lazy evil twin the power to override all your dreams and ambitions? What specific hours in the day is your inner procrastinator the most powerful? Are there certain articles of clothing that tell your inner procrastinator to come out of the basement to wreak havoc on your life?
Here are my personal field notes for my own lazy id. I tend to be laziest in the mid-afternoon when my energy is the lowest. I am more likely to be lazy if I am wearing pajama pants and glasses. I am ridiculously susceptible to saying yes to other people’s plans when I should really be staying home and working on something I need to do.
Becoming aware of these personal characteristics gives me the power to formulate my own counter-attack plan. Since I feel the laziest in the afternoon, I get the most important work done in the morning hours when I am most alert. I make sure to change out of my pajamas and wear contact lenses right away to get myself into work mode. Instead of automatically saying yes to social invitations, I tell people that I need to check with my schedule first.
You don’t need to completely turn your life upside down to cut procrastination and laziness out of your life; it really is just a matter of making small, incremental improvements over a long period of time. Here are 8 easy tips to begin feeling more productive and less lazy with your personal life goals and New Year’s resolutions.
1. Know your power hour I love my morning hours. That doesn’t mean everybody does. You may be a complete zombie in the AM, but a clear-headed genius in the early afternoon. Or you may be one of those night owls who comes up with the most brilliant ideas after midnight when everyone else is sleeping. Whatever your power hour or power hours are, know what they are and make a point to work on your important personal goals during that window of time.
2. Know the hours when you just want to bum around, and use them to bum around. If you work yourself like a dog without rest, you will burn out and end up losing more time when you inevitably burn yourself out to the point of not wanting to do anything. Allow yourself a window of time during the day when you are absolutely free to be lazy, surf the internet or do something enjoyable that has nothing to do with your goals. It gives your mind and body the opportunity to recharge.
3. Wear stuff that makes you feel productive and professional. This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy yourself an expensive wardrobe. It can be as simple as: putting on some lipstick, wearing a literal thinking cap, making the little extra push to feel stylish with updated accessories, putting on a tie of your favorite color–whatever small trick that sends a message to your brain that you mean serious business. On the flip side of the coin, avoid schlepping around in pajamas and sweat pants if you know they are just going to make you want to play video games and watch T.V.
4. Know what locations make you feel productive. Some people work best in coffee houses, surrounded by the energy of crowds. Other people work best in the privacy of their own homes in a designated work desk area. Some people like to be surrounded by clutter because it inspires them. Other people feel weighed down by clutter and do less work in a messy environment. Lighting, color scheme, background music, the type of tea or coffee you are drinking–be as specific as possible in your own personal awareness of what environmental factors kick your brain into productivity mode.
5. Visualize as much as you can how good it feels to get things accomplished. Focus on the good stuff that comes from getting things done, not the minor inconveniences such as waking up earlier, having less internet-surfing time or having to buy less sugary junk food. By focusing continuously on the benefits of sticking to your goals, you will be more motivated to reap the ultimate pleasure of getting something done: the confidence and self-knowledge that you are indeed capable of what you set out to do.
6. Always focus on the next step, and when and how you are going to do it. Procrastination has a great way of infiltrating your brain when you are thinking in vague generalities. Such as: “I am going to exercise more” or “I am going to start my own business.” Procrastination does not work so well when you have a very specific action plan and deadline planned out for yourself on what exactly you are going to do next. Such as: “I am going to do 20 sit-ups in the mornings on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays” or “I am going to meet up my old college contact next week for lunch and ask her for her insights on how she successfully started her own business.” Try arguing with that.
Originally published in 2010