Chapter 4: Laziness and How to Stop Being Lazy

==> Go back to Chapter 3: The Best Procrastination Help Resources

Some people say that we are in a lazy generation, that “kids today” don’t want to work, and that the adults out there aren’t much better. On the other hand, other numbers show that people today are working harder than ever – more hours and fewer vacations. So are we really lazier than we’ve ever been?

I know a slacker or too, as we all probably do, so it may seem like they are more prevalent than they really are. However, we can’t look at one or two cases and make a quick judgment based on those little data points. When it comes down to it, we’re probably not that much lazier than other generations. I’m automatically skeptical of these kind of “golden age” claims, simply because it seems that every generation looks forward to the next one and makes these same complaints. We shouldn’t confuse the way work has changed and the way society’s expectations and patterns have changed with laziness. Sometimes the world changes, and the old standards and ideas about work just don’t keep up.

Nonetheless, sometimes I do feel that there is a bit of merit to the charge leveled against this generation. Today, more than ever before, the lazy person has access to so many distractions – TV, the Internet, video games, and other activities that seem much more alluring than doing work. In addition, many people of this generation do have an ‘entitlement’ or ‘superiority’ complex – they believe they are better than they are, and this surely affects their work habits. Finally, this generation is one of the most affluent in all of history, and nothing breeds laziness more than having enough to eat and plenty of free time.

Whether this generation is lazier than others is beyond the point. People being lazy has been a problem for generations and will always be a problem. The solution that we have to think about is how we can help people to stop being lazy instead of looking around for people to blame. Before we can do that, we need to figure out the definition and meaning of this term.

Definition of Lazy: What is Laziness?

The general definition of laziness is someone who doesn’t want to work, doesn’t want to use energy, doesn’t want to put in effort, and doesn’t want to try to do anything worthwhile or productive. There are a lot of synonyms for laziness, such as indolence and sloth – sloth, of course, being immortalized as one of the seven deadly sins. We have a lot of images that we associate with laziness, such as a lazy person lying on a couch, watching TV, eating potato chips or some other junk food, and just generally being a drain on society.

If this sounds like you, or if you have ever been accused of laziness, you may take pride in the label, but most people do not see it as a badge of honor. In fact, laziness is one of the biggest problems in the world, linked to procrastination, social and cultural problems, sickness and unhealthiness, lack of education and jobs, poverty, and more.

Of course, defining laziness does not get at its meaning, just as defining procrastination doesn’t get to the underlying factors that may cause and classify the ‘condition.’ For instance, is someone just lazy by birth, by their genes, by their natures? Or are they lazy due to circumstance, or perhaps not being trained or taught properly? In other words, is it nature or nurture?

It seems to me that, as with everything it seems, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. On the one hand, it does seem that some people are born more energetic and hard working than other people. Some people just seem to want to take the easy way out on everything, and this habit may seem to run in families. However, it is hard to extricate this from the learned habits of being in situations that reward or encourage laziness, or in situations that don’t reward or encourage hard work and effort. Note as well that laziness may also be a sign of some other problem, medical or mental. For instance, the link between ‘laziness’ and depression is well founded, because people who are depressed generally have low motivation and low willpower to do anything, in the most extreme cases even to live. So we can’t just attack people without due cause.

Thus, we shouldn’t demonize people that are lazy, as this can just cause them to withdraw more. It simply doesn’t help the issue. Think about it – people, when attacked, will usually withdraw more. They get stubborn and don’t want to respond to the criticism; in the case of laziness, the lazy guy or girl may just withdraw further, as they are even more discouraged by the outside world. The definition, causes, and ultimate meaning of sloth is irrelevant when faced with the mission to stop it. Of course, knowing the causes can be important in our efforts to treat the disease and not simply cover up the symptoms, but the information should never be used as a label or cudgel.

Interestingly enough, unlike procrastination, few scientists and psychologists have done studies on this concept. Of course, ‘laziness’ can be broken down into many different components and features, and many of these (like procrastination) have received scholarly attention. Still, given how much ‘laziness’ carries a cache in our society and discourse, we can only hope that the scientific community takes the problem seriously and eventually explores the prevalence, impact, and causes of this widespread phenomenon.

Thus, armed with this understanding of laziness and its causes, we need to figure out a better way to motivate people to take action, a way that is beyond blame and beyond nagging.

Laziness and Procrastination

Before we go on to discuss some tips and tricks on how to stop being lazy, let’s briefly cover the link between procrastination and laziness. Sometimes, lazy people will use procrastination as a tool to avoid work. However, regardless of this fact, these two things don’t meant the same thing. Someone can procrastinate and not be lazy – perhaps they avoid particular kinds of work while working hard in other areas of their life. Some people will do really hard and unpleasant tasks in their avoidance of other tasks that they don’t want to do! Laziness is marked by simply not doing anything productive or trying to do anything with effort. Thus, while a procrastinator may be lazy, not all procrastinators are lazy. One might say, though, that lazy people are generally (if not always) procrastinators themselves, as they simply put off everything good and productive in their life for wasteful pursuits and burned time.

How to Overcome Laziness

If you want to overcome laziness, try some or all of these strategies to help you break out of your rut:

(1) First, consult the discussion of how to overcome procrastination. It may not be that you are lazy, per se, but that you have problem with prioritizing your tasks and putting less important things over important things.

(2) You can also work on your time management skills as well, as you may find that your issue is not with effort in itself but in your use and planning of time. You may also find that once your time is planned and made more efficient, you may also feel increased motivation and desire to actually do the tasks that you have to do given the improved framework.

(3) Work on your physical self. You may not be eating well, exercising, or getting sleep, and these bad habits can act as breaks on your motivation, energy, and productivity. You may also have a physical or mental illness that could be zapping you of your productive power, so you may want to go to a doctor if the issue is especially severe or has been with you for a while.

(4) Model people that aren’t lazy. We all know these individuals – they never need to find out how to stop being lazy simply because they are busy as a bee. They are always moving, always working, always producing – and they aren’t burning themselves out at the same time either. Thus, find these people and figure out what makes them tick. What habits do they have that allow them to be so productive and energetic? How do they structure their day? And most importantly, how do they keep themselves motivated through the inevitable ups and downs of life?

(5) Figure out what you’re doing in life. Sometimes laziness is just a function of your confusion or plain old hatred of your life path and the things you do in your daily routine. If you’re lost, do some soul-searching to figure out what you want to do with your life. If you can find the thing that gives you passion and lights your fires, you will not have to worry about laziness as much because you will be drawn directly to do the activity out of some internal force of nature.

(6) Some people find affirmations and visualization useful. I’ve generally found little success with these methods, but you should at least try them to see what you can get out of them.

(7) Get tools and software to help you overcome your laziness. For instance, this software, The Action Machine, can help both motivate you and keep track of your time (time management) in order to make you more productive, and, most important, get your momentum going in a positive direction.

(8) Take a break. Ironically, sometimes lazy people are just too stressed out and overworked. They have forgotten how to truly relax, so the time spent ‘being lazy,’ i.e. watching TV or just doing nothing, are actually unproductive periods of leisure. Instead, find activities and experiences that are truly relaxing and restorative. You may find after switching to these activities that you’ll have more motivation and vigor to pursue your work goals.

(9) Set up a system of rewards. Create a system that will reward you positively for reaching small, attainable goals. This is better than simply having arbitrary rewards or no rewards at all. Come up with a system and rewards that work best for you, but I really like the variable reward ratio, as it is the most fun and most ‘addicting’ in the long run.

(10) Determine the causes or triggers of your laziness and attack them. For instance, if you are lazy due to lack of motivation, find something that gets you going. If you are lazy because you are overwhelmed, get more organized. Treat the underlying cause and the ‘symptom,’ i.e. laziness, will go away too.

(11) Build up your self esteem. Believe that you can do whatever it is you need to do, and that you can do it well. Sometimes people are discouraged early in life from doing certain things; as a result, they simply shut themselves down to avoid that fear of failure or fear of ridicule. Instead, reprogram yourself to think more positively – this will help you take more risks and will motivate you to start overcoming laziness.

(12) Just get started. As we discussed in the chapter on overcoming procrastination, getting started is often the hardest part of actually doing the activity. Once you get going, you will find that you’ll be rolling forward to success.

==> Go to Chapter 5: What is Productivity