We all dream about responsibility-free days. No laundry, dishes, or other obligations. Perhaps we wear pajamas all day.
If you can relate, you’re not alone. Many of us are burnt out. A recent Deloitte study found that 46% of Gen Zs and 38% of Millennials are stressed and exhausted all or most of the time.
A common response to feeling overwhelmed is procrastinating and neglecting responsibilities. If you’re struggling with self-discipline and feel lazier than usual, it might be caused by your never-ending to-do list. We’ll discuss this possibility, other reasons for your lack of motivation, and how to overcome laziness.
What is laziness?
Laziness is typically understood as not wanting to do things we think we should do. You might set a goal of working out for 20 minutes daily. Some days you’ll feel lazy — you won’t want to do this activity.
Most people define laziness with negative connotations. The Oxford Dictionary describes it as “being unwilling to work or be active, or a lack of care to doing something.
“But laziness isn’t inherently bad. Jon M. Jachimowicz, now an Assistant Professor of Business Administration at the Harvard School of Business, has argued that laziness isn’t an inherent trait but a question of resources.
Our energy levels and mood play an enormous role in our day-to-day functioning. When we’re happy, we complete more tasks. When we’re tired, we perform less.
According to Jachimowicz, laziness is often a sign we need to step back and take a break. If you’re feeling a lack of motivation lately, it’s signaling you to examine what’s going on in your life.
Causes of laziness
We’ve outlined four common reasons for feeling unmotivated:
1. Bored of monotony
Ask yourself these questions to see if your routine is too stagnant:
- Do I give myself breaks throughout the workday?
- Does my job give me the flexibility to build a work-life balance? Am I splitting my time between work, social activities, and personal pursuits?
- Do I push myself out of my comfort zone?
- Do I get changes of scenery in my environment, career path, or social life?
2. Feeling overwhelmed
It’s common to feel overwhelmed about career prospects, finances, and family well-being. Family emergencies and relationship upheavals are part of the — often stressful — game of life.
But feeling overwhelmed can cause you to procrastinate and, ultimately, shut down. If you’re looking at a huge mountain of things to do and worry about, you’ll be too mentally drained to take that first step.
While big-picture planning is good every once in a while, try to take each day at a time. Break down your goals into smaller, daily tasks, so they feel more manageable, and use checklists to help you organize.
3. Not enough sleep
A lack of sleep can cause impaired immune function, physical and mental fatigue, and decreased daily performance. This means you’ll get sick and feel tired more often, so you won’t have the energy necessary to do what you want.
4. An underlying mental or physical health issue
If you’ve ever wondered, “Am I lazy or depressed?” don’t panic — you’re not alone. Both share some symptoms, such as a lack of motivation and care.
Laziness is usually a temporary mental block often overcome by changing time management habits, readjusting our goals, or learning to hold ourselves accountable.
But extreme lack of motivation and care could indicate an underlying physical or mental health issue such as insomnia, depression, and more. If you try several tactics but struggle to beat feeling unmotivated or this experience is paired with other problematic symptoms, see a mental health professional to discuss treatment.
These professionals can also help identify if you’re struggling with burnout or overwhelmed.
5 tips on overcoming laziness
No matter the cause, it’s frustrating when we want to complete important tasks but feel too tired and run down to start. Here are five ways to beat laziness:
1. Find your motivator
The first step to conquering laziness is figuring out what motivates you. Everyone’s different. For you, it might be climbing up the career ladder. For another person, it’s gaining physical strength.
Once you’ve identified your best motivators, consider writing them down and placing them somewhere you look every day, such as your bathroom mirror or desktop screen. When you’re feeling unmotivated, think about whether you just need a break or whether being reminded of the overarching purpose of the task sparks new energy.
2. Avoid distractions
Constant distractions can adversely affect performance and well-being because they drain you of necessary cognitive resources. Take a day or two to track your distractions, noting how often you’re scrolling social media or opening browsers that aren’t work-related. Once you know what your distractions are, you can make a plan to avoid them.
3. Create accountability
It’s easy to be lazy when no one’s watching. We’re more likely to follow through with our goals if we know someone we respect and admire is invested in our progress.
Tell a friend or family member about the changes you’re working toward and ask that they check in on progress, offering to do the same for them. Choose someone you trust who will provide constructive and honest feedback and celebrate your achievements.
To help both yourself and your accountability partner better understand your journey, consider defining the following:
- A long-term objective
- A timeline of achievable short-term goals
- Preferred communication
- Frequency of check-ins
4. Give yourself breaks
Our brains are not designed to sustain attention on a single task for long periods — 45 minutes is when our concentration maxes out and brain activity begins to decrease.
Trying to continue on the same task could lead to poor performance and frustration, so take a break occasionally, letting your mind relax and wander or focusing on something entertaining and not productivity-focused.
You could also embrace the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that breaks tasks into 25-minute intervals to make projects seem less overwhelming. Work on a single task (no multitasking) for 25 minutes, then take a five-minute break. After four intervals, take a 15-minute break.
5. Set reasonable goals
Taking on more than you can realistically accomplish could lead to burnout symptoms like exhaustion and decreased motivation. Daunting goals you’re not ready for might loom over you and make you feel like you don’t want to do anything, never mind the steps necessary to achieve the impossible.
Setting reasonable goals means you’ll feel less overwhelmed and your productivity levels are more likely to remain consistent throughout the process. Remember to break up your goals into smaller, more easily managed tasks and only focus on what needs your immediate attention.
We’re often the hardest on ourselves regarding our productivity. It’s the guilt and negative self-talk that really makes laziness feel bad.
If you need a break, take one. If you care about progressing in a particular area of your life, you’ve now learned how to overcome laziness and can start increasing your motivation levels.
Regardless of what’s slowing you down, you deserve to rest. And once you’re rested, you deserve to work to meet your goals and become a better version of yourself.