How to Stop Being Lazy and Overcome Laziness

How to Stop Being Lazy and Overcome Laziness
Photo by Ash Edmonds

Learning how to stop being lazy is essential to having a successful life. Whether you’re in college, high school, or you simply feel lazy at work or at home as you go about your day-to-day life, overcoming laziness is one of the most important things you can do to get ahead.

I’ve gone through bouts of laziness in my own life. When I was in middle and high school I wasn’t the most motivated of students, and this was reflected, time and again, in the grades I received at the end of the school year. When I entered college my laziness decreased year by year as I slowly began to recognize the importance of what I was working toward. When I entered the working world I had learned how to stop being lazy for good; and it’s this look at how to stop being lazy and overcome laziness that I’m going to share with you today.

In this article, I’m going to look at what laziness is, including basic definitions and how it is viewed by other people. I’ll then move on to a section on how to overcome laziness, looking specifically at ways to get motivated to move forward with your life. Finally, I’ll look at how to stop being lazy over the long-term.

What is Laziness?

Laziness is the feeling of not wanting or being able to do a task in which you are perfectly capable of doing due to the negative feelings associated with making the effort to do so. To be called lazy is universally seen as a negative charge.

Sometimes misspelled as “lazyness,” bouts of laziness can come and go in your life. Laziness is caused by a number of factors, including tiredness, boredom, and depression, and while learning how to stop being lazy will help you get over the worst of these bouts, feelings of laziness will never entirely go away—and that’s okay, so long as you learn to overcome them when you need to.

Laziness vs. Tiredness

Sometimes you may find yourself feeling lazy at home, work, or school, whereas you are in fact simply tired and in need of a good night’s sleep.

Tiredness can cause laziness, for sure, but in this situation you can stop being lazy simply by getting the right amount of rest you need. In researching and writing my first book, My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired, I found that most people need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. You could be on the upper end of this, meaning that even though you consistently get seven hours per night, your body in fact needs nine. (Here is a wide selection of answers to the question “Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?”)

Laziness vs. Boredom

When you’re feeling lazy there’s also a good chance you are in fact just bored. This is especially true in the home, but it can be the case at work and in school as well. We all remember the disruptive kid in school who we were told only acts out because he is “smart” and therefore “bored” by class. While always feeling like something of a dig at our own intelligence, this boredom manifested itself as laziness.

If you feel that your laziness could be caused by boredom, skip below to the How to Overcome Boredom and Laziness section.

Laziness vs. Depression

It’s really important that you don’t confuse laziness with depression. If you’re unsure whether you’re exhibiting signs of laziness or depression, get in touch with your doctor right away.

It’s okay to procrastinate from time to time, and it’s okay to feel depressed. We all do at certain times in our lives, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. That said, if you feel that your laziness or depression is manifesting into chronic depression, it’s important to reach out to someone, such as a doctor, friend, or family member who can help. Don’t suffer depression in silence.

How to Overcome Boredom and Laziness

Learning how to overcome laziness requires you to actually want to overcome it. Sure, we can all say that we don’t enjoy lazing around the house and not doing much of anything, but in order for you to truly learn how to stop being lazy for good you have to mean it.

Here are seven simple steps to help you overcome laziness:

1. Get a Morning Routine

In my book on morning routines I wrote in the introduction that:

The way you spend your morning has an outsized effect on the rest of your day. The choices we make during the first hour or so of our morning determines whether we have productivity and peace of mind for the rest of the day, or whether it will clobber us over the head.

Your mornings are a blank slate, an opportunity to start again. Sure, you may have been lazy yesterday, but that doesn’t mean that today has to be one and the same. Choosing a morning routine that works for you, one that makes you feel awake, alert, physically and mentally healthy, and psyched up to have a great day, will help you get motivated to study, to exercise, and to generally overcome laziness over the long term.

2. Get Organized

Organizing your home, workplace, study areas (or home office), and even your computer desktop and the number of apps on your phone is a great way to get out of the funk of laziness and come back into the real world.

This is especially important if you’re a high school or college student, as laziness in school is particularly harmful as it can lead to a lifetime of lazy habits. I was lucky as it was during my time at college that I began to overcome my laziness; and much of that was due to being extremely organized in my physical space, and wanting to keep up this level of organization in my day-to-day life.

3. Quit Social Media

Remember the days of old when you were feeling bored and lazy and, as a result, you would read a book, go for a walk, or do something else that was generally seen as productive with your time?

While those days aren’t entirely behind us, they are for some, and social media is at the heart of much of this decline. I truly believe that one of the best things you can do to overcome laziness is to quit—or at least dramatically reduce your usage of—social media.

I have a love-hate relationship with social media, especially Twitter, of which I’ve been a user for over ten years. Some days Twitter provides a wealth of information, giving me everything from the latest news and op-eds of the day to hilarious videos that I immediately text to my wife. Other days, however, Twitter can feel like a black hole, something that I find myself mindlessly scrolling through without any real plan of what to do when I stop.

In short, it’s a lazy person’s dream.

Whether you choose to quit social media entirely or simply limit your usage of it, if you want to know how to stop being lazy, I’d recommend cutting out social media and replacing it with watching inspirational videos or reading motivational books or quotes as one of the best things you can do.

4. Use Tried-and-Tested Techniques

One of the easiest ways you can get motivated to study or exercise, or do anything else you know you should (but can never find the motivation) do is try using a tried-and-tested technique to overcome laziness and procrastination.

There are a number of techniques that can help you in this area (search for “how to overcome procrastination” and you’ll come away with a handful), but one I want to highlight in particular is the Pomodoro Technique.

Developed by Francesco Cirillo in the 1980s, the Pomodoro Technique breaks down work (or studying, or exercising, or whatever it is you need to do) into short chunks of time, with a brief break in between each. Here’s what it looks like in practice:

  1. Set your Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes
  2. Work on your task
  3. After 25 minutes is up, take a 3-5 minute break
  4. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer 25-30 minute break

5. Only Five Minutes

While working on a task for 25 minutes followed by a 3-5 minute break is a great way to break the spell of laziness and be more productive, in reality working for a full 25 minutes on a single task may be difficult for you as you’re initially working to stop being lazy.

With this in mind, try the “only five minutes” approach. Knowing how to overcome laziness requires you to truly think about what it is you want (or need) to do instead of being lazy, then go do that thing.

Ask yourself, what could I do in the next five minutes that would bring me the biggest results in my personal life, in school, or at work? Once you have an answer to this question, go do that thing.

6. Start Small

Whenever an interviewer asks me how to keep up a morning routine, I tell them the same thing every time:

Keeping your routine short and easy to accomplish, especially in the beginning, will greatly increase the chances of you sticking to it.

Luckily for you, learning how to be less lazy works in exactly the same way. Would you describe yourself as a couch potato? If so, you won’t want to try all the techniques to stop being lazy in this list all at once. Instead, you should choose one of them and try it out for a week. After the week is over, assess how helpful this technique has been (avoid making a rash decision about its effectiveness after just a few days—give it the full week to be sure), and choose to keep it or ditch it based on this assessment. Then, try another technique the next week.

7. Be Kind to Yourself

The thing about learning how to be less lazy is you’re going to have setbacks along the way—they’re inevitable. Sometimes it’s hard to crawl ourselves out of bed in the morning. I get it. In my book on morning routines I wrote the following, which I believe applies here:

Don’t see one solitary missed day as a setback. Embrace non-routine moments and adapt to them. Remember the bigger picture, and get back to your new routine tomorrow.

The second part of that quote is key. If you truly want to know how to stop being lazy this is how. While you shouldn’t beat yourself up if you fall back into your lazy ways, make sure it doesn’t happen twice.

Always remember that tomorrow is a new day.

Learning how to overcome laziness takes time, but it is one of the most important things you can do to get ahead and have a successful life. You only have one life to lead—it’s up to you what you make of it.

If you’re interested in hearing more from me, be sure to subscribe to my free email newsletter, and if you enjoyed this article, please share it on social media, link to it from your website, or bookmark it so you can come back to it often. ∎

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall

Benjamin Spall is the co-author of My Morning Routine (Portfolio). He has written for outlets including the New York Times, New York Observer, Quartz, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, CNBC, and more.