It’s no secret that sometimes it’s harder to get work done. Monday mornings are a stock punchline for a reason, and everyone’s felt the pull of an afternoon nap after lunch. These lapses in energy are normal if a little frustrating. Likewise, there’s probably no need to worry if you don’t find yourself starting new projects at 4:56 in the afternoon.
But what about when you struggle to get work done at other times? A little lull in work after lunch might not be cause for concern, but a pattern of procrastination and laziness can have serious consequences. Procrastination can turn into a bad habit. First you miss some deadlines, then you get a bad performance review, and eventually you get passed over for promotions. Laziness can kill your career.
Fortunately, you can combat laziness. You can keep yourself energized, motivated and on task if you get yourself into a daily routine every morning. You can be the productive employee that both you and your manager want you to be. Keep reading for seven strategies to fight laziness and find motivation on a lazy day, featuring advice from working women. Your career will thank you.
As any mechanic can tell you, you have to identify a problem before you can fix it. Explaining away your laziness at work will just make it more difficult to address the problem. Don’t make excuses for yourself if you’re consistently wasting time, missing deadlines or doing poor quality work. Instead, as Ngoc Nguyen, a certified leadership coach with Ama La Vida, offers the following advice: “Name it! Be honest with yourself. When you start feeling lazy, call yourself out on it.”
Look back at your work over the past few days. Have you been pulling your weight as a worker? What kind of employee are you? Evaluate your behavior honestly. It’s not the end of the world if you find that you really have been lazy at work — a self-assessment is an opportunity for you to change your behavior and improve your performance. Be honest with yourself about your habits, and then you can create a plan to fix it.
Curb your laziness by organizing your workday with a planner. Robin Schwartz, PHR at MFG Jobs, notes that “planning and prioritizing work instead of reacting to what’s happening ensures that the most important items are completed.” Using a planner will help you stay focused and efficient. Plus, setting and completing short-term goals (like a to-do list) feels rewarding. You’ll find yourself motivated to keep achieving.
Use a planning style that fits your needs. There are many options out there, from a trendy bullet journal to a more traditional planner. You can create daily, weekly and even monthly to-do lists. Whatever method you use, Schwartz suggests keeping it simple: “Don’t spend the time complicating what the list looks like — it’s for your eyes only. Focus on the items that absolutely need to get done and keep non-essential items off of your list.” Once you get into a groove with your planner, you’ll find it easier to stay on task and get things done.
While simply getting things done is important, don’t forget to set goals for your development as well. These goals should help you improve your skills and your situation. For example, you could set a goal to get promoted, to get more education or to get to know your coworkers better. These goals can be weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly. To maximize your likelihood of achieving your goal, hold yourself accountable to a coworker or manager, and report your progress regularly.
This goal setting will give you direction in your work. Valerie Streif, content strategist and career advisor with Mentat, says, “I also take a minute each day if I am starting to feel lazy or unmotivated and try to envision what I want to accomplish in the upcoming week, and upcoming month. By looking more long term, I feel the motivation to stay on task, get things done, and even get ahead in my schedule.” Setting goals will make your job feel more purposeful, eliminating the laziness that often comes from feeling like your day-to-day work doesn’t matter.
While it may sound counterintuitive, taking regular breaks can help you fight off laziness. Breaks give you time to de-stress and refocus, helping you accomplish more when you get back to work. In fact, methods like the Pomodoro Technique rely on scheduling regular breaks into your work to keep you from getting burned out. Burnout can lead to laziness, so take breaks to keep yourself on task.
There are plenty of apps that can help you remember to take a break or even help you make the most of that break. If that sounds too high-tech, Deborah Sweeney, CEO at MyCorporation, has a simpler solution: “Sometimes even getting up to go to the bathroom helps me to re-set and re-focus.” Likewise, Heidi Winterberg, senior technical recruiter at OakTree Staffing & Training, suggests just taking a brief walk around the office. “Moving is very beneficial for reenergizing, focusing and allowing my mind to take a short break,” she says. Take breaks as needed, then get back to work.
If you create a pattern of accomplishment outside of work, it will be easier to do the same at work. Rather than spend your hours at home binging Netflix, spend your time creating healthy, productive habits. For example, keep your home clean by taking a few minutes each day to straighten things up. Learn to cook, and make your own meals. These simple habits are good for your well-being, and they’ll help you keep laziness from taking hold in any part of your life.
As you cultivate these habits, be sure to include an exercise plan. Kayse Kress, CFP at More With Less Financial Planning, LLC, says exercise has great benefits for your work life: “You will find that you will become more willing to think about complicated things, such as working on a project or doing something that you have been avoiding. Exercise will help you overcome the invisible barriers and will help you feel motivated and more willing to put in effort.” Even a simple routine can help you fight laziness and become more motivated.
If you still find yourself feeling lazy at work, make sure there are no underlying problems affecting you. Your laziness could be another problem in disguise. For example, if you lack energy, you may want to adjust your diet. If you are struggling to sleep well at night, you may want to invest in a more comfortable mattress. If you still feel fatigued, you may need to see a doctor. Such steps will help you maximize your performance at work.
You may also consider whether your laziness is due to dissatisfaction with your work. As Heather McKenzie, therapist and Licensed Professional Counselor, suggests, “If you find that you are consistently disengaged and unmotivated at work, the problem might not be you… It might be that your job is just a bad fit.” Spend some time considering whether your career is a good fit. If you’re not sure, it might be time to explore other options. A job you love will make it much easier to be productive and motivated.
Just as you need to be honest about your lazy tendencies, you need to be honest about your improvement. As you implement these strategies, create a reward system for yourself. This will help you stay motivated, and it provides an easy way to see how far you’ve come. If you consistently get your conditional reward, you’ll know you’re overcoming your laziness.
Make your reward dependent on a measurable condition. For example, Nicole Delorme, marketing manager at Tigris Events, rewards herself with a weekly treat based on her to-do list: “As childish as it sounds, I will physically award myself a ‘gold star’ that I place on my calendar each day I complete my entire to-do list. At the end of the week, if I have 4 stars, I reward myself with a Starbucks on Friday. This system works because I can physically see my progress and I work towards something personal I enjoy.” Even a simple reward can motivate you to continue fighting lazy habits.
Laziness can come from a combination of factors. Some people may not find their tasks or work stimulating and put them off as a result. Others worry about failure or lack confidence and don't try because they fear the worst. Most people are not lazy because they are simply wired that way—there is often a reason for their behavior.
Laziness is not an innate behavior; it's a habit, something we have adopted. Because it is a learned behavior rather than something we're born with, we can also "unlearn" and combat it.
The above strategies can help you come to terms with your behavior and attitudes as well as take steps to curb them.
Laziness at work is only a death sentence if you don’t do anything about it. With these seven strategies, you can revitalize your attitude to become an energized, productive employee. Don’t wait for another missed deadline or poor review — take an honest look at your performance today, and use this article to create a plan for improvement. With a motivated attitude, you’ll see more success more than you ever thought possible.
Kelsey Down is a freelance writer in Salt Lake City who has been featured on publications including Elite Daily, VentureBeat, and SUCCESS. She’s covered fun stuff like why TV reboots need to stop and how to hack sleep as a workout, and she also writes about personal and family wellness. Follow her on Twitter @kladown23.