7 Ways I Trick My Lazy Self Into Doing The Things I’m Dreading
After years of envisioning myself becoming a next-level organized, chic planner-using type of person, I can finally admit something huge to myself: I’m lazy.
I’m not talking about a debilitating level of laziness that puts my career and relationships in jeopardy, but rather a general, everyday laziness that kind of makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something if I’ve so much as, say, cleaned my apartment. I’ve talked about my takeout problem, and my clutter tendencies, and my general inclination to put things off. And, no matter what I try and tell myself, all of these are small issues that come from simply defaulting to laziness.
I’ve been like this for as long as I can remember — I’d put off doing my grade school homework until the last minute, or even skip out on the particularly boring readings altogether. In college, I’d get to a point towards the end of the semester where I wouldn’t go to the zumba classes I’d signed up for unless my incredibly overcommitted roommate would go with me (which is to say I all but stopped going).
Of course, these things are always cyclical. Productivity in my personal life comes in waves, so it’s up to me to figure out how to make the most of them. Here are the best ways I’ve found to trick myself into getting things done — even when I’m dreading the idea of doing them.
1. Ignore other people’s idea of what a “routine” should look like.
Like most people, I have to put my work priorities ahead of my personal priorities a lot of the time. (I can’t very well continue trying to better myself if I can’t afford to do so.) The reality is that getting as many of the things done in my personal life as I want to very much depends on my ability to be productive during the work day. So, in order to be as productive as possible, I’ve started shifting my schedule to accommodate my natural waves of energy.
This means that I end up getting up relatively early in the morning, and getting to work first thing. As much as I enjoy reading about how to be a morning person, I have no desire to add more routine to my mornings, or to make them more Instagram-friendly. I wake up around 7 most days, shower, and start working. Coffee and breakfast comes later, and I rarely eat anything more than a piece of fruit and a granola bar. That’s because I know that the morning is the time of day I work best. Most of the people I work with aren’t online yet, so I find it to be a solid time to get all of my solo tasks out of the way.
I’ve worked best this way as long as I can remember; I never pulled an all-nighter in college, because I’d simply get up super early in the morning if I needed to finish a paper. (Sometimes this meant waking up at 4 AM due to hardcore procrastinating, which, okay, I would not recommend.) It also means I have more time in the afternoon and evening to get my personal things done, and simply enjoy more daylight hours.
2. Prepare way earlier than I need to.
If I have one thing I need to get done or want to do for myself, I have to plan my entire day around it. This means not only mapping out my schedule around it, but also physically preparing for it. So, if I want to go to an exercise class in the evening, but know I’m not going to feel super motivated to go after a full day of work, I put my workout outfit on first thing in the morning. (I admit, this is much easier to do for me than some people because I mostly work from home — though there are plenty of ways to make your athleisure office-appropriate.) That way, I’m in a going-to-class mindset for the rest of the day, and it feels like something inevitable that I now have to do.
3. Keep doing the thing.
It’s a simple truth that repeating a terrifying activity makes it less and less scary every time. I danced competitively growing up, and was excited to start taking lessons again when I moved to New York — but it took me over a year to work up the nerve to go to my first class. I hadn’t danced in a while, and I was intimidated at the idea of being one of the worst dancers there. But after I finally started going, each time got a little bit easier. Momentum is real, so if I finally do something good for myself that I’ve been putting off, I try my hardest to keep repeating it.
4. Tell an accountability friend that I’m doing something.
By “accountability friend,” I mostly mean my mother. If I proactively tell her I’m doing something — exercising, scheduling a doctor’s appointment, sending in a quarterly tax payment — I can be almost 100% certain that she’s going to follow up about it. Find someone who’s going to hold you to the same level of personal accountability, even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing.
5. Focus on one productivity goal at a time.
I am currently the happiest I’ve ever been in my work life, and you know what? That took time. I had to learn how to be a freelancer, how to make connections to keep getting work, and how to manage my time and priorities so that I can continue earning more. And it’s not slowing down anytime soon; I want to keep increasing my rates and getting more clients, so that I can continue feeling more stable professionally and financially.
I also know that it was a lot easier to get to this place when focusing on work was my top priority. Now, I can comfortably choose to focus on other goals during the hours I’m not actually working, because I’m more secure in my current contracts, and my methods of getting more work if I need to. That started with de-cluttering my life, and now I am moving on to getting in better physical shape.
6. Stop saying “yes” to everything.
This mostly goes for social engagements I’m not really interested in. I used to very much be an “always say yes” kind of girl, and I still say yes to so many things. But you can only find yourself at so many 11-PM-on-a-Thursday improv shows before you never want to see your friends again. I’ve had many instances where I abandoned plans I’d made for myself to instead hang out with a friend. I’ve learned to start saying no to social outings when I know I’d rather do the productive, healthy thing I’d already been planning for myself.
7. Give myself a change of scenery.
I finally have the dedicated workspace that I’ve been coveting for three years…but I still find myself opting to work from the couch for a few hours each day, especially if I’m in writing mode. If I have an important project to finish, or an email to send that I need to spend some time on, I’ll even take myself away from the distractions of home (mostly the cat) for a few hours.
What are your strategies for getting the things done that you just keep putting off? I’d love to hear about them!
Holly is the Managing Editor of The Financial Diet. Follow her on Twitter here, or send her your ideas at email@example.com!
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