Laziness, the Enemy of Action

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Laziness, together with fear, is one of the greatest enemies of actions. Although it usually has a negative connotation, the truth is that laziness is somehow included in animal and human nature. It’s the unwillingness to work or use energy, despite having the ability to do so, and there can be different causes:

  • The action won’t provide us with a worthwhile benefit.
  • The work done will not get the recognition we want.
  • The action may cause physical pain or a negative mental state.
  • We do not consider ourselves sufficiently prepared to perform that activity.
  • We are not motivated enough.

In a nutshell, one is lazy when his motivation to avoid effort outweighs his motivation to do the right thing or the expected thing.

Laziness shouldn’t be confused with procrastination. Procrastination is the delaying of a task in favour of other tasks which, although perceived as easier or more pleasant, are generally less important or urgent. They are similar concepts and both involve a lack of motivation but, unlike a lazy person, a procrastinator aims to complete the task, although at a higher cost to himself.

Although it’s okay to try not to consume unnecessary energy, this behavior can be a problem when it becomes a habit. When there is no good reason to delay things except not seeing immediate benefit, we may end up abandoning our expectations and ideal lifestyle. We end up accepting “what is,” and life can become fundamentally boring.

As in everything, there are defenders and detractors of laziness (see Hal Cranmer’s In Defense of Laziness), but one of the immediate consequences of laziness is that a great deal of time is wasted. And since our time is finite and cannot be recovered, wasting time is a waste of life. Opportunities are also wasted. As our interest and curiosity about things fades, we stop learning and evolving.

The solution to laziness is to understand what barriers prevent us from doing things. Only by understanding why we are lazy can we begin to break certain patterns of behavior. Why this lack of motivation?

Receiving some kind of feedback that makes us feel that we are moving towards a goal can help us feel more motivated. Feeling that it’s under our control to reach the goal will make it much easier for us to be motivated. Experiencing the social support of our friends and family, who care whether or not we achieve our goals, can also be a viable source of additional motivation.

Laziness can also derive from a problem of self-regulation and lack of organization. Establishing daily routines and implementing a system of personal organization are options that can help overcome laziness.

Often we only see the short-term benefit of things, so we lack the motivation to tackle most routine and boring tasks. Using a personal organization system such as GTD ( Getting Things Done), which allows you to relate everyday activities to larger goals, can help give meaning to the most nondescript actions. It’s important to keep in mind why we do things.

Something that often helps to increase motivation is simply to change things. Change your job, your environment, your friendships, and even change the way or the tools with which you do things. A year ago I started working from a coworking because working from home for so many years was starting to take its toll on me. It was a change with a tremendously positive effect on my motivation. The work environment and the motorbike ride back and forth every day really encourages me to work. A silly thing like changing my computer keyboard (for a fantastic mechanical keyboard, very precise and with an evocative sound) also encourages me a lot when I start programming or writing.

For me personally, the summer, the heat and the perception that almost everyone is on vacation, makes me a little more lazy. If the same thing happens to you, organize your way of working so that it fits your personality well, with enough breaks, with time especially dedicated to deep work and with time to do the things you like.

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