Managing laziness is a huge deal. Everything we do in life requires effort. How we manage ourselves is the difference between starting a company, watching it fail, and having the grit to pick yourself up and start again. It’s the difference between a clean house, clean car, or a messy life. It’s the difference between losing weight, reading a book, or binge watching TV. Nearly everything in our lives revolves around our ability to manage our laziness.
But… are we lazy?
What is laziness? I think laziness is a negative word we give to people who haven’t learned the secret to managing their bodies. Another word for this is self-control. It’s a shameful thing to lack self-control. But what if self-control isn’t what people say it is. What if it isn’t about being stronger but about being understanding. Years ago, I read a book entitled, “The Navy Seals Guide to Mental Toughness.” I was surprised to hear how the enlisted would handle adversity. Those who were successful would celebrate the small things. “Good job Frank, you brushed your teeth, you’re a winner!” The book is full of real world examples of people succeeding in hard environments with demanding expectations. We’ll see in a moment why this is the crux of the issue.
There’s another name for laziness, it’s called, “activation energy.” It’s the energy we need to get started. This required energy is the barrier to much of our happiness. Our bodies are hardwired to conserve energy. We are fighting our very natures. We don’t need to understand the science to know the feeling of not wanting to do something. We can all relate to that. There are of course different reasons for not wanting to do something. This post isn’t about those reasons. This post is about doing whatever you want regardless of the reasons stopping you.
Okay, no more preamble, if we want to beat laziness and seem as though we are self-controlled, we only need to do one thing. We need to pick the smallest thing possible toward our goal and do it. For example, if I want to put away a mountain of laundry, I’ll just say, “I’m going to fold two towels.” If I want to build a new software platform I’ll say, “I’ll start by having my program print Hello, world!”
So, now you have it. The secret. The way to do all your things. In my experience, it works every time. Just pick the smallest thing to do. Something that takes 5 minutes. This hack gets us over the activation energy required to get started. It tricks the brain because we are telling it, “Do a small thing.” The brain says, “Okay, I don’t want to but that’s easy.” Once we do the small thing we find that our brain is no longer arguing with us. It magically has accepted our goal as a thing to do now. Often, I find myself working for hours when at first it seemed impossible.
Now, if we practice this: reading one page of a book, picking up one dirty dish, texting one friend hello, doing one push-up, going for a 5 minute walk, putting tooth paste on your toothbrush, and paying one bill we’ll soon find energy that we never knew existed. All the chores of our lives will be completed. Things will seem easier.
One final thing to avoid. Do not think about the whole task. Really focus on your one thing. If that’s all you do, that’s okay. Maybe you’re actually tired. Really try to focus on the small thing and see where it leads you otherwise you’ll miss out on the hack.
It’s got to be small. It’s got to be easy. Turn this into a habit and you’ll seem like a very productive person because… you will be!
Best of luck!