As we all know, saying "I need to get this done" is in no way a guarantee that this will actually ever be done. It will just always be easier to not do The Thing than to do The Thing — even though we know that tomorrow we will very much wish we had just done The Thing. Luckily, with a few shifts in thinking, we can overcome that urge to become a lazy pile of sweatpants subsisting only on episodes of Stranger Things.
"If we rely on willpower, we’re going to run out of steam," says Tim Pychyl, PhD, associate professor of psychology and procrastination expert at Carleton University in Ontario. But to figure out how to give yourself the best chance of pushing through that wall of laziness, you've gotta do a little soul-searching first and examine why you're being such a sloth in the first place.
Essentially, we're tempted to be lazy anytime we need to do something we think is going to bring on a negative emotion (e.g. frustration, resentment, boredom). Avoiding that task is basically just a way to prevent those negative feelings, Dr. Pychyl says. Yep, even though we know it's going to be worse for us in the long run, being lazy helps us feel better in the short-term — and it's just really hard to resist that.
While nearly all of us feel that temptation, some of us are more likely to give in than others — specifically, folks who are low on conscientiousness, one of the "big five" personality traits. "Someone who’s extremely low on conscientiousness isn't very dutiful, organized, or self-disciplined," Dr. Pychyl explains. That means you're more likely to procrastinate and find it more difficult to dig yourself out of that procrastination hole.
The good news is that you've got four other major personality markers (agreeableness, openness to new experiences, neuroticism, and extraversion) that you can leverage to counter your low conscientiousness. For instance, if you're super agreeable, enlist a few friends in your productivity efforts (maybe via a shared Google calendar?) because you're probably more likely to be accountable to them than yourself. Or if you love to try new things, sign yourself up for a different studio fitness class every week to keep things interesting rather than trying to force yourself to do the same at-home workout every time.
Ready to tackle your lazy demons? Read on for a few more tips and tricks — and then get after it.