Everyday Laziness: How can you Force yourself to Work?

Oct 24, 2019


Pavel Khoroschutin


“My work runs me ragged. Or, rather, I run myself ragged. I keep the main goal in focus, but simply can’t get myself together and start on it. I start on small and immediate tasks that require less effort and time and drag out their execution. Of course, I tell myself that I just want to get rid of these little problems first, so that they stop putting pressure on me. And shouldn’t I solve them to my best ability even though they’re small? No, of course not. And so I work on them slowly and steadily, trying to make everything perfect. Now and then I get distracted by social networks and Pinterest. In these moments I am convinced that I am not being lazy at all — I am simply looking for inspiration and fresh ideas. By the end of the day I blame myself for not managing to accomplish anything. I’m exhausted and feeling like I’ve wasted my time. The deadline is approaching closer and closer, and I’m floundering. I start hastily breaking a big task into smaller ones and barely finish in time to meet a project schedule. Then I take on a new task and everything is repeated once more.”

— Victoria, 25, graphic designer

Have you ever felt like Victoria? We think yes, because every person is sometimes lazy at work. We can set ourselves a goal, but for a long time we can’t find the inspiration to get down to business. We can start a business with joy and enthusiasm, but then feel tired and lose interest along the path. But what is more important is not the fact that we do feel such things, but how often we encounter them and how we cope when we do.

If we are repeatedly lazy, this inevitably affects the results, quality, and timing of our performance. In the worst scenario, the inability to cope with laziness can lead to job losses and poor resume recommendations. In this article we will discuss why we tend to be lazy and how to deal with laziness at work.

Why are we lazy?

It is generally accepted that laziness is a serious flaw in personality, and it arises from weakness of character and lack of will. The common expression “laziness is the engine of progress” is more often used sarcastically. From early childhood we have been afraid of the example learned from the fairy-tale hero Emeli and forced to memorize proverbs about the importance of work.

It would seem that with such an upbringing we all needed to get a “vaccine” against laziness. Then why do many, including conscientious adults and valuable specialists, struggle so hard to overcome laziness? Waking up in the morning, they catch themselves thinking: “I don’t want to get up and go to work.”

In fact, various physiological and psychological factors can hide under the mask of laziness – from physical fatigue to the lack of stable life guidelines and also depression. Before you start blaming yourself and trying to eradicate this flaw with all your might, it is necessary to understand the true causes of its manifestation.

1.   Physiological causes of laziness

The irresistible desire to do nothing, even when deadlines are fast approaching, could happen due to the peculiarities of the structure of the brain. This conclusion was reached by neuroscientists at the University of Oxford. A lack of connections between certain areas of the brain make it difficult for some people to make decisions and move from reflection to activity. Of course, this does not explain the laziness of everybody. But science cannot deny the fact that some people are naturally less strong-minded and, as a result, less productive. [1]
At the workplace, the more tangible physiological causes of laziness are physical fatigue, malaise, illness, and discomfort (which can be exacerbated by uncomfortable clothes and shoes). The body, recognizing the need for rest, treatment, and comfort, sends appropriate signals to the brain. When we do not react to these signals — have out-of-bed colds, refuse to leave work in favor of a new project, sit all day in tight jeans compressing the abdominal cavity — we try to “silence” them. Much of our brain activity is thus spent on “disabling” discomfort factors. Hence the problems with concentrating on work tasks and difficulties in decision-making. We may not even be aware of such “struggles” that directly affect our performance.

Similar processes occur when we work in conditions that do not meet the required standards such as uncomfortable air temperature and humidity, insufficient lighting, increased noise level, etc. [2]

2.   Misperception of responsibilities and areas of responsibility

Think of yourself in your first working week at your current job. Surely you were very active and inquisitive and tried to show the full range of your skills and competencies. What happened a month later? Three months later? Six months later? Perhaps there was a feeling that more tasks were assigned to you than you expected, and the desire to work enthusiastically consequently and dramatically decreased?

When people start a new job, they strive to do as much work as possible, even when not part of their responsibilities. The new employee tries to prove that he/she deserves the post and aims to receive a positive response from the management, which, in turn, initially encourages his/her activity and purposefulness.

But when the manager stops giving positive reinforcement, the employee begins to feel that he/she is doing too much. Once upon a time the worker willingly worked overtime, but now there is difficulty coping with what is within the area of responsibility.

Laziness in this case is a form of protest which has arisen as a consequence of intra-personal conflict. Instead of satisfying a true actual need the employee  tries to satisfy another one. In the beginning, the worker focused on the need for recognition and went beyond the area of responsibility. When he/she stopped receiving recognition, fatigue accumulated, and laziness appeared.

When you begin a new job, keep your focus on the need to earn a decent salary for the clear and timely performance of those duties that are written in your employment contract or job description. Then you won’t have to think about how to get rid of laziness.

3.   Emotional burnout 

Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion that can occur due to prolonged stress and unstimulating work. People who are unable to set up a clear work and rest schedule and engage in monotonous work for long periods are prone to burnout. If your work involves systematic operations and you are not satisfied with the results, you may lose interest in it. By forcing yourself to do unlikeable tasks over and over again, you gradually move towards a subconscious inner protest that is expressed in the form of laziness.

Read more about the emotional burnout and its impact on work and other areas of life in this article.

4.   Low motivation

Laziness can be a reaction to the lack of well-understood values. For example, if your performance is rising but your wages are still the same. Or if you execute a sales plan for several consecutive months, earn generous bonuses, and finally start enjoying your results, but suddenly the boss decides to double your plan, and you realize that you won’t be able to fulfill it.
It also happens that the loss of motivation is directly related to the peculiarities of work and not to the level of earnings:

“My main job in my previous workplace was to provide feedback on customer complaints. I constantly apologized on behalf of the company, provided compensation and promised that we will definitely take the necessary measures, and this would not happen again. In this, I followed the job description and transferred the information on each complaint to the relevant units. Months and years passed and typical complaints were repeated. It became difficult and even embarrassing to tell people that such situations were extremely rare in our company. I began to understand that the company already knew the details of the problem, but it was unprofitable to solve it in favor of customers.

I felt like a useless link in the system that had no impact on anything. My salary was increased every three months and I received additional tasks and projects to distract me from the main one for a while. But I had lost my motivation and any desire to fulfill my tasks.
When I realized that my productivity tended to zero, I quit the job. Now I live on the money I earned and did not have time to spend. I have no desire to get a new job or even look for vacancies; laziness does not let me go.”

— Evgeniy, 23, former call-center employee

5.   Pre-leave mood


It can be extremely difficult to muster up the will and professionalism to work productively just before leave or dismissal. How can you force yourself to think about work when all thoughts are about warm seas or fun with friends? Such a mood can overwhelm the whole group. This happens, for example, just before the New Year or May holidays. On such days, laziness arises because of low self-discipline and a tendency to follow the majority. Laziness can also be a consequence of fatigue if you have worked hard before your leave.

How can you distinguish laziness and procrastination from fatigue?

Every day we all have to postpone certain things for later, we have to compare the expectations of others with our capabilities, and determine the importance and secondaryness of some things in relation to others. At some point, however, we may lose the distinction between the objective impossibility of “not waiting for tomorrow to do what can be done today” and the habit of procrastinating.
Procrastination poisons the lives of many people. But procrastination and laziness are not always associated with a lack of willpower and self-control. Failure to make decisions and act on the ‘here and now’ can be a consequence of chronic fatigue. [3]

In such cases, you need rest in order to get back to active work and be productive. You can determine this situation by the following signs:

1.   You experience fatigue even from the usual simple activities, you suffer from weakness, lethargy, and apathy.

2.   Frequent headaches, mostly in the afternoon.

3.   Involuntary movements, shuddering, jerking of hands and feet.

4.   Rapid heartbeat, increased anxiety.

5.   Uncertainty about the correctness of solving the simplest familiar problems.

6.   The desire to avoid communication with friends after work and loss of interest in previous hobbies.


7.   Negative thoughts and feelings that arise from nowhere: resentment, boredom, disappointment, uncertainty, guilt and the feeling of being unwanted. [4]

How can you banish laziness and start working?

“How do you make yourself work if you are lazy? How can you pay attention to what you want to do when you are too lazy to work?
My phone distracts me from work. It often happens that I “stumble” at certain tasks, when I don’t have enough knowledge or information, or when I know that it would take a lot of effort. I immediately start thinking about having a break. My hand involuntarily reaches towards my phone with its “magical marvelous instaworld” and stories of beautiful and successful people…

Lately, I’ve been very good at catching myself in these moments. I found my own recipe for how to overcome laziness and restart working: I place the phone in my bag and remove the bag away from myself. I don’t get calls during the day. All messengers have been installed on the computer, and I’m answering only work messages. I set aside a time when I can take a break. I decide what can be a reward for myself: chocolate, a book or a walk… and then the job starts!
Since I started practicing this “gadget detox” at work, my productivity has increased many times.”

– Elena, 29, accountant

Elena did a pretty good self-examination and found out what was really stopping her from working. You can do this kind of analysis on your own part and come up with ways to block distractions.

Alas, it is impossible to completely exclude laziness from our lives. Sometimes we just need to go into “energy-saving mode.” However, it is in our power to prevent the formation of the habit of being lazy and work more productively.

Here are some simple tips on how to overcome laziness when it’s necessary.

1.   No self-flagellation

You must not allow your methods of dealing with laziness to be reduced to self-deprecation: “I had to do it yesterday!” and “It can’t go on!” and “I have no money, and I’m sitting there doing nothing!” First, give yourself the right to be lazy. Then take responsibility and decide when you should succumb to it and when not. Move on to the subsequent steps.

2.   Determine the main task and the timing of its implementation

Don’t allot too much time for the most difficult tasks. In such circumstances your brain will “look for loopholes” in order to engage in other, less important but easier activities. At worst it will persuade you to “have fun”: read the news from the show business world, play games, spend time on empty chatting and similar things.

3.   Start simple

Are you afraid of a new large-scale project? Are you afraid to start it because there are still many things you don’t know? Take time to think. Make a preliminary plan and break the big task down into smaller ones. Find a starting point and solve the first small problem, such as writing a letter requesting information or making the first call. This way you’d get feedback, see that you’re not alone, and understand in which direction to go next.

4.   Praise and encourage yourself

Did you find a non-standard solution or have you come up with ways how to optimize the work? That’s cool. Did you get through the case on time? Well done. Are you sure you didn’t forget to praise yourself? We tend to blame ourselves more often for failures than to reward ourselves for successes — we take those for granted. Think of small rewards for yourself for every action completed on time. Pay attention to small victories more often and it will become easier for you to achieve more.

5.   Focus on a big personal goal

When you suddenly feel too lazy to work, come back to reality by answering yourself this question: “Why am I doing this?”

Do you want to pay your mortgage ahead of time? Do you want to save up for a new car? Do you want to show Paris to your mom? If you have a big goal, you will always know how to overcome laziness and keep yourself motivated.

6.   Plan your holiday


Do you find it surprising and unthinkable that a colleague, having just returned from vacation, is already talking about where to go next in six months’ time? You can do the same. Delaying the planning of a vacation for later and going “where you have to” (or even nowhere, because you have not accumulated enough money) is not the best strategy. Start planning your vacation in advance and you will have more incentive and motivation to work. You still need to earn enough for the vacation, and there are likely to be a lot of organizational issues. But you’re not too lazy for a vacation, are you?

How can you learn to find pleasure in your work? The 7Spsy behavior modification technique

What do you do if you can’t fight laziness on your own? Is it difficult for you to go to work even after a vacation? Are you’re in a bad mood by the end of the weekend and feel angry, sad and even desperate that you have to go to the office again tomorrow? Don’t be in a hurry to change jobs. Perhaps your internal mindset is the problem, and everything will repeat again at the new workplace. 

To completely understand yourself you may need the help of a psychologist.
The problem of pathological laziness and reluctance to work can be solved by a course of the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented, scientifically proven method based on theories of the founders of behavioral psychology: I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, and A.A.Ukhtomsky. This method will allow you to change learned behavior and develop important qualities: hard work, initiative and proactivity.

Sessions are carried out remotely under the guidance of a psychologist. You can practice at a convenient time in a comfortable environment. The duration of the course will be from 2 to 6 weeks (depending on the psychological characteristics of the personality). Throughout the course, you will be able to communicate with a psychologist through any convenient communication channel: by phone, online chat or by e-mail.


Learn to take pleasure from your work and rejoice in the results. Then you will feel that any work will be within your scope of abilities!

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