Hacks for conquering laziness

It happens to all of us: you just don't feel like doing anything — work, chores, or whatever. Sometimes it's just easier to chill out, relax, and forget your responsibilities for an evening. But what if it starts to turn into a few nights a week, and what if your work starts to pile up? Laziness can have a negative effect on your work and personal life, so if you're feeling like you've slipped into a lazy cycle of procrastinating and being unproductive, you may want to evaluate your behavior and consider these hacks to see how you can get your life back on track.

Take some time off

Perhaps you work late a lot. It's not that you're lazy — you're just tired. With about four out of 10 Americans saying that they work over 50 hours a week, it's no wonder everyone's exhausted!

Add to that the other stresses of everyday life, and it can get pretty difficult to wake up early, workout, get chores done, and do whatever else you need to do before or after work.

Courtney Rodrigue Hubscher, National Board certified counselor at Ground Work Counseling, told me that "taking time off is important. It's easy to get behind if you're feeling exhausted from your week." If you're feeling guilty about not getting everything you want to do done, you might just stress yourself out to the point of exhaustion and not end up doing it anyway. If you feel like you need to take a little time, then take it.

Create a to-do list

Laziness is an easy habit to fall into, especially if you're not feeling motivated. This seems obvious, but finding motivation to get up and do what you need to do is easier said that done.

Motivation is personal to everyone, Hubscher told me. However, there are small things everyone can do to try and kick a lazy streak. She says that you can try and start each day with an intention and specific goal in mind to help you focus. "Also, it can be helpful to not only create a 'to-do list' but also create a 'done' list," she says. "This helps you celebrate each accomplishment in your day, not just focus on what's ahead."

Dr. Amy Cooper Hakim, an industrial-organizational psychology practitioner and the principal consultant at The Cooper Strategic Group, agrees and says it's important to take time to consider why you want to get your work done. For example, as she points out to me, "Do you want to showcase your talents, earn a bonus, or get a raise? Or, are you more interested in working to pay the bills and get on with the other aspects of your life?" How you answer the question should help you to be more aware of what drives you to complete your tasks and to ultimately achieve your goals.

Make yourself accountable

Once you've decided to kick the laziness and get motivated, your best course of action is to keep yourself accountable.

"Own up to your obligations and determine specific ways that you can accomplish your objectives," Dr. Hakim says. You know that you're just being lazy if you think to yourself, "I just don't want to do this," or "I can't get myself to turn on my computer." If that's the case, she says that you might need to psych yourself out by convincing yourself to try to meet your work goals — just one day — and then give yourself a small reward if you're successful. "Make sure to have clear and measurable tasks that you can actually accomplish (like make 5 phone calls) instead of something arbitrary (like find some new customers)." Then, once you meet those goals, add a few more deliverables to your to-do list for the following day. Telling your friends and loved ones about your goals can also make sure you don't get lazy because they can help to hold you accountable.

Set a schedule

Ask anyone who works from home, and they'll likely tell you that it's both a blessing and a curse. As a freelance writer myself, I can definitely say that there are positives (staying in pajamas all day, working from various coffee shops, etc.) and negatives (sometimes forgetting what day it is, giving myself a disciplined work schedule, etc.) to getting to work from home. Feeling lazy certainly is part of the latter.

Dr. Hakim says that anyone working from home might have a hard time cutting out feeling lazy once in a while, especially because of all the free time. However, she says that having all of that free time is what can actually work in your favor if you're feeling lazy. "The beauty of working from home is that you can literally build time in to your schedule to incorporate chores, downtime, and errands." For instance, she says, "You might dedicate Tuesday mornings to errands and appointments." If you allocate two hours to do this, you can just work a little bit later that day, or work 30 minutes later every other day of the week to compensate. Knowing that your work schedule is flexible can help you feel less guilty if you do need to take a breather every once in a while.

Manage your time

If you want to relax and spend a little time for yourself, that's absolutely fine. Jessica May Tang, a corporate wellness coach and licensed occupational therapist, tells me that if you're feeling like you never have enough time to do anything, you should ask yourself, "Out of everything on my to-do list, what are the top three (and ONLY three) things that I NEED to do today to feel successful?" According to Tang, we often overestimate how much time it takes to complete a task, so having more than 3 high priority tasks to do a day is often unrealistic. It's important to feel accomplished and successful at the end of the day as this positive energy gets carried over into the next day and does wonders for your productivity.

Ask for help

It's okay to delegate and prioritize. You simply cannot do everything. Use your community around you to help take some of the pressure off yourself, whether it's asking your significant other to grab the dry cleaning, taking a day off from the gym, or ordering in on occasion.

Tang says that she finds that people sometimes have a hard time asking others for help. "They think they have to work AND do all the housework," she says. But if you're part of a family, or if you share your home with roommates, for example, "chores and housework to keep a household running can be split amongst residents!"

"Don't be embarrassed to ask for help," says Dr. Hakim. "Know that you are deserving of the guidance and direction that any other employee receives in a traditional office setting." You'd be surprised at how many people in your circle are willing to help you. You may just need to ask for it.

Assess how you're really feeling

Feeling lazy every once in a while isn't usually a problem, but if you're feeling unmotivated for an extended period of time, or perhaps if you get enough sleep but continue to feel groggy and rundown, it could be a sign of a bigger issue. "You know your body, so trust your instincts," says Hubscher. "It may be that you need to amp up your self-care, take a weekend trip, or visit your doctor or therapist for a checkup."

Whatever the problem is, it's best not to ignore it, as it could be an early sign of something like depression. If that's the case, it is in your best interest to get help as soon as you can.

Focus on your goals

When you are feeling lazy, think about what drives your goals to feel more productive. For example, do your goals still speak to you? Are they still relatable to you and to your life? If not, says Dr. Hakim, you may want to adjust them. "But, if they are still goals you want to achieve, then break down your larger goal into smaller, more manageable chunks. Make sure that your goals are specific, measurable, and attainable. And make sure that you have the necessary tools and support to meet your goals."

Knowing that you've got a lot to get done can be part of what stresses you out and makes you feel lazy, so she says that as you go along crossing things off your to-do list, you shoud try and make goal achievement fun! "Star charts work well, even for grown-ups," according to Dr. Hakim. "Reward yourself with something like a manicure or a bubble bath when you meet your goal."

You can do it!

No one is immune from occasionally feeling lazy. However, it's how you deal with it and get yourself motivated that can set you up for success.

Everyone has a growing to-do list, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming, but giving into just laying on your couch will simply not get anything done. Manage your tasks, take breaks, and reward yourself with a job well done — and most importantly, listen to yourself. Take some time to reflect and make sure you're on track with your goals, to make sure that you can balance your work and life while still getting time to rest. And above all, when you feel like you can't, remember that you absolutely can do anything you put your mind to.