Throughout your day, you're faced with hundreds (maybe thousands) of tiny decisions. For example, earlier today after I made a smoothie, I was faced with the miserable task of washing out my blender. I had a decision to make: should I leave it in the sink and then be miserable later when I needed to use the blender or sink, or should I endure the heinous task now and be done with it? (For those who are unfamiliar with making smoothies, they have the magical power of clinging to surfaces with the suction power of an octopus and are truly a pain to clean the longer you wait).
We face this lazy versus productive dilemma constantly. If you're like me, you're love the idea of productivity, but deep down there's a lazy mess of a person that just secretly dreams of spending an entire weekend on the couch watching Netflix.
What's a lazy-wannabe to do? Here are some ways you can enjoy productivity in measured amounts that allow you enjoy small dosages of laziness without going overload.
Tip 1: Ask "If not now, when?"
You don't have to wash that blender now, but you will have to at some point. Do you want to cash in your lazy card right now? No problem. But make a mental agreement with yourself for when you will wash that blender, and stick to it. Be specific (don't just tell yourself "later," but actually plan what time you'll do it). By making this agreement with yourself at the moment you decide to postpone the action, you'll be much less resentful later on when you need to do it, because you know this was the bargain you made with yourself.
One of my all-time favorite quotes is "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail." I believe Philly's finest Ben Franklin first said this, and it helps me get stuff done both in my personal life and professional life. By having a plan for when you're going to be productive, being a little lazy becomes a strategy rather than a guilty pleasure.
Tip 2: Combine guilty/lazy pleasures with the thing you have to do
Another thing I hate to doing is laundry (seeing a trend?). I always try to put that off. But one way that has been helpful is what Wharton professor Katherine Milkman calls temptation bundling. It's when you make that unpleasant task less terrible by combining it with something you enjoy. Here's what I do: I allow myself to watch a show like Friends while I fold laundry. I actually even end up looking forward to it because I've trained myself to associate laundry with an entertaining sitcom. Win-win.
Pro-tip: Get someone to join you. Time flies when you're having fun!
Tip 3: Write it down
When you take a pen to paper and writing down what you need to do, it's almost like signing a contract with yourself. Researchers have found that people who wrote down their goals were more likely to achieve them, but it doesn't take a rocket scientists to know that crossing off an item on your to-do list feels awesome.
Lately, I've been bullet journaling, which is basically a combined journal and to-do list written in—you guessed it—bullet points. Even adding the small stuff like household chores makes me feel like the weekend was super productive because I documented all of my accomplishments.
Pro-tip: put the paper with your to-do item(s) in a spot you can't miss it, like your laptop screen.
Tip 4: Give it five minutes
Sometimes we overestimate the amount of effort a nasty task takes, so we put it off. And for each time we put it off, the task grows bigger and becomes more daunting.
I challenge you to just spend five minutes (you can even set a timer) doing the task right now. There are a few possible outcomes:
You might actually finish the task.
You might realize the work isn't so bad and you can probably be done in another 10 minutes.
You might have confirmed, yup, a lot of work is involved. But at least you've made a five-minute dent in the job and you have a better idea of how much this is going to take.
Anthony Trollope said, "A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules." So even if your outcome of the five minute experiment is realizing it will take many more five-minute spurts to finish the project, by doing a little bit consistently, you'll make progress and the work will feel less intimidating. Most importantly, you will overcome the mental hurdle of starting, which is so often the hardest part.
Start making mini-progress, now
Are you familiar with Newton's first law of motion? An object at rest tends to stay at rest. The same goes for people. Enjoy some laziness, but be sure to add in mini-productivity tips so you don't get further down the dark hole of procrastination. The key to balancing laziness and productivity is to do both in moderation.
Want frequent nudges to act? Follow Supporti on Instagram (@getsupporti) to get regular tips for motivation like the ones in this article.