Sunday, March 14, 2010

Overcoming Laziness

"I doh wanna." You'd be amazed how often that phrase whines through my head, usually followed by the tempting image of lying sprawled on my back in the middle of the living room, staring at the ceiling. I used to assume this posture regularly (I called it having "floor time") as a way to relax. It usually ended in a cat or child jumping on me, but those few moments of sinking into the floor, just staring at the ceiling, have always made me feel so completely at peace, like the entire world had been lifted from my shoulders.

Sometimes, the impulse to shirk is valid--I've overbooked myself, and I need downtime. I have a lot of enthusiasm for my writing, my work, and my family and friends, but the flip side of that enthusiasm is that I'm also very prone to overbooking myself. And when I do, the voice whines at me.

But other times, I'm just feeling lazy. I look at the laundry that needs to be put away. I doh wanna. I look at a place in my book that needs rewriting. I doh wanna. It's the first beautiful day outside in weeks and I really ought to get out there and do something. I doh wanna.

So how do you overcome laziness?

First, make sure you really have taken care of yourself and that it's truly just laziness. If you're exhausted, a 20-minute nap can be the most efficient investment of time you can make.

Second, make sure you're hydrated. This sounds so simple, but most of the time when I feel tired and lazy, I'm dehydrated and am wilting. Two glasses of water later, I perk up almost immediately.

Third, take care of the most important things first. If you're procrastinating on getting your taxes done, it's going to make it very hard to do anything else. Get that sucker out of the way, and you'll be amazed at the energy you have freed up for other things. Ironically, procrastination is one of the most energy-sucking things you can do. When faced with something large like taxes that I know I must do but can't bear to deal with, my mantra becomes "Just power through", and that's what I do. I walk quickly to the filing cabinet, grab my paperwork, and power through it. And after, I feel much better and ready to face other things on my to-do list.

Fourth, after you've taken care of steps one through three, start with small, easy tasks, such as running a spell-check on your manuscript or proofreading the last few pages you were working on. By completing an easy task or two, you start building momentum, and then the bigger tasks suddenly feel easy. Boom, laziness is gone, energy is back, and you're off and running.

Perhaps the most important tip of all, though, is NEVER beat yourself up about being lazy. The little voice that says "I doh wanna" is the very same voice that later on tells you how worthless and lazy you are. A much better approach is to agree with it and call its bluff by saying "It's true, I really don't want to do this right now." And just when it starts to purr and imagine the lovely time you'll have shirking and then later beating yourself up about it, simply add "So I guess I better run through those four steps to get my mojo back. And then after I've gotten this thing done, I think I'll have a nice hot bath as a reward."

Hmph, busted. There's no way the lazy voice can argue with that kind of logic, so it sulks. But remember, if it tries to come up with some clever arguments about why you really do need to be shirking, you can always say the magic words right back to it:

I doh wanna.


  1. Great advice! I also find sometimes that I'm hungry and didn't realize it, and eating gives me energy. By the way, I thought you were the one writer I know who never got the "I doh wanna"s. You're so prolific! But glad to know you are human like the rest of us :)

  2. Right, eating! Good point. That's another one that I sometimes forget to do because I'm so busy procrastinating by checking my web site's stats on Google Analytics or checking my Amazon ranking. Those things *feel* important somehow, but they're mostly just a waste of time.