9 Black Belt Techniques for Fighting Laziness at Work

Fight Laziness 

Laziness can ferociously creep up on us at work even when we’re consciously committed to getting things done.  It’s a byproduct those evil shiny objects passing through our periphery just begging for attention.  We try to fight them off, but sometimes it’s an arduous battle we can’t seem to win.  After all, being lazy is what our unconscious minds would rather being doing anyways.  

Not all is lost though.  With the help of a few black belt techniques, laziness can be conquered.  You just have to game your mind before your mind falls victim to the lazy game.  Here’s how…

Laziness may appear attractive, but work gives satisfaction.
– Anne Frank

  1. Fully Understand the True Consequences of Being Lazy – If you are habitually lazy on the job there’s a good chance that you’re not fulfilling all of your responsibilities.  If you’re not fulfilling your responsibilities then you’re not doing your job, and thus, you’re not worth paying.  It’s only a matter on time before your superiors notice this and eliminate the dead weight.  There’s a pretty good article on About.com entitled “How To Get Fired.”  Take a quit look at this article and ask yourself, “How many of these points pertain to laziness?”  Similarly, if a self-employed person gets lazy, you can be fairly certain they will not be self-employed for long.
  2. Never Lose Sight of the Whole Elephant – I’ve heard people use the phrase “take one bite of the elephant at a time” more times than I can count.  It is true, breaking up a large project into a series of smaller, bite-sized milestones is a smart way to hone your concentration and keep yourself motivated in the short-term.  However, it is never wise to completely lose sight of the whole elephant (the big picture).  After all, the whole elephant is the only reason you started working in the first place.  At some point you want to get promoted, land that full-size contract deal and have the opportunity to get ahead of the pack.  Those are big picture goals, goals that motivate long-term drive.  You must always remain cognizant of the fact that a bit of laziness now on a few small tasks may snowball into a lengthy stretch of missed opportunities in the future when the judge compares your performance to that of your peers.
  3. Don’t Stop Doing… Start the Next Related Task – Once you stop, laziness kicks in and it’s hard to get going again.  The key is to complete a task and then immediately jump to the next related task.  I consider a related task to be any task with a similar type required mental thinking.  Your mind can transition seamlessly between related tasks because your efforts on the previously completed tasks have already geared your mind for the type of work required in all the subsequent tasks.  The sooner you forge ahead, the more confident you will feel going into it and the more productive you will be.
  4. Do Work for You Too – Far too often I see competent, hardworking people only doing work for someone else, usually their employer.  When the workload is extremely light (or the day comes to and end), they get lazy and do less instead of transitioning their attention to accomplishing something for themselves.  If all you’re hard work is spent growing someone else’s business and all your free time is spent being lazy, you will never grow a business of your own.  Avoid laziness by spending your down time working for you.  The more you accomplish for yourself, the more motivated you will be in all walks of your work life.
  5. Setup Physical Barriers Against Distractions – Distractions lead to laziness, and unfortunately, distractions are friggin’ everywhere!  If you’re like me, you love to check your favorite blogs and reddit.com 50 times a day.  How do I conquer the urge?  I setup a physical distraction barrier by unplugging my internet connection while I’m working.  If you’re like my wife, Angel, you are prone to spending too much of your “work at home” time watching Lifetime movies.  How do I conquer her urge for her?  I hide the dang remote!  😉  In all seriousness, sometimes you must setup physical barriers between yourself and the distractions that attempt to overpower your conscious will to work.
  6. Actually Schedule In Late Afternoon Goof-Off Time – One of the most effective anti-laziness tricks I’ve implemented actually involves scheduling in goof-off time each afternoon at 4PM.  By doing so, I have slowly eliminated my spontaneous urges to check my favorite blogs and news sites because I now know I have a scheduled time to do so.  This may seem odd, or even somewhat counterproductive, but it has actually skyrocketed my early morning through mid-afternoon productivity levels.  So even though I’ve committed to being lazy in the late afternoon, the entire early part of my day (when my mind freshest) is spent in the zone without the physiological urge to slack off and succumb to laziness.
  7. Coach Yourself Out Loud… Inch by Inch – This is another one that sounds strange (literally), but truly is an effective self-motivation method.  Break the task you’re currently working on into a few smaller, logical steps and then coach yourself through them out loud.  “You have to get this done!  This step is so easy!  Let’s do it right now!”  When you complete a step, congratulate yourself on a job well done.  “That was great work!  You’re on fire!  We’re going to be finished with this in no time!”  I find that coaching myself out loud through each step actually makes me more cognizant of my forward progress, thus motivating me to work even harder on the next small step.  Success is just a game of inches.  Every small inch of forward progress is a grand accomplishment, because at some point you will be able to add up all those inches.  When you do, you will find yourself in the end zone… Touchdown!
  8. Take Mentally and Physically Active Reward Breaks – Taking a short, productive break in between every solid hour of work is something I strongly recommend, but only if you spend your short breaks doing something that actively stimulates your mind and body.  Inactive activities promote laziness and mid-day fatigue.  Take a quick stroll around the office, get up and talk to someone you enjoy speaking with, or crank-up your iPod and listen to a song that motivates you.  Whatever you do, stay active and alert.
  9. Refuel Your Mind and Body with Premium Everyday – You are what you eat!  If you eat like crap, you will feel like crap.  If you feel like crap, you will produce crappy work.  Don’t sell yourself short of your full potential.  Refuel your mind and body with premium, healthy food and 8 hours of sleep each night.  Most unhealthy eaters who don’t receive enough sleep are unsurprisingly lethargic in every waking hour of their existence.

Photo by: Philippe Leroyer


  1. says

    These are all great tips, but you may be missing the most important point – people are often “lazy” at work because they just don’t care about what they’re working on.

    While we all have to do things we’re not excited about at work, one of the best hacks I know of is to find the lesson or importance in every task – even something as basic as making copies can have lessons in it.

  2. says

    Maria, you have made a wonderful point. I actually considered adding the typical “do what you love” bullet point into this article, but didn’t feel like it was truly a possibility for all people. However, finding a lesson in everything that you do is applicable to everyone. This is very wise advice! Thanks for the insight. 😉

  3. says

    Marc – These are some excellent suggestions. I think I’ve used most of them at one time or another to get myself moving.

    Big projects can seem daunting. I’ve definitely coached myself through some situations where I felt overwhelmed.

  4. says

    These tips are right up my alley. I try to do all of these at my job, but my absolute favorite is to take active reward breaks. It may be a cup of tea or a walk to the back door to take a breath of fresh air. Each break helps me appreciate the work I’ve done. That’s so important to keeping myself motivated.

  5. says

    I agree that active breaks help. It’s certainly easier to just zone out for a few minutes, but it takes forever to kick back into gear after that. Doing a puzzle or taking a minute to walk to the other side of the building (or, let’s face it, desk dancing) is relatively enjoyable, and a heck of a lot easier to come back from.

  6. says

    Some people look at me weird when I tell them I coach myself out loud through difficult tasks. I just tell them to try it sometime.

    I agree. Regular productive breaks are a vital part of getting things done.

    Desk dancing? LOL! I love it! 😉

  7. natch says

    My old boss had a very effective technique for fighting laziness on his team. But one that was not very politically correct. He said it had served him well over the years, and he would always stick to it.

    He would make sure he always had at least one decent looking woman of prime, um, mating age on the team. Even in a traditionally male profession. I’m not saying what the profession was, but believe me, it was what I say, traditionally male.

    With this asset in place, all the guys would perform at their best, working hard, being smart about their work, and not goofing off. It was very effective.


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