4 Steps To Crushing a Lazy Day
You’ve got about 27 things to do, you’re not waiting on anyone, there isn’t something that needs to happen before you can start— they’re all purely dependent on you just sitting down and working.
But you can’t bring yourself to do it. It’s just one of those days.
Who knows what it could be? You didn’t get enough sleep the night before, you’re feeling overworked, uninspired this morning perhaps. And it’s a double slap in the face if you’re doing anything creative. Good luck reaching into the void and sprinkling stardust all over your face and laptop.
And the guilt. Oh god the guilt. How dare you not be productive today? There’s nothing hindering you. Some days you have 100 admin tasks and all you want to do is sit down and work — but today you don’t have that, you have the time, yet you just cannot be bothered.
We’ve all had enough of these days, and we’ve probably got our own coping mechanisms to deal with them. Some of us choose to give in and watch Netflix for a few hours, and some of us sit in front of the laptop, staring at a blank screen so as to deprive ourselves of any pleasure to ease the guilt of not working.
And hey, I’m not judging here. These aren’t bad pastimes, they’re just how we cope with things. The good news is, if you think these aren’t productive, you can absolutely change them.
A lazy day for me is like a big immovable boulder that I have to employ strategies to move — because we live in the real world and nothing is immovable.
The cycle goes like this.
Step 1: Get Rid of the Guilt
As you can see, we’re skipping the first bit. Being stressed and anxious is something we deal with every single day — we’re accustomed to that.
We know how to de-stress and manage anxiety. Some of us choose to meditate, others go for a run, or take a long shower. Whatever your version of this is, go for it — but the guilt is something else.
Guilt is the feeling that embodies the sunk-cost fallacy.
If you lose a bunch of money at the casino, the absolute worst thing you could do is to try to ‘win back’ your money. You’re throwing good money after bad. In behavioral economics it’s called the sunk-cost fallacy, and it’s very much a flaw in our thinking.
Just like money, our lost productivity is a sunk cost. It’s an ‘oh well.’ and should be treated like that. Whether it be time, money, or attention — if it’s gone, it’s gone. No need to dwell, we can only focus on the future.
And because we can only focus on the future, guilt, from a higher order thinking standpoint, is all but unnecessary and a useless time suck.
You wasted a morning, you didn’t get any work done, you’ve been on an unproductive streak for a few days, or weeks — it’s OK, you’re only human, don’t dwell.
Put away that guilt. It’s a new week, day, or hour. Focus on the future. Focus on what you need to do now to get you through your lazy day.
And once you accept that the past is a sunk cost, and the guilt dissipates, the cycle is broken and your lazy day stops getting worse. Now you just have to kick start the work motor and begin the process of moving that boulder.
Step 2 —Start Small With Productive Procrastination
The guilt isn’t making that boulder of work heavier anymore, but we’ve still got some mental resistance. It looks huge, and we haven’t practiced pushing boulders in a while. Start practicing your pushing skills and clear the rubble around the boulder.
If I’m having a lazy morning, and can’t bring myself to write, it’s usually a combination of;
- Scattered ideas
- No prompts
- Lack of inspiration
I like to think of ideas as big networks of idea nodes. That’s why brainstorming works so well right? People throw around little thought nuggets, and then these start linking up as people keep adding to it via association. All of a sudden, we generate a good idea through linking these nodes up.
When you’re in the midst of your lazy day, it’s because your idea nodes are scattered. Your nodes are lighting up individually, but they aren’t near each other to create a network.
This is when doing things that are a direct tangent from your work aka. productive procrastination, will light up some more nodes and boom, you’ve got yourself a network.
If it’s writing I’m struggling with. I jump on Quora and start answering questions.
- I see what people are struggling with
- I get prompts for writing
- I help people out
All of a sudden, little idea nodes start lighting up and before I know it, I go from being scattered and unfocused, to knowing exactly what I should write about.
This isn’t just for writing. If you’re a freelance developer, go on stack overflow and answer some questions, or get a prompt online and build a little solution for it, unrelated to your problem.
Do the same thing if you’re an illustrator, designer, or any other profession. Helping others, or doing a little challenges helps immensely. You’ll start seeing the rubble clear and remember how to push boulders again.
Step 3 — The Bait and Switch
You’ve been doing a good job with your boulder pushing skills. You’ve easily pushed over smaller boulders, cleared the rubble, gotten stronger, got that motivation going. Now you need to switch.
That momentum you’ve got in doing those small, somewhat related tasks, makes it all the more easy to start chipping away at the major goal.
The smaller tasks were the bait to up your energy and regain some focus, now the switch comes along and to make it as seamless as possible, ensure you switch like this;
- Don’t take a break after that initial feeling of productivity
- Start on the major task straight away
- Make sure it’s one part of the major task, and not all of it at once
The last point goes hand in had with the final step of conquering the lazy day. Being directionless or overwhelmed was likely a big part of why we were in that lazy day mode to begin with. Tackling a large problem in it’s entirety will take us straight back there.
Instead, we need to switch seamlessly, and intelligently — luckily we’ve got plenty of brains to go around.
Step 4 — Breaking The Boulder
We’ve stopped pushing the smaller boulders and rubble, we’ve switched to the big boy, but we’re focused and stronger now. We realize that pushing this thing in it’s entirety was half the problem, and we’ve reached into our toolkit with our top of the line, earthquake educing sledge hammer — this thing is going to break.
When you’ve finally switched over to your main task, you need to break it up into smaller chunks.
- You’re not writing an essay, you’re writing an intro
- You’re not building an application, you’re making one feature work
- You’re not studying a whole chapter, you’re focusing on the first subsection
If we want to keep the momentum going from our productive procrastination stage, we need to ensure our main task has bite sized chunks of work that are easier for us to plow through.
Suddenly, we not only have the motivation and focus, but this previously gargantuan task now looks like a piece of cake, because it’s just that, a piece of a larger whole.
The more chunks you complete, the more momentum you gain, the more productive you feel, and the more work you get done.
Your lazy day is no more. And you’re back on top.
That, ladies and gentleman, is how I crush a lazy day in 4 steps. If you want some other golden nuggets, the golden chicken is below.
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