By May 29, 2014

How To Beat Laziness

One of the worst diseases to plague humanity is laziness. Left to myself, I am as lazy as they get, but I’ve found a way to overcome it. In this video I share how I overcome my own laziness by breaking things down into smaller pieces and making sure the end is always in sight.


Full transcript:

John:               Hey, John Sonmez from, and today, I’ve got a topic that pretty much everyone faces.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that everyone faces this problem.  I'm going to talk about how I solve this problem.  I'm a big person who has this problem.  This is one of my defining attributes, and I figured out a way to overcome it.  I’ll tell you how next.

The big problem, actually, if you read the YouTube title, you probably already know, is it’s laziness and overcoming laziness.  Man, I have to tell you I am lazy.  I am so lazy.  It’s one of the defining attributes about me is I really do not like to do something I don’t want to do.  I can just be the laziest person in the world.  In fact, when I was growing up, my dad used to always say, oh—he’s just complaining about how lazy I was.

Most people, I think, today would not define me as lazy at all.  In fact most people would say—well, if you’re watching this video, if you know anything about me you’re probably like, “Wait minute, John.  How could you be lazy?  You’re prolific.  You produce so much contest, so much stuff and you work out and you do all this stuff.  How could you define yourself as lazy?”

Well, the thing is I figured out how to conquer this, and it’s taken me a long time to figure this out.  I’ve actually gone the opposite direction.  I'm still lazy.  The thing is even today like getting the camera out, I knew I needed to record YouTube videos and I said, “Man, I don’t want to do this.”  I’d rather just check my e-mail again or do something like that.

What I did was I basically just did it, right?  I just got up, and got the camera and did it.  I had to set a focus and a goal for myself.  I think that’s really the key to overcoming laziness.  It’s sometimes the reason why we’re lazy.  At least for me has always been that I don’t see the end in sight of the thing that I need to get done.  I tend to think of it as this big thing, tight?

We’re never too lazy to do something really small, really simple, right?  We’re never too lazy to check our e-mail or to reply to someone on Twitter.  We’re never lazy to do that because it’s simple and we see the end of it.  Typically, it’s something we want to do.  For the things that we don’t want to do, in fact, a lot of the reason why we don’t want to do things is because we think of them as really big.

Here’re a couple of things that you can do.  The first thing that you can do is you can break down big things.  I always talk about this, but this is so important because big tasks are overwhelming.  That feeds right into our laziness because we can tell ourselves, “Oh, it’s going to take forever.”  You’ve already wasted so much time.  You can’t get it done today, blah, blah, blah.  If you can take a big task and you can break it down into several smaller tasks, each small task seems doable and it doesn’t seem as overwhelming.

That’s not going to necessarily motivate you right away.  There’s another thing that you should do, which is to timebox things and to put a definite end to when something is going to be done.

Now, for example, today, I'm using what’s called the Pomodoro Technique.  If you search in my blog for Pomodoro, I'm not going to take the time to explain it here because I’ve explained it several different times.  Basically, it’s a technique that allows me to work in certain intervals and I track how much time I'm spending throughout the day.

Well, today, I had a plan of working so many Pomodoros in so much hours of focused work done, right?  I have a goal.  I know that when I reach that goal, then I'm done and I can go and I can do whatever I want with my time but I need to reach that goal.  I have an end in sight, right?  I know that once I complete this, then I'm done.

If it looks like there’s a never ending workload of work and, in reality, there is, because tomorrow I have to do stuff.  I have set an end for today and then know what it is.  I can tell myself then, “Just get up, get off your butt and do what you need to do for today, just these 4 hours or however many hours you need to get done and just start going.  When you finish that, you’re done.”  You could finish that at 4:00, if you want, or you could finish that 9:00 at night.  It’s up to you.  The faster you get going, the faster that you’re going to be done and then you’ll reach the end.

I do the same thing with my workouts.  I work out.  I hit the gym 3 times and I’ve got about an hour or so workout.  A lot of times I wake up in the morning and I don’t want to do it.  I'm lazy, right?  What do I do?  Well, I say, “Okay.  I got pull-ups.  Well, I’ve got 3 sets of pull-ups.  Well, let’s see.  Let’s just do one set.”  One step at a time.  Small thing and when that’s done, it’s done, then I move on to the next thing.

Then I keep on thinking about how each thing I'm making progress.  Every time I make progress, I'm closer to the end.  What I have left to do is smaller and what I’ve done is bigger, and so I know that there’s an end.  I keep reminding myself that after I finish this exercise, I have one more.  I'm going to move on to the next exercise, but that one exercise will be done when I’ve done as much as I could do.

Really, the key to overcoming laziness is breaking things up into smaller pieces and then breaking the times or timeboxing that time, so that you know that you’re going to be done at some point.  If you don’t feel like you’re ever going to be done, you’re not motivated to do it and then you’re just not going to do it.

That’s my tips for overcoming laziness.  There’re a few other things that I do, but that’s the main two things.  If there’re 2 things I would give you for overcoming laziness, it’s take the big task, break them down, and know clearly what they need to be, clearly define tasks, and then timebox it.  Make sure that you know that you can see the end.  There’s an end in sight and that’s really going to help you to overcome laziness.

If you like this video, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel.  Let me know your tips below in the comments about how you overcome laziness or maybe if these things aren’t working for you, let me know and tell me what is the thing that you struggle with.  What is the root cause of your laziness?

All right, well, I will talk to you next week.  Have a good one, take care, and get off your butt and do what you know you’re supposed to be doing right now.  Stop watching YouTube videos.  See you next time.


About the author

John Sonmez

John Sonmez is the founder of Simple Programmer and a life coach for software developers. He is the best selling author of the book "Soft Skills: The Software Developer's Life Manual."