Everybody is familiar with the usual ways to stop being lazy: Make a to-do list, prioritize, plan ahead, set goals, eliminate distractions, consume motivating content, etc… or just do it goddammit.
While I encourage you to try them and see if they work, I also want to introduce some unusual ways to stop being lazy and start getting things done.
See, curing laziness is about convincing yourself to stop dicking around and start taking action. It’s your beliefs that lead you to action or inaction.
If your beliefs lead you to laziness, you’ll have to go through a lot of self-convincing and mental gymnastics before you finally stop being lazy and start getting things done, if at all.
The following ways to cure laziness are about tweaking your beliefs, reducing the friction in your own brain and getting you to take action rather than being lazy.
1. Cultivate a YOLO (You Only Live Once) Mindset… But In Reverse
YOLO (You Only Live Once) is a convincing but malevolent catchphrase which gives you permission to enjoy the moment without a care for the consequences.
YOLO mentality argues that it doesn’t make sense to delay pleasure. You should experience all the pleasures the world has to offer because “you only live once”.
It’s not hard to see why this type of mindset justifies laziness:
- Take that vacation to Cancun although you can’t afford it because YOLO….
- Eat those delicious cookies now although you know they make you fat because YOLO….
- Skip exercise/studying/work today because you really want to binge-watch your favorite TV show (or porn) because YOLO….
- Get shitfaced drunk on the weekend although you know that hangovers wreak havoc on your productivity on weekdays because YOLO….
If you know a bit about how the human mind works, you can see why YOLO is so persuasive. Any marketer worth his salt will tell you that humans buy on emotion and justify with logic. What makes YOLO so irresistible is its appeal to emotion and logic both at the same time.
YOLO appeals to logic by stating a fact (you only live once) while appealing to emotion (go for immediate gratification).
As the human mind has been working the same way since the dawn of time, it’s not surprising that “Carpe Diem” (the ancient sister of YOLO which basically means “seize the day”) existed in the writings of the Latin poet Horace in 23 BC.
The part in YOLO that appeals to logic is not the problem. It’s true. You really only live once. The problem is the emotional part that you should prioritize immediate gratification over delayed gratification.
Reverse the YOLO mindset to eliminate the emotional part and it suddenly becomes a tool to overcome laziness.
How The Reverse YOLO Mindset Eliminates Laziness
Reverse YOLO reframes classic YOLO by keeping the rational part while replacing the emotional part with logic. It basically strips YOLO off its emotion.
Confused? Don’t be. Here are some examples of how the Reverse YOLO mindset works as opposed to the classic YOLO mindset:
Someone offers you junk food:
Classic YOLO mindset: “I’ll get fat if I eat this but I only live once so I’ll just eat it.”
Reverse YOLO mindset: “I only live once and I don’t want to waste it fat and unhappy, so I’ll pass.”
You are perpetually unhappy when you are fat because your brain releases cortisol to make you feel bad about being fat hoping that you’ll get uncomfortable enough with it to the point of taking action and losing weight.
You have to exercise but you feel too lazy to do it:
Classic YOLO mindset: “I need exercise to get in shape but I only live once so I’ll just play video games today and exercise tomorrow.”
Reverse YOLO mindset: “I only live once and I don’t want to waste it out of shape and unhappy so I’ll just do my exercise.”
Reverse YOLO mindset eliminates laziness in terms of diet and exercise because it reminds you that you only live once and it only makes sense to live that life fit and happy.
You have to work on your online business but you feel too lazy to do it:
Classic YOLO mindset: “I need to work on my online business but I don’t feel like working now. I’ll just watch a few episodes of my favorite TV show. I only live once anyway so I have the right to enjoy my life.”
Reverse YOLO mindset: “I only live once and I don’t want to live it broke, dependent on someone else and constantly anxious about where my next dollar is going to come from. I will work my ass off until I start living the only life I’ve got well-off and financially independent.”
Reverse YOLO mindset eliminates laziness in terms of work because it reminds you that you only live once and it only makes sense to live that life in financial comfort.
Examples can be expanded but you get the point. Onward.
2. The Excuse Exhaustion Method to Stop Being Lazy and Start Getting Things Done
Excuse exhaustion is a method where you list your excuses for not doing what you have to do, debunk those excuses one by one until you exhaust all of them and leave yourself with no other option than doing your work.
Do this for enough times and you’ll see that the number of excuses to debunk will dwindle in number as you’ll notice that the same excuses keep popping up again and again and since you’ll have already debunked most of your excuses (no matter how sensible and convincing and legitimate they are), they’ll have already lost their power over you so that you can start doing your work without having to go through the ordeal of convincing your own brain each time you need to get work done.
Why Your Brain Is An Expert at Coming Up with Excuses to Prevent You From Doing Your Work
The root cause of laziness is always that we are biologically wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure which causes us to favor instant gratification over delayed gratification.
This is an ancient survival strategy that had its advantages for our ancestors but it works against us when we have long term goals to achieve and we need to give up short term pleasures in favor of achieving our long term goals.
Your brain is an expert at coming up with believable excuses to prevent you from doing your work because it’s wired for instant gratification.
What happens with the excuses is that we basically lie to ourselves to avoid doing our work. Lying to ourselves is not necessarily the problem. We all do it. The problem emerges when we believe the lies we tell ourselves.
Excuse exhaustion method is a powerful tool to expose these excuses as lies and clear your way off of the mental obstacles to doing your work.
Some of these lies are easy to expose but others look so legitimate that they don’t even look like excuses. Make no mistake, any excuse that prevents you from doing your work must be debunked so that you can do what you have to do and move forward in life.
Examples of How Excuse Exhaustion Method Works
Let’s say you are a student and you have to study for an exam. Judging from my school years, here are some of the excuses your brain might come up with to avoid or put off studying:
— I’ll just play video games/watch porn/watch TV/browse the internet for now because I can study later.
Debunk: Studying later will not be easier than studying now. You’ll not enjoy these activities anyway because of the nagging voice on the back of your head constantly telling you that you have an exam coming up and you must stop slacking and start studying.
— I’ll skip studying today because I didn’t sleep well last night and I can’t wrap my head around it.
Debunk: Sit down, start studying and you will see that you can actually wrap your head around it. If you really can’t focus take a 30-minute nap.
— I can’t study today because I’m massively hangover.
Debunk: Drinking the night before you have to study is your brain’s attempt at preemptively creating an excuse to not study today. Sit down and try to study in a hangover state. You’ll find it so hard to focus that next time you might decide to skip drinking the night before you have to study.
A Legitimate Excuse Is Still Just That… an Excuse
In addition to the run-off-the-mill lame excuses, your brain will also come up with excuses that look so legitimate that it only makes sense to postpone or even call off your work. Not so fast. Let’s see a legitimate-looking excuse for a man who’s trying to build a side business and let’s debunk it together:
— Today is Saturday and I have plenty of time to work on my side business but I’ve been working hard lately and I fear burning out. I’ll just skip work today to prevent an imminent burnout.
Debunk: Did you conduct profound research on what actually burnout is, the symptoms of an imminent burnout and the ways to prevent burnout from happening? You didn’t. So it’s just a clever excuse to not do your work. Nice try, brain, come up with better excuses next time.
The only potentially valid excuses are health and family emergencies. All other excuses can be debunked.
Before we move on to the next item, here’s a summary of how the excuse exhaustion method works:
When you find your brain fabricating excuses to not do what you have to do, write those excuses down and debunk them one by one until you exhaust all of them and you have no other option than doing your work.
Since you’ll find that most of the time the same excuses come up again and again, there will come a time when you’ll have preemptively exhausted most of your excuses which will make it easier for you to start doing your work.
3. Dopamine Fasting
I’ve written extensively on Dopamine Fasting both in my book Be a Better Man in 30 Days and on this site. Since one of the most important benefits of Dopamine Fasting is getting things done, I’ll briefly talk about why it’s instrumental in overcoming laziness.
Dopamine is the hormone and neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of reward, pleasure, and motivation.
Your brain releases dopamine so that you feel good when you make money, have sex, eat, exercise, outcompete your rivals, experience novelty (e.g. travel, adventure, etc.), gain social approval, elevate your social status, get promoted at work, pass your exams, graduate and so on.
If you are saying “What’s wrong with all of these? They are all good for me. Why should I fast from this type of pleasure?” you are goddamn right because there’s nothing wrong with any of the above. In all of the cases above, you’ve earned your dopamine and everything is fine.
The problem with dopamine arises when you skip the process and trick your brain into releasing dopamine without having to earn the pleasure you get. Consider the following activities that also cause your brain to release dopamine to make you feel pleasured and rewarded:
- Playing video games —> Outcompeting your rivals where there are zero real-life benefits,
- Watching porn —> Emulating sex or signaling your brain the prospect of sex when in reality you are not having sex but looking at naked people having sex on your computer screen,
- Receiving likes and upvotes on social media —> Tricking your brain into thinking that you’ve gained social approval when you didn’t do it in real life where it matters,
- Eating junk food —> Tricking your brain into thinking that you are moving away from the prospect of starvation by consuming easy calories when in reality you never faced the risk of starvation and you are just getting fatter and unhealthier,
- Gambling —> Tricking your brain into believing that you are competing with others and there’s the prospect of making money when in reality you are depending on pure luck, not your competitive money-making skills in real life,
- Watching TV, movies, or TV series —> Tricking your brain into believing that you’re experiencing novelty and adventure when in reality you are sitting on your ass at home,
- Shopping —> Tricking your brain into thinking that you are gaining social status when in reality you are buying shit on credit,
- Alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs —> Artificially elevating your dopamine levels to feel pleasure without your life getting better in reality. It’s actually getting worse.
These sources of unearned dopamine make it possible for us to feel pleasure without having to work for it but they wreak havoc on our productivity.
As we’ve already established, humans are wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Modern inventions such as video games, porn, TV, internet, junk food, malls, and age-old vices such as gambling, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs all exploit our propensity to avoid pain and seek pleasure. That’s why they are addictive and that’s why they sap our motivation to succeed in real life.
This is when Dopamine Fasting (which should more aptly be called “Unearned Dopamine Fasting”) comes into the picture.
Nature intended dopamine to motivate us to succeed in life. Our brain rewards us with dopamine when we make money because making money improves our chances of survival. Our brain rewards us with dopamine when we have sex because having sex improves our chances of reproduction, and so on. Every activity that makes us feel rewarded enhances our chances of survival or reproduction provided that we earn our dopamine.
Dopamine fasting is about fasting from unearned sources of dopamine and working on earning your dopamine via succeeding in real life.
When you don’t succumb to easy pleasures like video games, porn, junk food, gambling, TV, movies, TV series, shopping, alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs, you will be starving for dopamine and you’ll want to do the work to succeed and win in real life.
When you starve your brain of easy dopamine you’ll be hungry for success which compels you to overcome laziness, do your work and earn your dopamine. You’ll live a better life as a result.
Be sure to read:
- Dopamine Fasting 3.0: How to Get Motivated to Succeed in Real Life
- Be a Better Man in 30 Days Program, Chapter 7: Develop Rock-Solid Self-Control (By Utilizing Dopamine The Way Nature Intended)
- Be a Better Man in 30 Days Program, Chapter 1: What Makes a Man a Better Man
- Internal or External Locus of Control: Which Do You Have?
- 10 Ways to Keep Going When You Feel Like Giving Up