How to get rid of laziness and carelessness

You must do the opposite to get rid of these vices. You need to care and to consistently do the work.

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
Your thoughts become your words,
Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Assuming you are lazy and careless, you approach the destiny of lazy and careless.

Mahatma Gandhi very aptly described the perpetual cycle that drives our lives. You can intervene in any part of it to modify it. However, most common mortals have a hell of a trouble modifying their thoughts, words, values not even mentioning the destiny.

The best course of action if you want to change yourself is to modify your habits. And your habits consists of strings of smaller actions.

You need to care

This is the more important issue. If you care, you won’t stay idle. When you know the “why” behind your actions, you simply do the work. Only when complacency is greater than your motivation do you procrastinate. And when desire burns in your heart, you don’t postpone your activities, but fill them with attention and focus.

Watch this short video to get a picture of a game-changing quality of your “why:”

To care, you need to know yourself — what you like, what drives you, what your dreams are or what you hate? All of these sum up your intrinsic motivation.

I love to read; absorbing knowledge is kind of a drug for me. I can study interesting topics for hours. But for someone else it might be torture.

On the other hand, don’t try to force me to run. I’ve never ran two miles in my life. I don’t care about running. Period. My sister runs several miles before work. It frees her mind and gives her a sense of freedom and relaxation. She cares about running.

You need to know yourself to know what you care about. There are a few daily habits that can help you with that.

1. Meditate.
It’s like step #0, especially if you are not used to self-analysis. Meditation itself will not uncover what your values are and what you care about, but it will make you self-aware in a positive sense. We live our lives on autopilot and we don’t even register our internal debates. Meditation helps you notice what and how you speak to yourself.

It’s not hard nor woo-woo. Simply close your eyes, inhale and exhale deeply and slowly, focus your attention on the flow of air through your nostrils.

It will be difficult, because it’s when your mind activates and bombards you with inner chatter instead of focusing on such a mundane activity. And that’s good, because thanks to that you will become aware of the chatter.

“You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day — unless you’re too busy. Then you should sit for an hour.” — Zen proverb

This is a famous Zen proverb … and it’s bollocks! Especially in the beginning. If you are not used to this activity, 20 minutes can feel like a torture! Personally, I found meditation over 5-minute period more of an exercise in patience than a beneficial activity.

Start from two-minute sessions. If possible, do them multiple times a day. Continue your short meditation sessions for two weeks before you decide to scale up. That way you will have over a 90% chance of developing a lasting habit.

2. Journal.
This is by far my favorite method. Every morning I sit down with my journal, ask myself a question and answer it for 10–15 minutes on paper.

This discipline makes you self-aware, just like meditation does. I had heard how hard meditation is for beginners, how hard it is to focus or hush their minds … But when I tried meditation after a year of journaling, it was easy for me. I was used to mind-bombardment, it happened all the time when I was journaling.

My journal

However, journaling takes a bit more time than meditation. On the other hand, it doesn’t have this woo-woo stigma in your mind that is often attached to meditation.

There are a few reasons why journaling works so well:

  • your brain is a search engine; ask it a question and it will bring you answers. It loves to do that, it’s a totally natural activity for your brain.
  • journaling activates your motor memory; human memory is not a precise storage, like a hard drive. It doesn’t have cylinders, sectors and addresses. It works through associations. Handwriting involves movements of dozens of muscles at once and all those signals to your muscles are associated with your journaling.
  • writing clarifies your mind; when you put something on paper, it automatically go through the rational part of your brain. You cannot capture incoherent blabber in writing. Journaling is like translation from the language of your emotions into plain English (err, for me it’s Polish).

3. Get Feedback.
I consider it an advanced technique that’s not easy for everyone. First, you need a great social support of people who don’t hesitate to speak the truth about you. Unfortunately that’s far from common.

Second, you need to be a person who can absorb critique when it’s coming. And it will come. We are so good at lying to ourselves, especially when it comes to our self-image, that hearing the truth about yourself can be devastating. And it also puts your relationships at risk. Thus, this method is not for the faint of heart.

4. You Need to Do the Work
How can a lazy person do the work? It sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it?

Well, the secret to doing the work is simple and doable for lazy people too: show up consistently.

Showing up is the #1 requirement to be able to do anything. If you don’t arrive to your workplace, it’s hardly possible you will work, isn’t it?

So, if you want to write a novel, sit in front of your computer and write. If you want to graduate, go to school. If you want to write a computer program, show up and write the code, one line after another.

Laziness and carelessness usually manifest themselves in procrastination. And procrastination is NOT showing up. It’s putting off the things you need to do ad infinitum.

Show up
Every time you show up and move a project an inch forward, you are a winner. I coached folks who were finishing their dissertations more than once. Several different people, but the story was always the same: procrastination, looming deadlines, desperation and lack of progress. Some of them were stuck for months.

I couldn’t help them all, but those who succeeded embraced the ‘show up’ philosophy. We focused on showing up and doing the job every day.

Most of the time they wanted to work for hours at a time. Most of the time, they weren’t able to. They needed to extend their deadlines to make them realistic. But they finished their dissertations and graduated.

Show up and do the work even if it’s ridiculously insufficient amount. It’s better to do something every day than nothing every day.