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Scientific Approach to Understand and Overcome Laziness

Updated on October 20, 2019

It’s interesting how we all hate laziness, but we love “laziness.” In some moments, doing nothing is a pleasure, and when we think we deserve it, it is even better.

However, laziness is considered the main feature of the unproductive, bad results, bad luck, and of course, poverty. Also, leisure, ineptitude, laziness, and reluctance; They are all relatives of laziness.

Why are we lazy?

Do not blame yourself. Learning how to overcome laziness is not easy because it is a problem that comes from time ago.

Our nomadic ancestors had to conserve energy to compete for scarce resources. Additionally, they had to fight or flee from enemies and predators.

Making efforts on tasks that do not represent short-term advantages would jeopardize their survival. So why do them?

Currently, surviving has another connotation. Resources such as housing, food, transportation, or medicines are at your fingertips.

However, our instincts remain the same, and we still feel the need to continue conserving energy. This makes us reluctant to strive for abstract projects with distant or uncertain retributions.

Some people manage to cancel this instinct, thanks to ambition and the search for a better future. Things our ancestors didn’t think.

But how to overcome laziness?

Don’t worry, laziness is an evil that attacks us all. Nobody is saved.

The difference is that some people know how to control it. And that is the idea we want to propose.

Being highly productive is not a natural talent for everyone. Some have great willpower and a strict work ethic. On the other hand, some people struggle to start a task and continually postpone it.

To understand how to overcome laziness, how our body and our mind work in the face of this phenomenon, we must know what laziness really is, and why it occurs.

What is laziness?

These are some of the definitions of laziness:

  • It is the quality of not being willing to work or use energy.
  • Lack of inclination to the activity or effort despite having the capabilities.
  • Adjective to describe a person who does not want to work or strive to do something.

So what is laziness really? Is it about being slow to do something or postpone it? Or not to do it at all? Or not wanting to make enough effort?

If you realize, most meanings focus on the lack of mobility, action, or use of energy.

However, Leon F. Seltzer, a doctor of psychology and author of the book “Paradoxical Strategies in Psychotherapy” states that laziness is not entirely a personality trait.


Seltzer’s theory says that what we commonly consider as laziness is not really the lack of mobility or inactivity; on the contrary, it is the lack of motivation.

That is, it is not that you do not want to do things, that you are lazy, and that a characteristic of your personality is that you are lazy. What you have not found is motivation.

In this case, the important thing is not to understand laziness itself, but to explore the factors that decrease our motivation.


What causes laziness or lack of motivation?

Various factors intervene so that your brain plays with you and leads you to prefer sitting on the couch instead of doing what you should do.

If you want to know how to overcome laziness, you need to know the reasons why it occurs. These can be:

  • Fear to fail.
  • Not knowing how to do things.
  • The task is very long or complicated.
  • Not having a clear objective.
  • To think that what we do will not be worth it.
  • Not having confidence in ourselves.
  • To think that nobody will give us recognition.
  • Lack of emotional support.
  • We do not want to leave our comfort zone.
  • Total disinterest.

Many “lazy” people are not intrinsically lazy, but they are because they have not found what they want to do. They have not found a reason.

To make matters worse, work that pays its bills and fills its best hours may have become so abstract and specialized that they can no longer understand their purpose.


Whatever the cause, if laziness is interfering with your productivity, if it does not respond to your responsibilities and if it is costing you; You must learn to overcome it. And to achieve this, we must understand what happens in our brain.

What happens to our brain?

You already know that laziness is due to a lack of motivation in front of a specific area (Our professional life, the creation of your company, your relationship or exercise, and health).

Additionally, it comes from our ancestors. It is currently generated by different factors, such as the fear of failure, the difficulty of the activity, the lack of objectives, or the lack of knowledge.

This is on a psychological level. However, what happens at the biological level? How does our brain work?

It is incredible to think that our own brain is to blame for laziness. However, according to the theory of the triunic brain; proposed by neuroscientist and physicist Paul D Mclean, our brain is divided into three parts:

  1. Reptilian or primitive brain: It is the oldest section of the brain and responsible for basic activities: such as breathing, heart rate, digestion, etc. It is the part which is in charge of our survival.
  2. Limbic brain: It is the emotional part and is responsible for processing our feelings.
  3. Neocortex: The neocortex is responsible for activities such as language, abstract thinking, imagination, and creativity.

The most active part is our reptilian brain, and it hates insecurity. It does not like instability or to feel vulnerable. That is, every time you want to change or take risks, your reptilian brain is opposed.

That’s why you couldn’t create the habit of going to the gym or getting up early. These activities take you out of your comfort zone, and therefore your brain simply encourages you to leave them.

Our mind is designed to give comfort to our bodies. This is the reason why we all feel lazy at some point.

How to beat laziness?

Now that you know what laziness really is and you know why it happens on a physical and psychological level, it is time to identify some strategies to overcome it.

1. Break down tasks into small activities.

Commonly, we avoid some tasks because of their difficulty or size. Finding them too overwhelming, our reptilian brain begins to look for all possible reasons to abandon them.

By dividing an enormous task into small tasks, the complexity and time to complete each activity will be less intimidating. This is how your brain sees it:

  • A great job = A great effort
  • Small task = Little effort

This approach can be applied not only to tasks/jobs but also to objectives. This will help you eliminate much of the laziness and internal resistance that we often experience.

2. Think about the benefits and consequences.

Think about the benefits you will get if you overcome those moments of laziness, instead of thinking about obstacles.

For example, let’s continue the habit of getting up early. What are the benefits of doing so?

Former US Navy seal Jocko Willink states in a video for the Business Insider portal that despite being retired, he continues to get up at 4:30 in the morning.

Although many of his former partners have lost the habit, he does so for the following reasons.

  • You can do more things during the day.
  • You will eliminate the stress of not having achieved something due to lack of time.
  • You can prepare to face the day to day.
  • You will be more productive than most people.
  • Getting up early means that you go to bed early, avoiding the unproductive activities we usually do before bedtime.

Before he did it by obligation, today, he sees the benefits and has made his brain need it. This leads us to the following strategy on how to overcome laziness.

3. Do the important thing first thing in the morning.

As you already know, our willpower plays a vital role in leaving laziness.

Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, authors of the book “The One Think: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results,” state that willpower is not something we can increase or decrease as we please.

On the contrary, it works like a muscle. The more we use the mind, the more willpower we will consume. That is, our willpower is limited.

This means that as the day goes by, your willpower will decrease. Do the most important tasks when your willpower levels are higher. That is the first thing in the morning.

4. Do only one thing at a time.

If you feel you have a lot to do, you will probably feel overwhelmed and let laziness win the battle.

Kelly and Papasan also play the theme of “Multitasking” in their book.

Some people claim to be good at doing two or more things at the same time. However, these entrepreneurs claim that it is an illusion.

The human brain can do basic activities at the same time, how to talk and walk or eat and read, but cannot concentrate on two things at once.

If you try to focus on two things, your attention will bounce back and forth, quickly creating the illusion that you are doing it simultaneously. Creating something called attention waste.

Respect every task you do and give it your full attention. Trying to do two things at the same time will lead you to waste time, use more energy and ultimately, to distract you.

Do you know what happens when you get distracted? It is your reptilian brain looking to make something more relaxed, more comfortable.

5. Rest.

To overcome laziness, you need to know when to rest. To ease your daily work, include small breaks between each task.

The most productive people know when to rest. This helps them complete projects that most would postpone due to their complexity or completion time.

Establish concentration and rest times. For example, work very concentrated for 45 min and rest 15. This will help you maintain your energy and motivation for longer.

6. Remove distractions.

Of all the possible strategies to overcome laziness, the most effective is to eliminate distractions definitely.

As mentioned earlier, if you have several options, your reptilian brain will always choose the easiest. Your phone, TV or even sleeping, will always be more attractive options.

If you eliminate these distractions, it will be easier for you to overcome laziness.

7. Be consistent and create habits.

When you manage to couple these strategies to your life and start doing those things that you propose, stick to them, and be consistent.

Laziness, in any way, takes advantage of those moments of weakness in your willpower. Like overcoming addiction, you only need one day to relapse and let laziness take over you.

It’s okay to fail, and it will probably happen to you more than once. But if it happens to you, let it be because you have been behaving well for several days, and you deserve it.

We hope you have learned how to overcome laziness and that this information has been useful for you.

Do not forget that laziness is a bad habit and not a feature of your personality, so you can change it.


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