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“How do I stop being lazy?” The student was at the end of her rope. Her to-do lists kept getting longer, but the more she tried to do, the less she seemed to get done.
“What makes you think laziness is the problem?” I asked.
“I tell myself I’m going to meditate, but then I hit snooze on my alarm and sleep in instead,” she said. “I tell myself I’m going to go to the gym right after work, but I stop at Chick-fil-A. I say I’m going to work on my business for at least two hours after work each day, but I end up watching Netflix and passing out.”
“Okay,” I said. “Where is your alarm clock?”
“I use my iPhone,” she said.
“And where do you put it at bedtime?” I asked.
She looked surprised. “On my bedside table,” she said. “Right next to my bed.”
“OK,” I said. “Do you have a dresser on the other side of the room?”
“Why not put your phone there?” I said.
She looked back at me blankly. I continued, “If you have to actually get out of your bed to turn off your alarm, the lazier choice will be to stay awake. I mean, you’re already on your feet, right? Might as well get some coffee and meditate.”
My student was silent for a moment, then said, “I don’t have a charger on my dresser.”
I stared at her. “Get one.”
“I don’t even know if there’s a power outlet there.”
Related: 7 Myths About Discipline You Need to Stop Believing
Set traps for yourself
The remainder of the conversation proceeded in that same vein. Could she work remotely so she would have more time to meditate? Never have to drive past that Chick-fil-A and face that temptation? Why not cancel Netflix?
Humans are naturally lazy. It’s useless to fight it. Instead of fighting that losing battle, why not turn it into an advantage? And the way to turn laziness to your advantage is to rig your life so that the right choice is the easy choice.
It’s like setting little traps for yourself. Put your alarm clock across the room. Set it to go off at the same time every morning. You will probably be too lazy to deactivate it, and just like that, you have rigged your life to make yourself a consistent early riser.
No time to cook? Is ChickfFil-A too tempting? Try a healthy meal-delivery service. Forget sitting in line at a drive-through — grabbing a healthy meal out of the fridge to reheat will become the lazy choice.
The gym? Get a Peloton bike for your home. Move into an apartment with a gym. Hire a personal trainer to be accountable to. The lazier choice is to show up for your scheduled training time, rather than explain to a disappointed trainer that you just don’t feel like it.
Related: Bill Gates Says Lazy People Make the Best Employees. But Is Your Laziness Actually Masking a Deeper Issue?
Make productivity the lazy choice
I’m baffled when I visit the home of an aspiring entrepreneur and see that his home office is a desk in the laundry room. “I don’t understand why I don’t enjoy working on my business more!”
“What about that big beautiful front den with a view of trees?” I say. “Why not put your desk there?”
“That’s where I like to play Xbox.”
I have a proposal. The next block of time you intend to “work on your business,” invest the time working on your environments and routines. Set traps for yourself. Make it a problem for Next-Week You.
Cancel your streamers. Move your desk to your favorite room in the house, with the most light and the best view. Delete apps. Start with one social media app that doesn’t put money in your pocket.
If you can’t resist the donut display at the grocery store, stop going to the grocery store. Get your groceries delivered. Not only will you save time, you will never see that donut display again. It’s more expensive? Not as expensive as a heart attack. Ask my dad.
RELATED: 4 Ways to Be More Productive, Not Just Busy
Never stop optimizing for laziness
Maybe you look at your entrepreneur idols who make six or seven figures a month and think that they don’t do this. They’re done. Mastery attained, productivity achieved.
You would be wrong. The highest earners? The top producers? They are relentless about optimizing, merciless about the traps they set for themselves. They box themselves into a corner to where the path of least resistance is to do the work. Then they keep making that box smaller, and smaller, and smaller. They practically have no choice but to do the work.
It’s nearly impossible to sit down and try to focus on work, especially when your environment is full of distractions. You may see this as laziness. You may think people like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos have some sort of natural immunity to laziness. I can almost guarantee you, they have the same lazy gene, but they have calibrated their environment so that productivity is actually the path of least resistance. It’s the lazy choice.
So stop beating yourself up about being lazy. Accept it. Embrace it. Recognize it as an advantage. Then start planning and setting your traps. Pay attention to how you spend your time. Take note of what activities get you closer to your goals and which activities distract you from those ideas. Then devise plans to eliminate the distractions and funnel your time toward productive tasks. Then keep eliminating and optimizing. It’s a never-ending process, but it’s worth it. Do the work, so you can be lazy and feel good about it.