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The Difference: Procrastination v Laziness

Watch the video above, or read the transcript below


Today I want to talk about the concept of being lazy.

Sometimes we like to think of it as procrastinating: constantly putting off something. Other times it’s more like an absence of motivation; an apathy about the task, an inability to get up and do it.

However you define laziness, what you probably do – if you’re like most people – is you think of it as some sort of character fault inside yourself, a weakness that prevents you from completing tasks. The harsh truth is that laziness is not about a weakness, it is about fear.

Today I’m going to tell you about why that fear happens and what you can do to overcome it. There are two reasons that you might be lazy about something: one is that you’re afraid of it and two it’s not right for you.

If you’re avoidant and you feel guilty about procrastinating on this task, make the assumption that it’s number one – it’s fear that’s stopping you. At least with this assumption you can move forward in a healthy way.

I’d like to start by talking about the procrastination cycle – what curses is the loop from Hell that we get stuck in. It’s made of two things: delay and stacking.

Delaying is a story we tell ourselves that puts off the task, for even just a short period of time. This is a really common tactic that fear uses on u. W we don’t literally feel afraid – there’s no sensation of terror, no heart beating or palms sweating. It’s just this nagging kind of compulsion to put a task off just a little while.

“Now’s not the right time,” “It’s not appropriate,” “I have to wait for this other thing first,” “I’m a bit busy right now” – these little stories we tell ourselves to put the thing off just a little bit – that’s the delay.

Stacking is when we build up the size of a task in our minds. It’s an imaginary stacking of tasks and pressure and obligation that occurs inside our head, turning what looks like a simple task into a mountain of overwhelm, frustration and confusion.

One most common types of stacking is simply to add tasks on top of each other. For example, I might be procrastinating on starting my own business and I think “Well I’ve got to register my business, then I’m gonna need a website, then I’ve got to print business cards, then I’m gonna go try and find my first client, then my second client…” and I just start stacking all these bricks on top of each other. When you look at this whole stack all at once it’s completely overwhelming because it’s impossible – there are too many things to do in one go.

And that is another trick that fear plays on you; it stacks tasks until they are impossible. Once the tasks are impossible, then you have another reason to delay. “I don’t have enough time to do all those millions of business tasks today so I’m going to have to put it off another day,” and here we see the loop: you delay, you come up with more ideas which creates a stack, the stack takes too long and is to too hard to do, so you must delay again, and because you’ve delayed more ideas build up… and it starts stacking, delaying, stacking, delaying, until it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and, before long, it’s impossible.

Another type of stacking is built-in to the delay itself. For example, imagine I need to confront somebody on some ugly conflicts that we need to have. Every day that I put that off actually makes it worse because now it’s longer that I’ve gone without telling them. I’m gonna start imagining like “It’s even worse now because they’re going to know that I put it off for a long time.” It also gives me more time to imagine their reaction so I get to compound and stack the possible consequences.

If I do it quickly, they might be just a bit upset, but if I delay it I have time to imagine more things that happen after they’re upset: “They’ll be upset, then they’ll yell at me, then I’ll have an emotional breakdown, then they’ll have an emotional breakdown, then they’ll tell my friends and ruin my reputation, then they get me fired from my job, and then my whole life will come crashing down… I’m gonna have to spend the rest of my life living in a cardboard box and smoking meth.”

That is the stacking of consequences which actually comes from the delay, so you can see this loop of delay to stack and back to delay. It becomes bigger and bigger, more and more intimidating and therefore less likely to be completed or even started.

It’s actually fairly simple to break the cycle.

First, you’ve got to stop believing the story that you’re “lazy,” a label your brain uses to simplify this delay/stacking cycle. It just says “you’re a lazy person” which is actually an excuse to get you off the hook. You can’t expect a lazy person to do something difficult, right? So now you’ve got a great justification for continuing to procrastinate.

Secondly, you have to see the stack and delay cycle that you’re in. See how imaginary this task has become – the Mount Everest that you’ve created in your mind – when in reality to do the task, to just start this thing, you only have to take a tiny little action that you definitely have enough time to take.

Need to start a business? Just make one phone call. Need to confront your friend? Just send them a text saying “We need to talk.” Need to get started at the gym? Just drop and do 10 push-ups.

Getting started is not your problem because the real task is tiny compared to the imaginary task that you’ve created in your mind just to get out of doing the tiny task.

What you need is a pattern-break: you need something that destroys the stack and halts the delay, and this means it needs to be an action that’s small enough that you can do it anywhere, anytime. There must be nothing that really prevents you – it can’t terrifyingly large and it also needs to be something that allows you to have acceptance around getting rid of the stack.

I had a great example with a client of mine. He’s been meaning to set up his music studio so he can start recording again, but he started imagining all these tracks he’s going to design, and this new album he’s gonna create, and the songs he could do for somebody else… and it just kept stacking in his mind.

So what we did we broke it down, like forget all those songs and all those albums and everything. They’re done, they’re gone! Just set up your studio and make a tiny 30-second piece of music. That’s it. After that, you can reevaluate.

So that’s the key here: whatever it is that you’re stuck on, break it down to its tiniest little piece – the smallest and least terrifying amount of this task that you can possibly handle. Let go of all the others that you’ve made up. Just do that tiny task with no obligation to go further than that. Break the pattern and then start over again.


I hope you enjoyed that post. Please share it around if you did and subscribe to the YouTube channel. Comment me below with your thoughts.

And if you’re looking for more support in this – if you want to learn how to build courage and motivation – get in touch dan@brojo.org and I’ll give you some pointers.

Thank you so much for reading, have yourselves a great afternoon.

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