Overcoming inertia and actually getting active can be difficult. But there are lazy ways to get things done – you just need to trick yourself into doing it. When logic won’t work, you need to work beyond reason.
1. Remove choice from your path.
If you’ve burnt all your bridges then there’s nowhere to go but onwards, right? This happens a lot when people leave themselves with the night before to accomplish a task. We’re not going to do this. We’re trying to outwit our lazier instincts; not the other way round. If you’re trying to lose weight, remove temptation from your kitchen. If you’re swamped with files, create a system for dealing with it. Nature takes the path of least resistance.
2. Pretend there’s less.
I’m a big fan of Zen to Done. If you start off with the expectation that you’re only going to complete three tasks, then you’re a success whether you achieve that and nothing more, or if you power through a stack of papers the width of your desk. By pretending there’s less you remove the first hurdle to starting – by chopping the day’s work into pieces.
3. Create false deadlines.
Nothing makes me hurry like a deadline. The usual problem is that the deadline is the night before, and one night isn’t enough time. Try the habit of setting your personal deadlines for a few days before the actual deadline, so that the result isn’t a rushed mess. Realise, though, that you can edit the result before your actual deadline. Otherwise you’ll just end up with the same rushed mess, a few days earlier.
4. Tweak your alarm clock.
Set it a bit earlier, every day. Let the time you wake up creep a little earlier daily, until you’ve started to recover the morning for your own. A salute to those of you with iron wills who wake before six. Think of all the slow breakfasts, energising runs and beautiful sunrises you’re missing out on if you’re asleep.
5. Stay mindful.
I’ve known of people who snap an elastic band around their wrists when they have negative thoughts. It’s just a form of conditioning yourself. Staying mindful counteracts those stupid little things we do unconsciously. I can think of plenty of occasions. When you get home after work and switch on the TV without thinking… When your hand creeps into the bag of chocolate without your noticing… If you trick yourself into realising when you’re doing it you’ll be able to stop without using willpower. In the 4-hour body it’s illustrated how, just by consistently tracking your weight, you can unconsciously make the thousands of little decisions that result in losing weight. It’s when we’re in control of those little decisions that we can control the big changes.
6. Become accountable.
Does anybody want to play down the effect that people’s comments have upon us? Even those we’re just imagining? When we know that people are informed of our plans we become more likely to succeed. The factors depend on the person – for me it’s a mixture of fear and stubbornness – but it’s easy to understand. Even when nobody cares, we think they do, and that drives us.
7. Tell yourself a story.
More particularly, a different story. This approach is just adopted from cognitive behavioural therapy – when your own personal narrative is saying something negative, you slowly correct it. To trick yourself, tell yourself that things are different to how you’re perceiving them. If you’re dreading getting started on your manuscript, imagine you’re going to start it with the same enthusiasm that you’d have watching the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy (with deleted scenes, of course). Enthusiasm is all subjective and, ultimately, controllable.
So, next time you need to do something, try tricking yourself into it. Willpower is overrated.