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My favorite 3 anti-laziness tactics (I use these)

Ramit Sethi

Yesterday, I talked about the daily annoyances in our lives that are so tiny, they’re almost embarrassing to talk about. (Like my lamp being 3 feet away.)

I’m not stupid and I don’t think I’m that lazy. But that lamp made me dread walking over every single day.

Most people don’t talk about these things because they feel so trivial. Aren’t people starving? Why am I talking about my light bulb being out?

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But these minor annoyances actually add up to a lot. It’s like going to the beach and walking into a swarm of mosquitoes. One isn’t so bad (F U Mr. Mosquito), but if you’re getting bitten by a hundred of them, you have a serious problem.

The funny thing is, these little inconveniences feel so small that we almost CAN’T talk about them. It’s politically incorrect!

And really, is it worth my time to agonize over a sheet that’s a little too small for my mattress?

So instead, what do we do?

We keep putting up with these distractions day after day, not recognizing the invisible cost of each individual annoyance. We never make the connection between these 50 tiny inconveniences…and the BIG things that we always seem too tired to do.

We say, “I need motivation,” but really, we already have enough — we’re just spending it one ounce at a time on tiny bullshit.

Those little annoyances are like motivation mosquitoes. They suck you dry one bite at a time.

Think about what it would mean if we could fix those things, wake up every morning, and have a velvet-smooth day ahead of us.

  • Your egg pan is already on the stove, clean and shining.
  • Your outfit is ready and matched, waiting for you to slip it on.
  • You already have reservations for dinner tonight.

YES! THIS IS HOW IT SHOULD BE!!

To do this, I’m going to show you how I engineer my most productive days.

Don’t worry — I’m not going to turn you into a robotic productivity automaton. In fact, I love binge-watching TV just as much as anyone.

 


Don’t judge

 

This week, I’m going to talk about FOLLOWING THROUGH.

It’s one thing to have a bunch of dreams. But there’s nothing worse than starting something new…then getting distracted…

…and doing it over and over again. Hell has a special place for people who start 25 things and never finish any of them.

Like no other time in history, we’re overwhelmed with options. We’re worried about being paralyzed by too many choices. About being people who start things, but never finish.

Why is it so easy to talk a big game about losing weight…or starting a business…or moving to another city…but so hard to actually do it?

To put it bluntly, I don’t want to be on my deathbed saying this:

 

 

That’s why I’m going to show you 3 of my favorite anti-laziness tactics right now. Use these and watch the difference in the next 7 days.

 

ANTI-LAZINESS TACTIC #1:
If it’s not on your calendar, it doesn’t exist

 

My friend asked me how I manage my to-dos. I pulled up my calendar and showed him exactly how I run my life. If it’s not on my calendar, it doesn’t exist.

 

 

Look at this one:

 

 

This is a random to-do that I would normally put in the back of my head…and it would never get done. Instead, I added it to my calendar so it always gets done.

Advanced tip: You can set up weekly, monthly, and quarterly “to-dos” for things like reviewing your systems, planning an annual negotiation, or even checking in on your relationship.

 

ANTI-LAZINESS TACTIC #2:
Take an Honesty Bath

 

So many of us start our day off with a lie:

  • “Ugh, I’m tired…I’ll go to the gym after work”
  • “Ok, for real, I’m not going to eat junk food tonight” (said while getting dressed to go out, knowing you’ll be drinking 6 vodka tonics and passing by that pizza place on 6th Ave. You’re DEFINITELY going to eat drunk food tonight. But you deny it)
  • “I’m going to wake up early tomorrow” (said while browsing Reddit and Facebook at 9pm…only to be doing the same thing 5 hours later)

This is where I take an Honesty Bath. As a bachelor living in Manhattan, there’s nothing more relaxing than sinking into a bubble bath, putting on some candles and Richard Marx, and melting the day’s stresses away.

Uh…what I mean is, I get BRUTALLY HONEST about myself. This means I look back at the last month and say, “What did I claim I was going to do? What did I really do?”

And then, in classic GTD style, I do these:

  • Delete
  • Defer
  • Do it

Example: If I claim I’m going to wake up every day at 7am, but every morning, I just slap the snooze button until it’s 8am…I’m not going to wake up at 7am! DELETE!

If I claim I’m going to make my bed every morning, but I have a huge project at work and I haven’t made it in the last 3 weeks, I’m not going to make my bed while the crazy project is happening at work. DEFER!

This takes a lot of fortitude since you have to be ruthlessly honest about your strengths and weaknesses, and your past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior. If you find yourself using the word “just” — “Ugh, I’ll just start next week” or “I’ll just try harder this week” — you’ve already lost.

The best part? Once you make the decision, you can live GUILT-FREE and use your energy to commit to things you’ll actually do.

 

ANTI-LAZINESS TACTIC #3:
Say no (use this script)

 

I used to have an inbox full of things I wanted to say no to, but I didn’t want to disappoint people. I also told myself I didn’t want to be rude, but truthfully, I didn’t know how to turn people down politely.

We ALL have this — invitations, obligations, things we don’t really want to do. And usually, we either (1) say yes, then regret it later, or (2) ignore it, hoping it will go away, until our ignoring it actually becomes rude.

In truth, wouldn’t you rather have someone be honest and say, “I wish I could help, but this isn’t the right fit” quickly…rather than dragging it on and giving you false hope?

Exactly. So why don’t you do it?

To remove all barriers, here’s a script you can use to politely say no:

Hi NAME,

Thanks for this invitation. I’m flattered! Unfortunately, I’ve got my priorities set for the year and this just doesn’t fit in. Again, thanks for thinking of me.

-YOUR NAME

Send that “no” script to one person today. You’ll be amazed how it feels to clear out the cobwebs of obligations and start off fresh.

 

*   *   *

 

Remember those 50 tiny inconveniences we all face every day?

  • Maybe you only have 2 coffee mugs, so you have to wash one every morning.
  • Maybe you need a new shower curtain, but last time you went to Target, they were all sold out.
  • Maybe half your pants are in your closet and half in your drawer, so you have to go back and forth

It’s not shallow to want to have a smooth day. In fact, top performers go out of their way to recognize these motivation mosquitoes — those tiny annoyances that drain your mental reservoir — and purge with prejudice.

NOW, my favorite part!

Let’s imagine all 50 daily annoyances you have are magically fixed.

  1. What would your velvet-smooth day look like? Play it out from waking up — really walk me through it.
  2. If you don’t change anything, what will your day look like next year? Be really specific — what will your day look like on December 8th, 2016 if you don’t change anything?

Leave your answers in the comments below.

-Ramit

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20 Comments

 
  1. David

    Ramit,
    You really got me with this line, “Hell has a special place for people who start 25 things and never finish any of them.” I’m in that hell! I’ve said I’m going to start a business for years, I’ve said I’m going to make money on the side, I’ve said I’m going to do a lot of things, but I quit early and often. I’ve signed up for course after course (including Earn1k, Success Triggers, and HTTA) and haven’t finished any of them. My first thought on how to start digging my way out is to start getting some small wins to break the cycle of start, quit, repeat. Any advice on where to start getting those wins if my goal is starting a side business that I eventually want to turn into a full time business?

    • Sladjana

      Hey, David, I know you asked Ramit for help, but it seems Ramit is busy helping others build their systems ;), and your problem felt familiar to me. From my own experience the best way to get out of that hell is to realize why you do the things you do, in other words to confront your problem in a constructive, non-judgmental way.

      Is this maybe your way to procrastinate, by avoiding to commit to anything for a longer period of time. I, myself, am an ex-Procrastinator so I know people use different tactics to avoid facing their fears. There are procrastinators and there are Procrastinators, and Procrastinators are not just super lazy people but people who are overwhelmed and paralyzed by their fears. Most often those are fear of failure, of making a wrong choice, of success, of being controlled by others…

      Or maybe you’re just not sure what are your natural strengths or talents. Sometimes it’s hard for us to say what these are because they feel so natural to us, and we assume all people are good at these things just as we are, and that’s not true. And I believe the best thing you can do is to create such business that will allow you to use your own set of talents, and help others in the best way you can.

      Hope this will help you think and find answers why is it so hard for you to commit to something, cause in the end you’re the only one who knows the truth and the only one who can find the way out of that hell! Best of luck!

      Sladjana 🙂

    • Kathy Evans

      David, I would say that yours is the hell of modern American society. We have way, way, way too much stimulation; it keeps the mind frantically hopping from thought to thought, from a two minute video to a 300 word blog post to an email to a Tweet, and round and round. Focus and follow through becomes more and more difficult. You have to change your life to address this, I think, but you will be happier. Much less screen time, stay home more often, learn to meditate (not meditation lite, but a real practice), have compassion for yourself instead of self criticism. The latter is like dragging ankle weights around and it brings discouragement and despair. For a concrete beginning, start with establishing some routines that support your life. Do the same thing at the same time each day as much as possible, beginning with one good solid routine: when you go to bed, when you wake up, when you eat, when you bathe. Pick one thing and do it slowly and mindfully, then add another one. It’s not a quick fix, but a quick fix won’t fix it. Slow down a bit in all you do. In addition to the criteria of “would it be fun” or “is it interesting,” before you decide to read a book, watch a movie, or go to a party, ask, “Will it bring peace?” That is what we are all most short on and that is what may give you the grounding to follow through, not to mention better overall physical and mental health.
      All best to you.

  2. Justin

    Great article. Never commented on here before but I’ve been doing some of these tactics the past two months prior to reading this and it’s radically changed my life. Even putting the dullest things like “Commute to work” into my calendar has helped me make the realistic plans I can achieve. I highly suggest reading “Agile Results” by JD Meier and checking out the apps Omnifocus and Strides if you’d like a hand in implementing this type of defer/delete/do/assess lifestyle. It’s awesome.

  3. Katisha

    Oddly enough the “coffee mug” cameo in this article made me smile. I drink coffee every morning as part of my routine. However, I was infamous for leaving nice tumblers in my car which meaning having all of my cup holders full by Thursday because I’d forget to take them out in the evening bc I’m tired and have my hands full…or worse, leaving my nice tumbler somewhere and forgetting it. Bye Bye tumbler. I kept telling myself I was helping the environment and it made sense…..except it didn’t. Once I started buying biodegradable disposable coffee cups with lids my anxiety went down exponentially. Now they always get thrown away at my destination and I’m not stressing about a stupid coffee cup. Is it more expensive in the long run? Sure, but who cares. It’s more convenient and I love convenience. I’ve started instituting this in other areas like subscription deliveries from Amazon, etc.

  4. Jack

    It’s a fact that your blog posts are so unique and interesting and I enjoys a lot while reading your posts because you explained your post very deeply in a very easy and clear language. Thanks for your support.Great blog with such awesome article.So lucky to have here.

  5. Nabtron

    Ramit, can you tell me the project management software you use? Like you run team and projects right, how do you manage them? I am really lost with various options :/

  6. Esmeralda

    1. I wake up with the sun – no alarm clocks. I don’t have to worry about the chores and cooking with a domestic helper to take care of all that. That’s about it really. Chores are my biggest annoyances.

    2. I would be waking 2 hrs before dawn using the alarm, and have to rush through all the chores before cooking breakfast, if I even have time for it. Come home after work and more chores before I sleep at 11pm. Tired and unhappy all the time.

  7. Lisa M

    Some of the most annoying things are often out of my control. I find it miserable that I must deal with constant and sometimes erroneous computer and phone app/software updates. It’s maddening that a computer that I bought several years ago that was TOP notch is now almost obsolete but I still have the same versions of major software on it. how is this possible? I can’t control these things. I find it maddening that mailing a parcel takes dozens of steps if you want to do it ‘online’ or a special trip DURING my work day away from work to mail something. packaging it up is another PITA. There is no place to mail something that is convenient to my home or work. these two seemingly normal things have resulted in serious problems for me. I want to be able to sell things online, and I wish to be using my computer for much of this. Makes it a HUGE hurdle to getting this little money making venture off the ground.

  8. Ricardo

    This really hits home to me. I think of myself as the ultimate person for achievement but truth be told there are so many promises I made myself that I have broken. Posts like this help me be honest with myself, thanks Ramit

  9. Raheem

    Hey Ramit,

    A friend of mine just posted your blog’s URL on Facebook. I’m amazed to see such fantastic and valuable content here. Was busy with a lot of stuff lately, even though I have a lot of spare time to work on other projects as well. But, ‘Laziness’.

    I’ll surely pass by this blog everyday and post my status on overcoming my ‘Laziness’ over here.

    Keep making great content.

  10. Dustin

    YES! “…we’re just spending one ounce at a time on tiny bull shit” That’s my darn life right now. I have these stupid track lights in my kitchen. 6 out of 8 of them are out because I can’t fit my fingers between the light bulb and the thing that they are housed in to change them out. I’ve just spent two hours trying to change one bulb…after reading this article I’m logging on to amazon and just buying some new lighting for my kitchen. Thanks.

  11. Stacey

    Wake up at 5:45am feeling full of energy and excitement for the day. Do my 10 minute morning routine and then upon completion, get into my work out clothes which are laid out near by. Run downstairs and grab a water bottle that is already made, head out the door to the gym by 6:15 in a car with a full tank of gas. Return home at 7am to a green juice and scrambled eggs, black beans & spinach already made and waiting for me to eat on the kitchen table. Dishes magically get cleaned on their own while I head upstairs to get ready. My outfit for the day is already ready for me to get in to when I step out of the shower and a great audiobook or motivating music is playing for me to listen to while I am getting ready. Go to work and knock out my entire to-do list for the day. Drive home while having a great phone conversation with a friend or listening to a good audio book. Dinner is ready, kitchen is cleaned and I am still feeling energized! Spend the rest of the evening talking/laughing with my husband and sharing the most amazing parts of our day and inspiring people we talked to or met. Get into bed at 9pm, read for an hour and go to sleep.

  12. Issac paul

    Hey buddy,
    This one is amazingly interesting post 🙂
    This post is awesome well crafted a high quality one 🙂 ! Yes, people can see high quality post where ever they move their eye balls over your blog. The strategies you expose adds to my knowledge & keep sharing bro 🙂 You’re gonna make a loyal reader of your blog soon 😉 hope i will break my bad habits, I mean laziness 🙂 & one fine day i will be rich like you 🙂

    Warm regards,
    Issac paul

  13. Jonny Pean

    It was laziness which had delayed my entrepreneurial plans for a year or so. Am a finance blogger currently managing a team of six – looking after my blog financewand.com (branding, suggestions, ads and everything else). It was only after I had started this blog and looked for ways to break through to the top that I realized that there is no place for lethargy here. Now my only tactic of breaking away with laziness is reminding myself that laziness= fewer dollars! 😀

  14. Tim

    This article’s content simply works. I told Ramit that I would implement his ALT #1 and I did it in about an hour or less. Put down everything that you do that is super important including trading hours for $$$ periods, eating, read/sleep, all that shit. My entire 24/7 is now on a Google calendar and the little pop ups or dings at said time is a real time motivator, believe that. After doing this…You will feel like SHIT if you see it pop up and you decide not to do it. I can promise you that. I did something this past Saturday am I have told myself I would do over and over…and I actually beat the Resistance (ala Steven Pressfield) because of having this calendar set up!

  15. David

    It’s interesting how much is really all in our head!

    Two months ago I wasn’t happy about my physicAL shape and decided I was going to do 60 pushups a day and record them in my calendar. Well that’s all about 3,300 pushups ago. Since then I’ve been doing other activities to get in better shape.
    Remarkably, it had also helped with other stuff, I formed a business, landed some new clients and 3ven started a blog on had been procrastinating about for 6 months.

    I have also been able to clear and plant a garden in our yard that is about 30 ft by 20 ft. This is something I have wanted to do for four years!

    I say, make up your mind and DO IT then keep a record of it. Start small and build from there.

    David

  16. Songy

    I’ve Ramitised my life and it’s been great. I’ve lost a lot of weight, I’m more productive every day (while working less hours) and spend more time for myself. Now I’m on a new path to really expand my business. The fork in the road is that I’m in two different businesses – photography & website development. I’m kind of working through ‘resolving’ but wondering if it would be possible to work that out from one of your courses (here’s me thinking of course, Ramit has answers for everything!). I also know that there are no shortcuts in this (as I have to do the work of finding out. I do have Creative Live course by Ramit. If you (community at large or Ramit’s team) have any feedback or comment on that I’d really appreciate it.

    On with another productive day!!!

  17. Zurien

    My velvet-smooth day (as velvety-smooth as possible with 2 kids and another on the way)
    6.00: Wake up and shower
    6.15: Wake daughter up to go shower and get ready for school. Start the laundry.
    6.45: Husband sends daughter off to school. I start preparing healthy breakfast to enjoy at leisure.
    7.00: Have breakfast and get ready for work.
    8.15: Hang up laundry and leave to drop other daughter off at in-laws’ before going to office.
    9.15: Be in at the office, where work officially starts at 9.30. Prepare coffee to nurse while working.
    9.30 – 6.00: At office. Leave office at 6 sharp. Pick up kids if need to.
    7.15: Already at home, prepare dinner, take a quick shower and have dinner with family.
    8.30 – 9.30: Work on freelance work/business/blog while getting older kid to study.
    9.30-10.30: Watch TV while folding laundry. Put away laundry and prepare next day’s outfit.
    10.30: Go to bed.

    Wow I need to quit my job. Also, this doesn’t factor in baby yet!

  18. Jay De Silve

    Very interesting article. In Lean manufacturing we do the same cut the bull shit, tiny crap that eats away value to the customer. Tiny crap adds up eventually until whoa! It becomes something humongous. Sad part is until I read this article I never thought of it in this articles perspective to implement in my own life. So here goes to bringing my clothes – shirts, pants, socks, and underwear in one closet space. All my grocery in location in the kitchen. This is a start for me.