Why am I so lazy? 9 expert tips to stop wasting your potential

When you’re rushing through your tasks at the last minute, it’s inevitable that you’ll ask yourself, “Why am I so lazy? How do I overcome my laziness?”.

See, laziness isn’t so much a condition as it is a symptom. That means, if you’re ever going to get to the bottom of why you are lazy, and start meeting your goals, you need to dig deep! Acknowledging and understanding when you feel lazy is the first step in addressing it. Let’s dive in!

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New to IWT?
  • Watch Ramit Sethi host Netflix’s “How to Get Rich” 
  • Get the NYT-Bestselling book (over 1 million sold) 
  • Check out the podcast (200K plays per episode)

And join over 800,000 readers getting our Insiders newsletter, where we share exclusive content that's not on the blog:

Table of Contents

Why Am I So Lazy?

Laziness can be caused by a number of things, for instance, a lack of motivation, no clear direction or interests, or even a feeling of overwhelm. Negative feelings, often stemming from being surrounded by pessimistic individuals, can further exacerbate this lack of motivation, dragging one deeper into a cycle of inactivity. There is also our evolutionary trait. We are hardwired to preserve our energy and lay low. The result? Netflix and chill in an endless loop of instant gratification and regret. Additionally, low self-esteem can be both a cause and a consequence of laziness, creating a negative cycle that impacts mood, productivity, and ultimately, self-worth.

If we could wire this behavior in, we can wire it out. So let’s look at some of the potential causes of your overgrown lawn, assignment deadline extensions, and zero plans for personal development.

task list

1. Negative self-talk makes you afraid to fail

Fear of failure is a real thing. Whether you were bullied by your parents into a performance trap or ridiculed by peers when you stuffed up your rebuttal at the high school debate, it’s hard to fail. When we experience something that leaves us feeling inadequate or mortified, our kneejerk reaction is to never try it again.

But the experts have a solution.

  • Redefine Failure: Sure, failure is tough, especially when that failure links to our security. Getting fired or closing down your business might seem like the end of the world, but it’s actually the closing of a chapter. What you perceive as a failure might prevent you from seeing the opportunity. For instance, losing your job means you can finally see what is out there in the job marketstart your own business, or even go back to school. When you frame the experience differently, your mind can interpret the signals differently. An anxiety-filled situation suddenly becomes a fresh adventure. This redefinition is crucial in silencing the negative internal voice that distorts our perceptions of failure and success, encouraging us to replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations.

  • Know Your Worst-Case Scenario: You want to know what can happen and what the effects are. Once you know it, you can make the necessary plans to either avoid the effects or counter them. A good example would be to have a set of skills to fall back on, like freelance work, if you’re suddenly without work. It’s important to transform negative self-talk, which can derail our efforts and feed into emotions that make us act lazy, into a more positive and constructive internal dialogue.

  • Stay Relevant: No one is going to push or prod you to get your degree, take that course, or learn something new. That’s on you. You need to make sure that when that fear situation rears its ugly head, you’re ready for change.

  • Work Towards the Fear: The best way to overcome fear is to incrementally move towards the situation that causes the fear. For instance, if you fear you won’t have enough money to start a business, then do the logical thing and save. If you want to move up the corporate ladder but you’d rather sit on the couch with a family-sized pack of M&Ms, figure out whether it’s training, further learning, or building relationships that need a boost.

2. An invisible script is getting in your way

We’re all shaped by TV, news, social media, and even what our parents and teachers tell us, but we often don’t realize it. Growing up, you absorbed messages about how the world works that are still affecting your decisions today. I call these ‘invisible scripts’.

Some of these invisible scripts can be harmful. Things like: You’re not going to make it; you’re not good enough, rich enough, or smart enough. And sometimes, we resign ourselves to thinking that being lazy or unproductive is just the way we are, but it’s crucial to challenge and change these self-limiting scripts.

Here’s something to change that inner dialogue: Think of the top ten richest people on the planet. Do they all meet all the criteria on that list? What about your five most successful friends? Probably not.

But here’s the thing. I want you to get up and go for it. My post on invisible scripts should get you up and at it in no time.

Ever wonder why some people are 10x or even 100x happier, more confident, and more successful than others? Click here to learn how to master the psychological “Success Triggers” that top performers use to shift their negative thinking into peak performance, natural confidence, and lasting happiness.

3. You’re waiting for motivation to strike

We’ll start with the bad news first. Motivation alone isn’t going to get you there. In fact, there are going to be dry spells where motivation is lacking. The best way to curb this feeling is to assume that future you will fight anything that remotely resembles work.

So you build systems. You make sure that you have a clear starting point and end goal. To further enhance your ability to fight laziness, it’s crucial to create systems and routines that ensure progress even when motivation is low, addressing the need to understand the reasons behind laziness and develop emotional regulation tools to combat it. But more on this later.

How To Overcome Laziness: Tips to Kickstart Action

You know you have a tendency to the horizontal, i.e. procrastination level: expert. What you need is practical advice on how to overcome laziness, stand tall, and inch closer to your goals. Learning to defeat laziness involves recognizing when you’re physically exhausted as a barrier to action and addressing your physical well-being as part of the solution.

Be sure to check out my instructional video on combating laziness and procrastination before diving into the tips below:

The world wants you to be vanilla...

…but you don’t have to take the same path as everyone else. How would it look if you designed a Rich Life on your own terms? Take our quiz and find out:

1. Break your task list into manageable chunks

You’re probably sick of this phrase, but I’m going to throw it at you anyway. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Simple as that.

How do you lose weight? Small changes every day. This week, you make small changes to your diet and start walking. Next week, you increase that to a jog once a week. The week after, who knows? Add in sets of weights, do resistance training, or take up Pilates.

The same goes for work goals. Want to deliver a kick-butt presentation that will leave your team bright-eyed and reaching for their notebooks and pens? Do bits of research and work on it every day. Start with small sessions of 15 minutes a few times a day. If you need to, increase these time blocks to 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or even 45 minutes. Whatever you need to get the job done.

A key point to remember is how to get started and that will require willpower. But don’t let that put you off if willpower isn’t in your wheelhouse. You don’t need willpower for the entire task. You just need willpower for the first few minutes of each time block you’ve allocated. Once you get started, it’s easier to stay in motion.

2. Make sure your goals are realistic

Drop 20 pounds by next Tuesday? Are you kidding me? Of course you’re getting stuck in neutral. Drop three pounds by next Tuesday is a little bit more reasonable, but it is still pretty tough for some people.

When setting your goals, you need to incorporate all the variables that will help you reach that goal.

Here’s the thing. You decide where you land, and having a big, scary, somewhat off-the-radar goal is completely doable, but you need to trust yourself that you will follow the path that leads to this goal.

If you’re setting unrealistic goals and get into a cycle of not achieving them, anything that seems even remotely difficult will be out like last week’s leftovers. You need to build trust with yourself, and that means getting into the habit of achieving goals that you know you can reach and building goals you think you can reach. Eventually, you’ll build up your goals to a level where you’re unsure, even a little scared.

3. Find an accountability partner

An accountability partner is someone who will be a cheerleader when you meet your goals, but more importantly, will take on the role of a psychological drill sergeant. It’s not as bad as it sounds. All it means is they give you that nudge when you’re still building self-discipline while you crawl out of your comfort zone.

Your accountability partner is someone who understands your goals, the methods to reach them, and what would happen if you don’t meet these goals. For instance, if you’re looking to train for a marathon and you’re struggling to get out of bed in the mornings to run, you want someone who can run with you or track your progress. Consider calling a family member to serve as this partner, as their close relationship can provide unparalleled support and motivation, making it easier to stay on track with your goals.

They will check in on you in increments to make sure that you’re reaching the smaller, bite-sized chunks of your goals (remember the elephant?). They will also be honest with you when you return to your old habits.

4. Commit to the smallest possible action

A critical component on how not to be lazy is the ability to see the smallest portion of the task and then commit to getting it done. For instance, if you have an enormous project, look for that element in the project that will only take five minutes to complete.

Then find another element that will take only ten minutes. Soon, youll be working on 45-minute tasks without hassle.

That tendency for laziness could very well just be overwhelming and cause insecurity. This can wreak havoc on your mental health, as laziness keeps you in that cycle. When youre able to take it little by little and focus on the quick wins, youll have the motivation you need to take on the larger chunks.

Struggling to get going when its time for the gym or a run? Put on your workout clothes. That will trick your brain into getting out of the door, otherwise, the act of dressing was a waste of time. See how simple that is?

5. Make it easy to get started (and difficult to get distracted)

If you happen to have a friend who is always on top of her household chores, you can bet your hard-earned dollars that cleaning supplies and tools are within easy reach. Your friend understands that unpacking things from a dark, dank closet or basement is a task in itself, and might push out the task at hand until theres time to do both.

What about your work-from-home friends? They know the easiest way to get started is by following a foolproof system that cuts out all that jazz. And by jazz, I mean texting, social media, the TV, pets, you name it. Whatever seems to eat large chunks of your time.

So heres what you do:

  1. Make sure the area is work/exercise/task friendly. This means cleaning out clutter, setting up your workstation, and ensuring that you have what you need to perform the task. A well-organized space not only boosts productivity but also contributes to your overall well-being, echoing findings from the Gallup-Healthway Well-Being Index which highlights the positive impact of a supportive environment on health and wellness.

  2. Your space should be permanent (work) or at worst, semi-permanent (exercise). This way, that dedicated space is already set up for use. If this isnt possible, make sure that you set the space up ahead of time so when its time to work, you can jump straight in.

  3. Turn off your gadgets if you can. Cal Newport, considered the authority on focus and getting things done, has a system where he creates blocks of time for focus. In these blocks, there are no distractions. His office is set up for work, his phone is off, and he stays away from that inbox during his work blocks. While deep work might not be for everyone, there are a few lessons that can get you into a good working rhythm. For instance, creating a space that is distraction-free when you know you should be focusing on the task at hand. Remove the desk blotter, the desktop toys, and even music if you must at least until you’re able to work through tasks more efficiently. Then, when the job is done, doodle on that blotter all you want!

  4. Let those around you in on your plan. All those office workers who made the change to remote work not only need to change the way they approach their work and home blocks but also educate their families to do the same. Provide a clear schedule of work-time and family-time. This allows you to work and have fun without guilt on either side as youre effectively implementing time management like a boss.

6. Create new habits

You know which actions let you down. You know that if you come home from work, sit down, and switch the TV on, you dont get anything done. Sure, you need that break, but you also need to have that break without worrying about everything you still need to do.

Instead, take 15 minutes to put your things away such as your laptop bag, your shoes, and have a shower or change into your gym gear. When you do this often enough, that after-work couch lull will disappear.

Forming a new habit can be tough. However, when you consistently perform an action and continue to do this for a length of time, your brain misses that action when you dont do it. The brain is all about systems and routines. According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and Smarter, Faster, Better:

The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business, our habits are what determine how successful we are at meeting our goals. Basically, you need an action plan to cement the habits you want to form.

At first, a habit is a choice. Then, in time and with enough repetition, it becomes an act we no longer think about, we just do. Your brain simply creates a new formula to follow.

Watch the brief Ask Ramit video for timeless advice on changing habits:

If you’ve read this far, you’d LOVE our Ultimate Guide to Habits

It’s one of the best things we’ve published, and totally free – just tell us where to send it:

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7. Be willing to change

If you find yourself in a space where you’re justifying your behavior, it’s going to be a tough journey to change. But if you have the willingness to change, those behaviors that held you back before simply won’t be as effective.

The willingness to change needs to be affirmed every day, and when you’re feeling low during the course of that day, break it down even further. Remind yourself why you’re doing things, and work in little bits of motivation. This is the part where you pull out that dream life map, or as we call it at IWT, your rich life. Envision what that life would look like if you continue working hard on your goals.

In episode 112 of my podcast, I talk with a couple that needs to make changes for the sake of their family but refuses to do anything different:

8. Give yourself permission to fail

This one stings far more than we realize, especially if we were birthed into families where failure was frowned upon and even punished. It makes it hard for us to equate failure to growth, learning, or anything positive for that matter. But successful people know better. They know that failure is an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and become better, not bitter.

By giving yourself permission to fail, you’re far more likely to try new things and explore new avenues because you know that failure is not the end. Ask yourself what the worst thing is that could happen, and if it doesn’t cause irreversible damage or physical harm, can you give it a chance?

9. Implement a reward system with little rewards

Set aside a day or an hour, depending on your needs and schedule, to do those things you long to do when you should be working on your goals. For instance, if you simply have to find out whether Sherlock and Joan end up together as you work your way through Elementary, you can set some time aside for it.

But use it like you would a reward system. That way, you still get to work on your goals and enjoy a bit of unproductive downtime. We all need rest, but it’s that endless loop of R&R that gets you in trouble.

FAQs About How to Stop Being Lazy

What are the main causes of laziness?

Being unmotivated or distracted are two major causes of laziness. But more often than not, people just don’t have good habits in place that help them be productive.

How do I stop being unmotivated?

There are three ways to motivate yourself:
1.) Plan for Failure
2.) Put it on Your Calendar
3.) Develop Laser Focus (yes, it’s possible)


Why am I so lazy and tired?

You may be unmotivated, distracted, or just not have good habits in place to help you be productive. Interestingly, being sleep deprived is a common reason people feel lazy and tired, as it significantly lowers willpower and increases the likelihood of procrastination, especially among shift workers. Fortunately, learning to be more productive doesn’t have to be complicated.

How do I stop being lazy while working from home?

If you want to be more productive while working from home, you need to:

1. Accept reality, especially if you’ve labeled yourself as a ‘lazy person.’ Recognizing and changing this self-perception to someone capable of productivity is super important!

2. Develop new routines

3. Make sure you’ve got your work/life balance right

4. Be careful not to get carried away with productivity apps

Check out the video below for even more tips on staying productive and focused while working from home:

If you’re serious about kicking bad habits like laziness, start by reading my free e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Habits.

Earlier this year, I spent 16 hours prepping for an extraordinary interview. One of my mentors, Stanford psychologist BJ Fogg, taught me much of what I know about psychology and persuasion.

I asked him to spend an hour with me, where we would share our favorite techniques and tactics on behavioral change — on everything from money to exercising and flossing.

We talked about our favorite persuasion studies from academic research — then spent time sharing some of the persuasion models we’ve developed ourselves. And we recorded it.

It’s easy to find some jackass blogger who can write the TOP 10 EASY WAYS TO INFLUENCE YOUR NETWORK!!! But finding someone who has a deep, thorough knowledge of academic research, plus practical persuasion, is extraordinarily rare.

If you’re interested in how to change your own behavior, I strongly encourage you to listen to our conversation.

You can’t get this kind of material anywhere else, and BJ is a tremendous expert with a lifetime of experience.

But that interview is only one small part of my free e-book on creating great habits, breaking bad ones, and performing to the peak of your ability.

In this guide, here are a few nuggets that I share (and if you want to read more simply click here):

  • How systems beat motivation every time when you’re trying to change your behavior and form lasting habits.
  • The Treadmill of Disappointment and three easy steps to achieving any goal you set.
  • How even chocolate can be a powerful motivator for positive behavior change.
  • How to use failure expectation to stay on track after a setback.
  • Jerry Seinfeld’s system of building momentum, “Don’t break the chain”.
    The single best way of keeping laser-focused on achieving your goal, as well as the systems to achieve it.

Most importantly, instead of feeling guilty about being so lazy, you’ll learn practical ways to stop being lazy. And that is, quite simply, why this site exists.

If you like this post, you'd love my Ultimate Guide to Social Skills
UG to Social Skills

It’s one of the best thing I’ve published (and 100% free), just tell me where to send it:

Along with the guide, I'll also send you my Insiders newsletter where I share other exclusive content that's not on the blog.
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Host of Netflix's "How to Get Rich", NYT Bestselling Author & host of the hit I Will Teach You To Be Rich Podcast. For over 20 years, Ramit has been sharing proven strategies to help people like you take control of their money and live a Rich Life.