I’m not usually a procrastinator, but even I have days where I dread the simplest of tasks. There have been times when it feels impossible to churn out an article for an upcoming deadline, and it’s during those periods where I feel irreparably lazy—unmotivated, unproductive, and unfit for my job. Although this doesn’t happen all the time (certainly not every day), it’s enough to question whether or not my love for editorial is sufficient in combatting my occasional urge to do nothing.
Then I read this Better Humans piece by Tony Stubblebine about the topic. In it, Stubblebine discusses his own relationship with laziness and says that because he never felt any excitement or interest in doing homework growing up, he just assumed he was lazy. When in actuality, he just wasn’t passionate about his schoolwork.
And that got me thinking: How many times has one slow day made me feel as though laziness were hardwired into my character? Why should a single moment define me and drown out all the times that I did show up, work hard, and excel?
According to Stubblebine, it’s easy to throw up your hands and surrender to this supposed character flaw, but it’s more helpful to take a step back and look at what’s making certain tasks so hard to finish. In the section that resonated the most with me, he says:
It’s also useful to examine the parts of our lives that seem hard. Are those hard things hard because you’re not interested in them?
And this point here is key: You’re probably not lazy at all. Instead, look at those slow moments when you feel like doing something is unreasonably more difficult than it should be. Chances are, you’re just disinterested. You’re just not that into it.
“The point I wanted to make to you was to consider what stories you’re telling yourself about what you can’t do,” he explains. “Are any of those really just situations of disinterest that you’re spinning into personal failings?”
That’s when I looked back at my own instances of so-called unwillingness to get work done. Usually, it’s because I’m writing on a topic that my heart’s not completely in. Stubblebine agrees: “Perhaps you’re not lazy, or grossly unmotivatable—you’re just not tapping into those things that get you going. That’s not a value judgment on you, but rather a situation.”
On the other hand, whenever I’m able to realize that a topic isn’t the right one for me, pivoting in a new direction with the piece usually does the trick. Ask yourself what minor thing you can do to add some intrigue to the boring project or task on hand and see if it helps motivate you.
Whatever you do, the next time you’re feeling like you can’t get going—when you can’t get yourself to wake up in the morning or when you have a particularly uninteresting task to do—don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, think about what it is that’s making it so hard for you to muster up motivation.
Pinpointing this won’t necessarily get you out of doing uninspiring work, but at least you won’t be so hard on yourself for feeling lazy.