Personal Development

Embrace Laziness to Overcome it

September 07, 2020 ·

2 min read

A few months ago, I read Atomic Habits by James Clear. It’s a practical book on habit-forming. It outlines a framework on how to form consistent behaviours based on the type of person you want to become.

The condensed version of the framework is to make your habits obvious, attractive, easy, and satisfying. He dives deep into these pillars, reinforcing each with many examples.

As a self-declared lazy person, what resonated with me the most was the section on making things easy. The easier an action is, the likelier it is that I’ll do it. I had set way too high of a bar for myself around my desired habits. This led to action paralysis where I’d sit around contemplating action, rather than just doing it.

For example, each day I wanted to exercise for 30 minutes, meditate for 10 minutes, read, and write. This was ambitious, and as a result, I had a hard time following through. Especially on days when I was tired and worn out, the last thing I wanted to do was to work out for 30 minutes.

Making these habits easier was a two-step process:

  1. Set a bar that is so trivial to reach, that resisting the habit would be more work than just doing it.
  2. Minimize the number of steps between my current state, and the state required to start the habit.

This meant making some changes.

Set a low bar for each habit

  • Meditate one minute every day
  • Read one page every day
  • Get to the gym, and do one push-up every day
  • Write one sentence every day

Make it easy to start the habit

  • Meditate — Headspace reminds me each morning with a push notification to meditate. All I have to do is wake up, press the notification, and I’m ready to go.
  • Read — I always have a book next to my pillow in bed. This means I don’t have to search for what I should read. I also don’t need to set aside time for reading. Reading happens before sleep. This is by far the most effective change I’ve implemented. I don’t remember the last time I slept without reading.
  • Exercise — The moment I come home from work, I change into my workout clothes. Before, I’d come back and change into PJs. Going to the gym meant making an active decision to change into my gym clothes and leave the house. Now, since I’ve put on my gym clothes, I’m primed to go to the gym; getting there and doing one push-up doesn’t sound all that bad. During COVID, I wore track pants during the workday, so I was ready to work out the moment I was done with work.
  • Write — This has been a bit tougher than the others. When I start writing an article I have it bookmarked on Chrome until I’m done with it.

Once I implemented these changes, I found that I almost always do more of the habit than I set out to do. But when I don’t, I still feel good that I at least hit my goal. Doing something always feels better than doing nothing, and starting something is the hardest step of all. Once I start an action, it is easier to continue than to stop. Laziness always wins, but now it’s for the good.

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