Feeling lazy at work can be a source of guilt, but before you beat yourself up about it, let’s put things into perspective. When used appropriately, “laziness” can be an excellent tool for increasing productivity, promoting creativity, and even ensuring sustainable success. Drawing on our experience, we are confident that there are ways to use these moments of inactivity to your advantage.
Understanding the “Lazy” Brain
A study published in the Journal of Neuron highlights that our brains are always looking for ways to save effort. According to the researchers, our brains make an automatic decision whether to be “lazy” or “active” based on what it perceives as the most beneficial outcome .
As a consequence, being lazy at work is not always a negative thing. In fact, it could be your brain’s way of signaling that it needs a break or that the current task is not fulfilling. Taking the time to understand what your brain is telling you is the first step towards turning that perceived laziness into productivity.
The Psychology of Procrastination
Often, what we label as “lazy” is, in fact, procrastination. Dr. Timothy Pychyl, a renowned researcher in the field of procrastination, suggests that we tend to procrastinate when we view tasks as boring, frustrating, or difficult .
On the contrary, when a task is meaningful and enjoyable, we are more motivated to start and complete it. Therefore, one solution to overcome being too lazy to work is to find ways to make your tasks more engaging and purposeful.
The Power of Boredom
Another perspective to consider is that being lazy at work, or what we typically perceive as boredom, can be a powerful catalyst for creativity. A study by the University of Central Lancashire found that performing a boring task can lead to increased creativity .
The reason behind this is that when we’re bored, our minds start to wander, and this mind-wandering can lead to creative problem-solving and innovative ideas. So, the next time you feel lazy or bored at work, consider it an opportunity to tap into your creativity.
The Role of Rest and Downtime
The concept of work and productivity has drastically evolved over the years. Whereas traditional work ethics emphasized long hours and constant hustle, more recent studies have started to highlight the importance of rest and downtime.
Research by the National Sleep Foundation suggests that short naps can improve mood, alertness, and performance . Additionally, a study by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that brief diversions from a task can dramatically improve one’s ability to focus on that task for prolonged periods .
Due to our practical knowledge, we believe that giving yourself permission to take breaks and rest can be an effective strategy to combat feelings of laziness at work.
The Power of Autonomy
Another way to look at laziness in the workplace is through the lens of autonomy and control. Research by the University of Birmingham found that when employees felt they had more control over their work, they were less likely to procrastinate and more likely to feel motivated .
If you’re feeling lazy at work, it might be worth evaluating if you feel in control of your tasks and responsibilities. If you don’t, consider discussing this with your manager to find ways you can have more autonomy at work.
The Benefit of Mindfulness
Practicing mindfulness can be another useful tool in dealing with feelings of laziness. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that mindfulness practices, such as meditation, can reduce stress and improve attention .
By becoming more aware of your feelings of laziness, you can address the root causes rather than just the symptoms. This practice will not only help you to understand yourself better but also to manage your work effectively.
Tips to Overcome Laziness
Having touched on the understanding and perspectives on being lazy at work, let’s now focus on practical steps to maximize productivity at work:
- Prioritize Meaningful Work: Assign importance and urgency to tasks. By doing so, you can differentiate between what needs to be done and what can wait.
- Break Down Tasks: Large tasks can feel overwhelming, leading to procrastination. By breaking tasks down into manageable chunks, you make them less intimidating.
- Practice Mindfulness: As discussed, mindfulness can help you understand your feelings of laziness better. Make a habit of practicing mindfulness at work.
- Regular Breaks: Short, regular breaks can help refresh your mind and maintain productivity throughout the day.
- Create an Inspiring Environment: An environment that motivates you can make a significant difference. Personalize your workspace with things that inspire you and make you happy.
- Physical Activity: Incorporate some form of physical activity in your routine. Even a short walk can boost your energy levels and help you focus better.
In conclusion, being lazy at work is not necessarily a bad thing. If recognized and managed well, it can be a trigger for creativity, a signal for much-needed rest, or a prompt for reassessing the meaningfulness of your tasks. Instead of feeling guilty about it, embrace it as an integral part of your work-life balance, and use it as a tool to enhance your productivity and overall job satisfaction.
: (Daw, N.D., et al., “Cortical and basal ganglia contributions to habit learning and automaticity,” Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 2011)
: (Pychyl, T., & Flett, G., “Procrastination and self-regulatory failure: An introduction to the special issue,” Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavior Therapy, 2012)
: (Mann, S., & Cadman, R., “Does Being Bored Make Us More Creative?” Creativity Research Journal, 2014)
: (National Sleep Foundation, “Napping,” 2021)
: (Ariga, A., & Lleras, A., “Brief and rare mental ‘breaks’ keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements,” Cognition, 2011)
: (Bindl, U.K., et al., “Work‐related proactivity through the lens of narrative: Investigating emotional journeys in the process of making things happen,” Journal of Organizational Behavior, 2019)
: (Goyal, M., et al., “Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis,” JAMA Internal Medicine, 2014)