10 Ways to Motivate Yourself No Matter How Lazy You Feel

Amber Garrett - Author

Jul. 24 2019, Updated 1:49 p.m. ET

get motivated header
Source: iStock

Many psychologists and life coaches will tell you there's no such thing as laziness — that it's either a lack of motivation, fear of failure, or some other unseen barrier that keeps us from doing the tasks we should or must do. Still, whether or not laziness is a thing, we've all felt stuck in one place, unable to move forward with accomplishing a goal, and we've all wished for some magic spell that will make us more productive.

While I'm sad to report that there is no magic spell, a recent AskReddit thread did reveal some pretty incredible tips for motivating yourself to get off the couch and do the thing. Here are 10 of the best ways to motivate yourself no matter how lazy you feel.

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1. The 5-second rule.

count to five
Source: iStock

No, we're not talking about the rule dictating how long a piece of food can be on the floor before it's acceptable to pick it up and eat it. This 5-second rule is one suggested by Hunterlovespb, who credits motivational speaker Mel Robbins with the idea. "Whenever you need to do something but don't feel like it, immediately start counting down from five and once you get to one just start doing it." This kind of sounds like when parents say to a kid, "I'm going to count to three..." and then some sort of implied or explicit threat follows. Hey, that worked on me as a kid, so I'm willing to try it as a grown-up.

2. Stop dwelling on your bad decisions.

Often, when we procrastinate or miss a deadline, we tend to beat ourselves up over it and dwell on our failure, but this kind of negative self talk actually leads to more inaction, not less. As InfernoJesus put it, "Bad decisions help you learn and make better decisions in the future," so if you mess up, rather than seeing it as a failure, view "you can just consider it 'practice' and feel good about what you've learned." And this concept is tied to the idea of thinking about the present and the future rather than dwelling on what you did (or didn't do) in the past. 

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3. Get mad.

get angry
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Suuperdad suggests anger can be a powerful motivator — at least it was for him. "Find something that pisses you off and get engaged to change it," he says. For example, he decided to get big mad at climate change, which is definitely a phenomenon worthy of urgent action, whether fueled by anger or not. First he planted a fruit tree on his "useless grass lawn," and four years later he has "a full blown food forest" with no sign of stopping, and its completely transformed his yard from a patch of grass that wasn't doing much to a "thriving ecosystem," providing food and shade for local wildlife as well as food for his family.

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4. Aim low.

As Ten_Cats_In_A_Sack points out, often the problem is that our goals and desires feel way too big to accomplish, so instead we do nothing. So instead of focusing on those, "do the tiniest thing possible that will make you feel even the tiniest sense of accomplishment." This is a lot like that "make your bed" commencement speech that went viral a while back. It's a small task that takes make two minutes, yet it gives you pride. Plus, in that specific case, it's one of the first things you do after you wake up, so it starts the day off on a win, even if it's not anything life-changing. Then acknowledge your win and build on it.

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5. There's an app for that!

freedom app
Source: Freedom

Screenshots of the Freedom app

We have so many distractions at our fingertips, it's easy to lose hours of our lives to social media, Netflix, and mobile games. But thankfully, though we have tons of apps on our phones keeping us from getting stuff done, there are several apps that help you stay on task by blocking access to those time-sucks for a set period of time. A lot of parents use these tools on their kids' phones, but I know plenty of adults (hi, it me) who can use this when self control is in short supply.

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6. Do things poorly.

OK, I know that sounds like very bad advice, but hear me out. Another big obstacle to getting things done is perfectionism. Perfection is often trotted out as a virtue, but the pressure to get things 100 percent right on the firs try often makes us take an incomplete instead. So instead, as one redditor suggested, "Do things badly!" In other words, give yourself permission to do a C job on cleaning the house. Or make the bar so low that you can pat yourself on the back, which will make it easy for you to build on the day's "success" with more the next. If your goal is "go to the gym" — as in literally show up to a gym — instead of 'shred a 90 minute advanced workout" you're much more likely to show up the next day and maybe do a few minutes on the elliptical.

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7. Do something for somebody else.

motivation help
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It would be great if we did all the things we should do — finish tasks on time, work out, eat well, clean up — simply because we know, as unpleasant as they may be while we're doing them, that we will feel better after we've done them. But let's face it, most people have trouble feeling the same sense of obligation to their happiness as they do to other people's. So if the knowledge that you should do something because it's good for you isn't motivating, think of the other people who will be affected by your choice. If you want to eat healthier, remember the people in your life who will be affected if your health deteriorates. Sometimes a sense of obligation to somebody else can help you get off your butt.

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8. Commit to no "zero days."

One user linked to a comment on a past reddit thread that honestly takes the cake for the best advice I've ever seen and that's committing to no days where you get absolutely nothing done. "Didn't do anything all f--king day and it's 11:58 PM?" writes ryans01. "Write one sentence. One pushup. Read one page of that chapter. One. Because one is non zero." When you're feeling especially down on yourself, remembering that one is not zero can help you build up a string of "non zero days." If you can end every day knowing you did one thing, then the day wasn't a zero, and maybe the next day you'll do two things, but even if you do one, the day still wasn't a complete waste.

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9. Every time you get up, do one extra thing.

take out the trash
Source: istock

Roobhen suggested a strategy for people who do mostly sedentary work, and I am definitely going to apply it immediately to my life: add one thing every time you get up. That means, whether you're leaving your chair to relieve yourself, get a drink of water, or stretch your legs, add one other task. So if you're getting up to go to the bathroom, take out the trash on your way back. When you get up to get a glass of water, wash one dish in the sink as well. 

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10. Recognize when you need help, not "motivation."

Look, a lot of the time that feeling of not being motivated or "laziness" has an underlying cause that no inspirational speeches or self-help advice can really touch. Sometimes what people recognize as being "a lazy piece of s--t" is actually depression. Similarly, people who consistently find themselves staying on task or remembering to do important things could have undiagnosed attention deficit disorder. So first, figure out the underlying cause of that feeling and address that before you try to take on anything else. Tired? Get some rest, bud! Depressed? Make an appointment with a therapist or your doctor to discuss treatment. 

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