Instead of “lazy”: from a zine

24 January 2021 by Jennifer

Having trouble getting going? Maybe ask yourself these questions, which are more compassionate and more systemic than ideas about being “lazy”.

I think the concept of being “lazy” is over-used and over-rated. It points the finger at individual people, without investigating the landscapes we’re in. I’d like to encourage people to think about what else might be going on when that word springs to mind.

This is actually an extract from my zine “Creativity is for everyone“! This section made its first appearance as a “Lightning Talk” at Tech Nottingham in 2019, before the zine was finished.

That history of course means that the list predates the covid pandemic. Some of the questions have acquired whole new dimensions for a lot of people now – e.g. the ones about burnout, systems, and “appreciating everything you did do recently”. All the more reason to be gentle with yourself.

(But I’m iffy about the concept of “lazy” even in less stressful times :-) )

alt text

Instead of “lazy”

What if you can’t seem to get started, and you’re blaming yourself?

The temptation to call yourself “lazy” is a clue that something is going on there – but what?

Before concluding that you are lazy, check whether some of these other factors could be at play:

  • Do you have a clear idea of how exactly to get started? What’s your first little step?

  • What resources are essential, and do you have them? What resources might help?

  • Do you have a clear idea of all the pieces you’ll encounter further down the line? or, if not that, then a more general sense of how you’ll handle any tricky bits that you don’t know about yet?

  • Is there a way you can make it easier for yourself to start?

  • Have you carved out the right size piece to work on? A too big chunk can seem daunting, a tiny fragment can seem doable but unexciting. What size plan is most inspiring to you?

  • Whatever the main goal is, could you do a tiny pilot project first?

  • Have you allocated a specific time to focus on this particular thing?

  • Is there something else which is actually more important or more urgent right now, and your intuitions are wisely pointing you in that direction?

  • How are your energy levels in general? Have you had enough sleep? If you’ve got no energy for anything lately, might you be depressed or ill or burnt out? (Clues: Do small ordinary things seem impossible? Does everything seem “meh”? Are you grumpy most of the time?)

  • Could a fatigue illness be limiting you, and you haven’t realised yet? Or you did know you were ill, but you hadn’t realised how much it was affecting you?

  • Are you putting all the responsibility on yourself for an obstacle that’s actually more about the systems you’re living in?

  • Are you fully appreciating everything you did do recently, and the energy that took?

  • Does working on this project take you into difficult emotional territory? Could be past failures it reminds you of, childhood dreams… believing you don’t deserve it… maybe people in your life who don’t want you doing this?

  • Would finishing this project take you into the unknown, or into something you don’t feel ready for?

  • Did you pick a path that’s wrong for you, and your heart’s not in it?

  • Could a change of environment help? on a small scale (e.g. move to the sofa) or a large scale (e.g. change your friendship networks) or something in between?

  • Could movement help to perk you up? e.g. going for a walk, or dancing to music, or just doing a few stretches?

  • Is this the kind of thing which you generally find difficult, more so than the average person? Who’s had this same difficulty, and found work-arounds?

  • Is this a hangover from when your intrinsic motivation got muddled up by some rewards?

  • How much do you love the process, how much do you want the end result?

  • Are you in the process of realising that the thing you picked to do is bigger, or more difficult, than you first thought it was?

  • Do you tend to go “all or nothing”, and you need to work out how to pace yourself?

  • Would it help to bounce ideas around with another person? If so, think around everyone you know. Who comes to mind? Who’s a good listener, and encouraging? Who might have useful suggestions?

Bonus quote from Tara Mohr

Here’s a quote I love, which I also quoted to close the “lightning talk”, and in the zine! It’s from the book Playing Big, which I read & micro-reviewed during the time when I was working on the zine.

It’s radical to consider that major behavioral change or significant achievements could happen not because of one’s fierce will, struggle, and hard work but because we support ourselves so wisely and fully that change happens with ease.

– Tara Mohr