1. Be happy
Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10
16Be joyful always; 17pray continually; 18give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5
Depression, or merely sadness, can sap you of energy, motivation, and strength. In a long run, it also saps you of health!
The side effect of depression, whether clinical or not, is lethargy. It can disguise itself as laziness, which produce guilt. Guilt is a fuel of depression.
I used to be stern serious! I would often analyze the past and come up with reasons for regrets. Regrets had become my greatest fears.
I also used to compare with others. I would see things that others had achieved and concluded that I could have achieved the same things if I were more careful, more courageous, more etc… Then I would feel like crap.
Even when I just achieved something, I would feel the urge to look for my inadequacy and criticize it, instead of celebrating the achievement.
As a result, lethargy became a strong hold for me for many years, until I realized the problem and grew out of the habit of depressive thinking.
Then the power of joy became obvious. When I am joyful, my productivity would increase much more and become more stable.
Thankfulness rewards the good, but too much self-criticisms punish everything. It kills both the good and the bad.
Try and give thank for even the tiny little things, you will be amazed at the result if you do it consistently for a few days and carefully observe the change.
For example, when I give thank for completing a small task such as posting an article on my blog, I would find more strength to do the next task, instead of lacking motivation and needing to take more breaks.
2. Do Not Fear
13 The lazy man says, “There is a lion in the road!
A fierce lion is in the streets!” Proverbs 26:13
It’s easy to associate work with fears such as pain, failures, illness, danger, and whatever that makes you afraid.
Here is a personal example, I have a quite heavy condition of astigmatism, and medium shortsightedness on my right eye. I also have bothering floaters floating around that often distract me while I read.
These conditions started to develop when I was 15, I was very much concerned. I worried about my eyes day and night, and tried to avoid using my eyes for intensive activities. After many years, I had unconsciously developed the habit of avoiding study, and my attention span became shorter than my peers by the time I entered University. That put me at a serious disadvantage.
But entertainments that were close vision intensive such as watching TV, computer gaming, and reading manga could numb my fears, and so as the years passed, I became hopelessly, progressively addicted to those activities. Whenever I felt depressed, I would go back to them for temporary comforts, even though I was fighting to resist and force myself to do productive things instead.
The more I fear, the more I got trapped by that fear and actualized it.
When you create fears, you are at the same time conditioning yourself to avoid the fears you created. Whether you are doing it consciously or not.
While you and I are surely not as stupid as the “lazy man” as is depicted in the bible, who made up a lion in his head, you and I could make up a lot of fears in our minds.
For me, my made-up fear was going blind. I didn’t know that my eyes conditions were results of improper diets and mental stress, not just strenuous activities for the eyes, and that the conditions of my eyes can be reversed!
Similarly, a salesman might find it hard to sit down and make sale calls, for fear of rejections. A unemployed person might dread taking actions to look for work for fear of landing in an abusive work environment, or fear of working hard to make someone rich.
3. Avoid Perfectionism and Accept Uncertainty
6 Sow your seed in the morning,
and at evening let not your hands be idle,
for you do not know which will succeed,
whether this or that,
or whether both will do equally well. Ecclesiastes 11:6
Being uncertain of the results and worrying about failures produce procrastination. Most works involve more than 2 steps, and it is uncertain whether the current step actually lead to the end result.
It is uncomfortable to shoot for the stars, because you never know whether you will hit something. You don’t know how many more steps you have to take before you get the desired result.
While in University, one of the required class for my major was programming. For that course, the term project was to simulate the game of Monopoly. And we were working in groups.
In my group, I was always the last one to take actions. I had very little understanding of programming at the time, so during most of the course I felt lost. I usually came to understand what each assignment and project was about at the very last minute.
I hated to come up with new code to solve a problem I had never seen before. I hated the feeling of uncertainties: uncertainty of whether the solution I just made up would work or not.
So I chose to debug the code for my group, since debugging came last. They usually finished their parts on the weekdays, and I spent the weekends to debug and perfect the code.
I just didn’t have the guts to “just do it”. I was a person who needed to have complete information before taking actions. I would wait for the doers in my group to tackle the uncertainties first, so I could work on the information they left behind.
Many time when my group tried to run the program and crushed I had a very uncomfortable feeling, because I never knew when the code will ever run properly.
If you have ever been a novice of programming like me, then you know what I am talking about. There are no guarantee whether you will find out all the bugs and whether you can come up with something that solve the next technical challenge. And you don’t even know what the next technical challenge maybe.
You just don’t know when you will finish the program. There are full of uncertainties in programming!
But every time when I do finally summon up the courage to tackle the code, the task would eventually get done. And I would question myself, “it was easier than I thought, why didn’t I just go for it and finish it at once? “
And so is everything in life.
Ecclesiastes 11:6 says it clearly. You never know which specific action you take will bear fruit, but you have to keep taking actions, because some of the actions will bear fruit. Don’t wait for certainty. If you’re programmer, just program. If you’re writer, just write. If you’re composer, just compose.
Don’t wait for good mood. Don’t wait until you feel certain about it.
And don’t worry about the quality of the result, why?
If you wait, and work very slowly, you will make mistakes slowly, then you correct them slowly, and you will get the result slowly.
If you work quickly, you will make all the same mistakes within a shorter period, then you correct them quickly, and you will get the same result, quickly.
Slow or quick, you make the same mistakes. Same result, but quick is better than slow.
4. Prepare Your Tools
27 Finish your outdoor work
and get your fields ready;
after that, build your house. Proverbs 24:27
If you want to build solid habits, you should do all the preparation at the beginning when your willpower is still strong.
For example, If you want to adopt a healthier diet, or develop a habit of going to gym, you can make regular appointments with a gym coach, or enroll in any training class in a fitness or recreation club. You have paid the money, and there are people doing it with you, such as a coach or classmates, so it is easier to maintain the commitment in the long run. As for healthier diet, you may order grocery online and make recurring order that ship healthy food to your home regularly.
That way you do the prep work only once, but the momentum will serve you continually.
Everyone’s willpower is the same. Willpower alone will not establish solid habits for you. It may give you a burst of energy initially, but it dies out very quickly.
You need to build a mechanism that provides accountability, quick reward and punishment, and ease of convenience.
Invest in expensive tools such as juicers, blenders, chair, bicycle, laptop, or whatever that give you ease and convenient for the purpose of developing the habits you want.
Poor investment in tools will give poor results. For example, I was a very frugal person. I needed a big computer monitor and a good chair because of long hours of work before the computer, but I refused to admit that I needed them. I just settled with my laptop screen and a cheap dinner chair. Soon I had severe pains in my neck and my entire back.
I had to receive acupuncture and massage treatments. And my focus were heavily reduced by the back pains. I wanted to work more, but my psychological instinct refused to let me work by reducing my attention span.
It was an subconsciously self-defensive response. My instinct sensed severe consequences that were coming if I worked more.
But my conscious mind interpreted that self-defensive instinct as laziness.
Finally my parents bought me a big screen and an office chair. The chair wasn’t the best, scientifically designed chair ever, but after I used it my back pains were gone. And the big monitor allowed me to read longer hours, and with better neck posture. Going to yoga class helped too.
I used to believe that tools and classes were for weak persons and procrastinators. I thought they just didn’t want to work, so they spent the money and time to buy the pretty fancy stuff and joined some expensive programs to make themselves feel better, instead of just putting up the effort.
Now I am a believer.
Also, an organized and intelligently designed office do improve productivity by tons. Better to put some picture, fragrance, and plants there too.
5. Avoid Heavy Meals and Drowsiness
21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags. Proverbs 23:21
Drowsiness and gluttony are twin brother! Heavy meals decrease energy. Also on the anti-energy list are greasy, sugary, dairy, and junk food in general.
Sugar and caffeine filled food or beverage make you hyper, but reduce attention span and focus. Back in the day when I didn’t know better, I took them while I studied for exams, and I couldn’t do any significant learning afterward even though I felt very much awake.
I used to be a believer in milk. I used to have a glass of milk before exams. Now I understand why my mind turned blank during the exams! Drink soy milk instead! I mean pure, organic, and sugarless soy milk (No refined sugar, but natural ones are fine. Some brown sugars in the coffee shops are essentially white sugars in brown color).
Raw fruits and plants, on the other hand, give stable energy and nutrients to the body, and cleanse the body of toxins that come from the environment and standard diets. I am not talking about one apple a day or 1 to 2 oz of vegetables. I am talking about filling your stomach with them! Drink large dose of juices! Eat a lot of fresh vegetables!
Speaking of stable energy, natural, organic rice is stable fuel for the body. The energy that comes from natural sugar in the rice can last for many hours.
One time I did a 40 days fast, and on the last 20 days I only needed 4 hours of sleep. I was very energetic and alert. I realized how drowsy I was when I was consuming regular diets.
6. Wake Up with The Sunlight
19He made the moon for the seasons;
The sun knows the place of its setting.
20 You appoint darkness and it becomes night,
In which all the beasts of the forest prowl about.
21 The young lions roar after their prey
And seek their food from God.
22 When the sun rises they withdraw
And lie down in their dens.
23 Man goes forth to his work
And to his labor until evening. Psalm 104:19-23
Different creatures have different biological clocks. Some beasts were created to be active at night, and some are to be active during the day. Humans operate best when we wake up as the sun rises.
It is now pretty well known that the morning is the most productive time. Some say an hour in the morning equal to 3 hours in the afternoon in term of productivity. I totally agree.
As the day pass, the burden and usage of our mind increase as well. We can’t reserve our energy and capacity of our minds for later in the day, because our minds are always active.
The brain will invent tasks for itself and keep itself busy, whether you like it or not. Taking deep breaths will relax it, but the default mode of the brain is to find something to release its energy upon.
If you don’t assign important tasks for your brain first thing in the morning, it will go after low yielding tasks such as checking emails, social chattering, worrying, daydreaming, fidgeting, surfing the Net, and etc.
Divide your day into two half. There are approximately 16 hours of wakeful time for an average person. Allocate your first 8 hours for work. Assign the first 4 hours of the first half of your day for important tasks such as studying for professional exams, or intelligence intensive works such as drafting a proposal.
Use the remaining hours of the first half for less important but urgent work such as business calls, checking and replying emails, and any other low yielding work.
8-10 hours of works per day should be enough. Any more than that is a waste of time due to diminishing returns, and can even be harmful to your health.
It is important to wind up the day. Release and let go of all petty concerns of the day and enjoy a quiet evening. Reduce factors that is bad for sleep hygiene such as lights, noises, crappy food, alcohol, coffee, and upsetting conversations or TV programs.
Bad sleep hygiene results in drowsiness during the day, which is one of the major factors for laziness. (See number 6)
7. Observe and Emulate
6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
consider its ways and be wise!
7 It has no commander,
no overseer or ruler,
8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
and gathers its food at harvest.
9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
When will you get up from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest-
11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit
and scarcity like an armed man. [a] Proverbs 6:6-10
Emulation is the natural product of observation. When you observe something or someone attentively over a long period of time, you will emulate its qualities.
Ant isn’t smart, but they are good at being consistent and at dividing tasks into smaller parts. They probably don’t understand what difficult means, since an ant’s brain is 1/40000 of the size of human’s.
Size, complexity, and difficulty of work cannot intimidate ants; Therefore, ants don’t procrastinate!
They just look for the next thing to do and do it. When they encounter a food that is bigger than they can carry, they divide it.
Also, the scripture warns us of napping. Napping can be bad because it reduces qualities of sleep for the night, thus create the need for nap on the next day. And the cycle goes on.
8. Go Hungry
10For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “If a man will not work, he shall not eat.” 11We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 2 Thessalonians 3:10-11
26 The laborer’s appetite works for him;
his hunger drives him on. Proverbs 16:26
Slothful man is oftentime a meddler. Slothful man will busy himself with all kind of things, but will not commit to any major responsibility.
If you meddle in other people’s affair or gossip, then you probably have too little responsibilities of your own and are being too idle.
Meddling Christians bring so much trouble to the church. They create stress for the real producers, leak secrets to third party, and throw accusations at others.
Meddler has no clear job description, but love to throw advice at everybody, especially at the authorities and the real servants of the church who do real work with sweat and love. Meddlers (Busybodies who are actually idle) regard themselves highly. (Proverbs 26:16)
They also respond bitterly when they think their advice is not heeded. This is why they are often the originators of gossips! They feel bitter at people who don’t seem to follow their advice and complain to others about it. They use secret information they coveted through all kind of means as evidences to convince a third party who is not involved with the issue.
Hunger is a great cure for slothfulness or meddling. When I did my 40 days fast, someone said I was meeker than usual. I was able to sleep much less due to the benefit of detox. My mind was crystal clear.
If you are struggling with a lack of motivation to work, try to reduce your food intake. This is what I do to myself. It’s actually healthier this way. Often time, your body is fatigue and overwhelmed due to the toxins that come from unhealthy diets.
In a developed country, we tend to eat much more than we need, and we eat meals that make the stomach full but lack real nutrients. Gluttony!
If you’re not exercising your body, your body doesn’t need as much food as it does when you engage in physical labor such as going to gym.
As for mental work, it’s the same, if you tend to avoid work, then avoid eating more than your body needs too. Keep your food intake to the bare minimum.
Don’t let security or gluttony take away your drive and will to work.
Appetite is a great source of power, utilize it.
9. Move Your Body
12 The sleep of a laborer is sweet,
whether he eats little or much,
but the abundance of a rich man
permits him no sleep. Ecclesiastes 5:12
On top of other benefits to health, exercise is also important for sleep hygiene. A rich man who lacks physical labor but only engages in mental work such as counting money will find it harder to have a good night of sleep.
Studies show that it is optimal for a healthy adult to walk more than 10,000 steps per day, and no less than 5000 steps.
10. Avoid Idle Chatter
23 In all labor there is profit,
But idle chatter[a]leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23
“He who only does the talk but no chop chop will produces nothing!” (By Me)
Conversation is addictive.
It’s easy to mistake idle chatters for “fellowship”.
When I had the addiction of idle chatters, I believed I needed regular heart-to-heart meeting with like-minded Christian and pour out my heart to them, and during the meeting I just went on talking.
You can get addicted to spiritual sharing!
Recently, I have been burying myself into this blogging project, and realize that I can go on without heart-to-heart conversations like this for more than a month. I don’t even talk much at all for most days of the week, except on Friday and Sunday when I take Kung Fu classes.
Building this website is a profitable project. If I talk to someone and share my spiritual insight in person, I am only serving one person, and all that are said during the conversation will pass. But for written work, it will work 24/7 for me for years to come, and a lot more people will receive the benefits.
Building a website is a lot of labor. Obviously when I am working on this project, I can’t talk. But thinking about the future this project will bring is a great joy that keeps me going.
Idle chatter grows.
Like any other addiction. The more you enjoy idle chatter, the more you become dependent on it. You will feel a void if you’re deprived of it suddenly.
When I was in University, I often end up talking with random friends I run into, instead of just quietly engaging in my studies. Years later, I don’t know where these random people are and what they’re doing right now, but the idle chatters produced nothing of lasting value for me today.
Use your time to build things that last!
By now you might be able to spot a slothful person very quickly. I admit it usually took me quite a while before I realized the damage and the true character of a slothful person.
Cut all association with them. Don’t trust them with anything, even if you feel lonely at working by yourself. Otherwise you will get hurt, you will be meddled, you will be gossiped against, and you will be disappointed!
In the near future, I might write a post about slothful people, and what kind of traps they will pose to the good-meaning, but unaware individuals or groups! That means YOU!