Overcoming laziness (or how to get your butt off that sofa)


I’m writing this to address the oldest of all problems for students: laziness. You know, “today I don’t feel like doing anything”?

What do all forms of work – writing an essay, tidying your room or bathing your dog – have in common?

The hardest part is getting started.

It’s a form of Newton’s First Law of Motion. Part of it states that every object will remain at rest unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force. This is also known as inertia (layman explanation: when your butt is on the sofa, it’s very difficult to get it off. And if I may add Steven Ooi’s Law: the longer your butt is there, the harder it is to get it off.)

But once you do get your butt off and get started on your work, you find that it’s not so difficult, sometimes even pleasant, to continue. That’s the other part of Newton’s First Law at work: every object will remain in uniform motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an external force.

Thus a very simple solution to laziness is this: push yourself harder to get started. And the rest is not so difficult.

Need additional motivation? Give yourself a reward for work done. If you work for half an hour, you get to have your favourite drink. If you work for two hours, you get to watch a TV show or Youtube videos. And if you manage to plow through four hours of work (do take breaks along the way), then you get to go out. Our brains are wired in a way that’s not so different from monkeys or dogs – we are responsive to reward. But don’t give yourself those rewards or play before you work. That is a surefire way to reinforce laziness.

Finally, if you don’t like a certain kind of work (or a certain subject), learn to look at it from another angle. Sometimes a teacher makes you feel that a subject is so boring, but if you look at it in a different way (say, linking physics to your favourite sport like soccer: the force or trajectory of a shot), then it might actually take on a new life.

Sound basic principles in life are the foundation for doing well.

The above is largely adapted from Dr Richard Palmer’s outstanding book, Studying for Success.


Website owner Steven Ooi, a First Class Honours grad from NUS, retired from a distinguished 14-year career as an English and GP tutor in 2016. He continues to blog on issues of concern to GP and student life.

To view tutors recommended by him, click here.

GP model essays here.

English or GP tutors keen to be listed on this website (consistently ranked top 10-15 on Google) as a Recommended Tutor, please email stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces). Tutors in other subjects interested in having links to their website are also welcome to contact him.

About gptuitionsg

A dedicated English and GP tutor with First Class Honours from the National University of Singapore, Steven Ooi retired from the profession after a 14-year career during which he was one of the most sought-after private tutors in Singapore. He is the recipient of the Minerva Prize from NUS, which is awarded to the top English Language honours student of each cohort. This website, which has consistently ranked among the top 10 on Google and has received over 530,000 hits, has now been converted into a GP resource site cum listing of recommended tutors. If you are a GP or English tutor who wishes to be listed here, please email Steven Ooi at stevenooi18 @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces). Interested parties will be assessed and interviewed by him, and qualifications will be checked. These procedures are necessary to uphold quality standards. DISCLAIMER: While every reasonable effort has been made to assess the competence and verify the qualifications of recommended tutors here, no guarantees are made and you engage them at your own risk. By using this website, you agree that you will not hold the webmaster Steven Ooi responsible for any consequences — direct or otherwise — that occur in relation with your use of this website.
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