You’re feeling lazy right now, and reading blogs instead of doing what you’re supposed to be doing. That’s OK – we all do that. We’re all lazy, in different forms, at one time or another.
But let’s look at how to make that laziness work for us, and how to turn lazy into productive.
We often beat ourselves up about our laziness, even though it’s a natural condition that every human being gets to some extent. It’s time to stop the self-criticism and see how laziness can actually be a positive, no matter what society tells us.
Here’s an observation: often the smartest people are the laziest ones. They’re always looking for ways to get out of work, or do make something easier, and their creative ways of doing that have come up with some of the most ingenius, productive inventions: the computer, the microwave, the car, the Clapper, to name but a few.
Now, I don’t know about you, but laziness doesn’t seem so bad to me when you look at it that way. Let’s see how laziness can actually be productivity if you use it the right way.
Make not doing it harder. We lazy people hate doing hard stuff. So let’s use that for us. Let’s say there’s something hard that I need to do right now. Of course, I don’t feel like doing it. But if I put up obstacles that make it harder NOT to do it, then I’m going to do it, because I’m too lazy to do the even harder stuff. For example, if I’m prone to watching television instead of working, and I put the remote on the roof of my house, well, it would be too hard to get a ladder to get that remote. And being lazy, I hate to watch TV without a remote. So I’ll get to work instead. Same concept could be applied to the Internet – take your cable modem’s cable and give it to someone to hold until after lunch. Or tell people that if you don’t complete this project on time, you will wash their cars. Engineer a solution that will make you more likely to actually do what you need to do.
Be productive to avoid doing something. Now turn that concept on its head. It’s an idea called Structured Procrastination, and written about much earlier by Robert Benchley in a great article called Getting Things Done from 1949. The basic concept is that in order to avoid doing something difficult, you’ll do a bunch of other things instead. A lot of those other things might also be important too, so you’re being productive because you’re too lazy to do the most important thing on your list. So, to implement this, put one really hard task at the top of your list, and a bunch of other important stuff below it. Now, tell yourself you really must, must get that first task done right away. If you’re feeling lazy, you’ll do the other stuff on the list instead. Now, when more important stuff comes up, the first item of the list gets pushed down and will get done.
Delegate. Lazy people like to become managers, so they can delegate things to others and look productive while doing that. Even if you aren’t a manager, learn how to delegate to your coworkers or even to your boss. Look at your to-do list and see if you can delegate half of it. If in doubt, route it and ask for input. Now you can cross off half the items on your list and you haven’t done anything!
Automate. Instead of doing the same things over and over, see if you can find a way to automate it. This will require that creativity that lazy people have. You can find ways for the computer to automate it, or give others the authority to do something following certain rules without your approval, or outsource something you really don’t want to do all the time. Great! Cross off more items from your to-do list without actually doing anything.
Eliminate. Now look at your remaining items on your to-do list (assuming you weren’t too lazy to write out a to-do list – if you are, it can be something you do to avoid doing something more difficult). How many of these items absolutely have to be done? Is there any way you can eliminate some of them, especially ones that you really don’t want to do? You can always go and ask to be removed from a project for one reason or another, or say that you have too many commitments and can’t do this right now. OK, more items off your list without doing anything!
Stall. Another good way to cross things off your to-do list without actually doing them is to not do them until they are no longer needed. I’ve done this many times – I stall and delay and procrastinate on something, doing other things I’d rather be doing, and then in a week or two, those things I was procrastinating on are no longer necessary. Turns out they didn’t matter anyway.
Simplify. If there’s something that you do that is complicated and difficult, find ways to make it easier and simpler. List out the steps, and see which can be eliminated or streamlined. Which steps can be done by someone else or automated? What is the absolute easiest way to do this?
Wait until the last minute. Sometimes when you stall (see above), it turns out that the thing you’re stalling on is really important, and needs to be done. If so, you will find this out when someone else who needs it done gives you an urgent call and 10 emails, asking for it to be submitted. This is when urgency comes into play, and it’s a great motivator. You’ll get the thing done. But that urgency didn’t exist until you stalled for a week. So the trick is to wait to do things until the absolute last minute, when you will be super motivated to do them. So don’t schedule some of your tasks until the last possible time you could start them and still get them done before deadline.
Lazy reward. I like to reward myself by telling myself that if I just do this work, I get to be lazy. This will motivate me, because I love being lazy. In fact, if I can finish the next item in five minutes, I get to go watch an episode of Gilmore Girls.
Go with what excites you. If you are too lazy to do something, it’s probably because that something seems boring to you. If so, move on to something more exciting. Come up with a list of things you could do that are important and productive and still exciting. And go with those tasks. You will be avoiding something boring, sure, but you will be motivated to do the other, more exciting stuff. Now, if you still need to do the boring stuff (and can’t stall, eliminate, delegate, or automate that stuff), then find a way to make it exciting. Rewards of sweet treats or laziness can make something more exciting, or try this technique: instead of thinking of how hard something is, think about all the benefits that you’ll get from doing it. Money, fame, gorgeous women, snacks ? these exciting things can all be yours by accomplishing this task.
OK, now off to watch that episode of Gilmore Girls.