I have a confession to make.
I have not been as productive as usual lately.
I have set aside 35 hours a week to work, and I’ve written articles, consulted with clients, developed presentations, and done media interviews during approximately 25 of them. That means that I’m spending 10 work hours a week doing…not much.
I’ve never considered myself lazy. But well, here we are.
According to my friend Leo Babauta at Zen Habits, however, this is not the end of the world and I shouldn’t feel too guilty about it. “Lazy means that your body and mind are tired and want to rest. That’s a sign that you should actually rest. When you ignore these signs, it leads to burnout. So rest, and feel good about it!”
Babauta also suggests that one can work all day in a flurry of frenetic activity only to get a little done that actually matters. On the contrary, one can do a few things that take a few hours but lead to lasting achievement. You might do less, but the time you spent counts for more.
This last point, which is like a sensible distillation of Tim Ferriss’ early work, has become my new mantra. But I do think it’s easier said than done. After all, if everyone could be more effective working a few hours a day, we’d all be doing it. Here are some ideas from Leo that I’ve been trying to employ myself:
Constantly fighting the current is wearisome, and when you’re exhausted, you’re not productive. If you go with the flow of things, rather than against them, you will naturally do less, and with less effort.
I have done this for years in the name of perseverance. I’ve wasted time and a ton of effort trying to get people to do things they don’t want to do, and make the universe comply with my demands. You know what they say about marriages – when it’s the right match, getting along with the person feels easy.
Babauta refers to martial arts, in which it’s wise to find the points in the body where less force can be used to greater effect. If you can locate the spots where a little action can change
everything, you’re on the right path.
When you stop trying to micromanage and control everything your people do, you have more time. Your product might be better too, because you are benefiting from the creativity and imagination of many.
Action is great, but sometimes we unknowingly sabotage ourselves by interfering with the universe’s plan for us. Occasionally, if you just take a step back and stop moving, progress will actually grind up again.
So yes, some laziness is okay. What’s most important, though, is awareness. When you are being lazy, don’t just give yourself up to it and cease all intelligent thought. Understand why and how it fits into your master plan, and be strategic about it.