For a productivity guy, I’ve become a sloth bear.
The last few weeks have been weird. I don’t feel like working. I want to be lazy and goof off. (Don’t tell James Clear.) When I have lazy days I get mad at myself. Productivity guilt destroys my happiness. It’s easy to predict the end of my creative writing career after a day of laziness. Not all is as it seems.
Error: I thought laziness was a problem.
You work more than you think
The trouble with laziness is it’s based on time. I found myself the other day comparing my current workdays to the ones at my last 9–5 job. It looks like I’m working a lot less with no job.
I did a deep dive and realized I’d launched twice as many online courses, read three times as many books, networked with 10x more people, started a Substack newsletter, and written an entire book.
Laziness lies to us.
Time feels different. Time can speed up or slow down. Time is hard to track without a time tracker. Laziness led me to a new insight.
Laziness is an early warning system
Rather than viewing these feelings as a reflection of something negative about your character, they should really be viewed as your body’s early warning system.
When you’re overworked, you’re less effective, focused, and productive.
Laziness isn’t telling me I’m not working hard enough. No. Laziness is a sign I’m about to burnout from being a self-help champion. Interesting. Since I quit my job I have become obsessed with work. If I’m honest with myself it’s because, secretly, I’m sh*t scared. My survival instincts have kicked in. They’re telling me if I don’t get my lazy ass into action then my business will be destroyed and I’ll be on the street.
This horrific thought isn’t an accident. In my first year of high school my family lost our home due to financial troubles. The memory has attached itself to my fear and led to the idea I’m lazy.
When you notice the truth behind your laziness, it’s possible to take the lesson and use it to your advantage.
Laziness leads to an explosion of creativity
We are working when we are not working. Read that again.
It’s taken me since college to learn that lesson. Work isn’t solely based on the productive tasks that are on a to-do list. No. Part of the work process occurs while you’re doing the dishes, having a shower, or tidying up the garden. When you do idle tasks it helps the dots in your brain connect. Your body stops to reflect and process all the inputs while your outputs are on hold.
One study found that our creative output increases by an average of 60% right after a walk. Stoicism preaches the idea we’re working when we’re not working, too. Ryan Holiday has famously cited ancient philosophers, writers and poets who swear by idle time and the power of walks.
The lazy tasks are the tasks you need to make sense of the world.
Relaxing is not a sign of laziness. It’s a source of energy
— Adam Grant
How to beat burnout
I’ve learned my lack of laziness is the cause of my impending burnout. The sirens are flashing red. The productivity gods are not coming to save me. Tim Ferriss didn’t send me a love letter in the voice of a navy seal and tell me to get my lazy ass back to work.
So, I scoured the internet and found a bloody good solution. You can use it, too, if laziness is signaling an impending meltdown.
Plan lazy periods attend of time
The challenge with laziness is the productivity guilt. When you schedule laziness in advance you don’t feel guilty. The Reddit user I learned this trick from goes on to say, “Run your errands/do chores the day before your lazy day so you don’t subconsciously shame yourself for doing nothing. It’ll make it more mentally enjoyable.”
The crux of this laziness manifesto is this: Make a day of it. Enjoy laziness instead of being afraid of it.
A person who gets to be lazy on a regular basis does better work in the long run because their mind is able to be more creative and join the dots of ideas subconsciously. That’s how you use laziness to outperform.