Sunday, June 16, 2013

Laziness


Laziness is mostly a bad thing. Nobody ever sat in a job interview and answered the question "what are your greatest strengths?" by leaning back, thumping their feet up onto the table and saying with casual confidence "I guess I'd say collaborating well in team environments, working to deadlines, and being really lazy. Just incredibly, hard-to-fathom-its-true-depths lazy." Possibly someone did do that, there's no accounting for some people, but I don't imagine that they got the job. Laziness is in fact so widely recognised as a bad thing that it managed to make the list of the seven deadly sins. When considering all of the awful ways people can behave, making the top five-and-a-bit should be a pretty solid indicator that being lazy is nothing to take pride in. Then again according to the same list neither is pride.

Given it's clear that being lazy is bad, both in how it's regarded by others and also by how it negatively affects the person who is being lazy, why are so many people lazy so often? There's probably a large body of psychological and sociological research into the factors, both internal and external, that cause patterns of laziness in individuals. Of course I'm far too lazy to look into any of that stuff even though it's no further away than switching to the browser. Let's assume it's all compelling stuff, that it's not as basic as "because being lazy is easy", and that at best we all have to deal with occasional bouts of laziness. Is there anything positive that be taken out of such habits?

I think that there are indeed some lessons that can be taken from being lazy. Not from general day-to-day laziness, the laziness that forms the background hum of so many people's lives, but in the focused laziness of repeated difficult tasks. When being lazy in the workplace, for example, it is not enough to simply do nothing. Doing nothing will (in most jobs) result in no longer having the job. Doing as little as possible is more palatable but at the same time it is often clear to others when you are doing as little as possible, which it turn makes for an unpleasant workplace environment. When everybody thinks/knows you're being lazy, it is very difficult to be lazy.

The trick is to do a good amount of work with as little effort as possible. This is where the negative aspects of laziness are transformed into gleaming pearls of efficiency. It might seem difficult to believe that something as self-defeating and shortsighted as real laziness can teach you useful skills, but as someone who has been a platinum level lazy bastard for the better part of twenty years I feel I'm in a position to provide some insights. Provided in no particular order of value:

  • That's five hundred words. I'm out.

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