The Secret to Laziness

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At one point or another we’ve all been lazy.  We’re tempted to half-ass work projects, household chores, and class assignments.  Even the hardest working people have days they feel like giving less than their best.

We may think we’re taking advantage of a situation by slacking on work.  The problem is we don’t always consider how much additional work will result by cutting corners.

You may reconsider slacking when you understand there are two choices: either you choose to work hard the first time, or you choose to work less the first time, only to be faced with more work in the long run.

As an example, let’s take a trip back in time when we were high school students.  Yay!

Poor High School Paper

Imagine your high school English teacher assigns a 10-page paper due in two weeks.  You put off writing the paper until you find yourself staring at your monitor screen (or a piece of paper, shoutout to the baby boomers) at 11pm the night before the paper is due.

The thought of doing “a good job” is out the window.  At this point it’s all about damage control and finishing the paper without having to pull an all-nighter.  You come up with an incoherent paper that impresses nobody, not even yourself.

A week later you get a failing grade on the paper.  This brings your semester grade low enough to the point your parents get involved.  For the rest of the semester your parents micromanage your academic progress.  You find yourself spending twice as much time on homework.  What was once your free block at school has turned into required office hours with your English teacher.

Not a fun story.

Laziness Breeds More Work

The previous story is a perfect example of not making things harder than they have to be.  The entire paper fiasco could have been avoided by simply doing a good job the first time.

It’s human nature to minimize unpleasant experiences while maximizing pleasant experiences.  By writing a poor paper, in the short term you were minimizing an unpleasant experience.  Consequently in the long run, you created a greater sum of unpleasant experiences.

When we cut corners, we create more corners.  Cutting one corner may limit work in that one instance, but you end up creating four more corners.  The cumulative time of addressing those four additional corners will take longer than rounding (instead of cutting) the first corner.

There are countless examples of this phenomenon:

  • Instead of parking down the street you park in an illegal zone.  As a result you have to pay a fine at town hall, which is located across town.
  • Instead of putting the dishes in the dishwasher you leave them in the sink.  As a result your apartment is crawling with bugs and you have to call pest control.
  • Instead of responding to an email with thorough information, you end up emailing the person four additional times to provide further context.

In all three examples, less work was required if you weren’t lazy the first time.  Think of time as your currency and your tasks as a cost.  You can either spend a few minutes up front dealing with the issue, or you can spend hours addressing the problem after things have blown up.  Work compounds when a task is not done sufficiently the first time.

How To Be Lazy

If your goal in life it do as little work as possible, then put in the effort the first time around.  If you make things right in the first go-around you’ll have less work in the long run.

Working hard to be lazy sounds counterintuitive.  When you realize part of laziness is to minimize unnecessary work, it’s in your best interest to work hard from the get-go.  You gotta earn your laziness.


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