The Lazy Mind-set for Productive People

The following blog post was originally posted to LinkedIn on 24 July 2014.

When you think of productivity I’m guessing that for most people the first word that springs to mind probably isn’t “lazy”, but for me it’s been like that from the start. It’s my mind-set.

How is Being Lazy Good for Productivity?

So at first this may seem totally at odds with productivity. Lazy people are ones who don’t apply themselves and who don’t do anything. Whilst I agree with that to some extent, to me laziness is more than simply not wanting to do something. For me it is about not wanting to do the same things over and over again. It’s about finding ways to do things in quicker and easier ways.

By being lazy I simply mean that I don’t want to spend my life doing the same things over and over again. I’d rather spend my time doing new things or at least the most interesting things.

The Art & Science of Laziness

Okay so hopefully you’re interested in becoming a little bit more lazy/productive. So how do you actually go about being lazy?

Well for me the first step is making a decision on whether it is worth the effort of being lazy. Laziness actually has a price tag and in terms of time and effort and it is one you want to try and pay as far up front as you can. If you are going to do something many times, then the earlier you find the laziest way of doing it the more time and effort you’ll save down the road.

If something is going to be particularly tedious I’ll probably look at taking a “lazy approach” immediately. It’ll probably work out faster that way. If something is less so, not hugely time consuming and is only going to be carried out two or three times I might just do it. Anything other than that and I’ll look for a lazier option.

Once I’ve decided to find a lazier way I’ll consider several things:

1. Is there anything that doesn’t have to be done?

Basically are there any activities that are in fact surplus to requirements? It could be that someone else has already done X so I only need to do Y and Z. It could even be that the task is going to be pointless as of tomorrow so it may not need to be done at all if we could wait until then.

2. Is there an obvious alternative (lazier) method to get the desired outcome?

This question is especially useful when something has been done a particular way for a long time. Perhaps circumstances have changed in some way. Getting from A to B may have an alternate route. Perhaps someone else is doing a similar task and the first couple of activities could be shared between you.

3. Have I done something similar already that I can adjust to do this?

If you have already figured out how to be lazy at doing something similar before then why wouldn’t you take advantage of that and apply what you’ve done before here?

4. Has someone else done something similar already that I can adjust to do this?

Of course even if you haven’t done it, maybe someone else has. It could be a colleague or friend who has the experience to share. It could even be a stranger … there are a lot of them out there on the Internet and they all seem to be friends with Google, Bing, etc. so just ask them if they know someone.

5. Can I simplify any of the activities to speed them up?

Some tasks can be un-necessarily complex. When you can identify such tasks and simplify them you can usually speed things up. Perhaps if I was using lots of half measures during cooking perhaps time could be saved by using full measures (no additional cutting/weighing or putting ingredients back in storage) and creating twice as much.

A word of warning on this one though. Not every complex task can be simplified. If you don’t agree ask yourself if you were a patient would you want your neuro-surgeon to try simplifying the brain surgery.

6. Can I automate any of the activities so I don’t have to do them manually?

This is one of my favourites. Working in IT many of the ways in which I bring laziness to my life is through the use of computing power. From scripting and programming solutions through to using utilities and tools (such as text expansion software (e.g. AutoHotKey, TextExpander) and automation services (e.g. IFTTT).

Automation can come in many forms and could just as easily be mechanical or even mathematical.

7. Can I approximate anything and still definitely reach the desired outcome?

Sometimes we can get away with shortcuts and sometimes we can’t. Personally I prefer to be accurate, but in the real world approximations can on occasion be guaranteed to give equivalent results and if that gives you the right outcome then why not take the opportunity to take the shortcut?

8. Is there a way to improve the resources in tackling the task?

An improvement in resource could be better or more equipment. It could be bringing in additional help from friends or colleagues who have extra experience, skills or simply hands.

Note that this isn’t simply passing the task to someone else. Whilst it will save you time and effort, it isn’t an honourable or helpful approach; and it certainly doesn’t qualify as good delegation.


So that’s how I increase my productivity by being lazy. By identifying the right things to be lazy about and finding the right ways to move things along I get more time to go and find other interesting things to do.

So let me leave you with a couple of questions…

  • What lazy thing are you going to to do today to improve your productivity?
  • What are you going to do with the time you save?

If anyone has any other ideas of how to improve their productivity through laziness I’d love to hear those too.

Image courtesy of Ambro /

Author: Stephen Millard
Tags: | autohotkey | ifttt | linkedin | productivity | textexpander |

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