Laziness is Good for You

The Lazy Way To Be Productive

Here’s my challenge to you: how can you be lazy and productive at the same time? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it at first. But yes, it is possible through the magic of structured procrastination.

Structured procrastination, what’s that?

First, let’s talk about procrastination. When you procrastinate, you delay doing something. It might manifest itself in an itch to do something other than that important task in front of you. It can drive you to be lazy so you slack off on, well, Slack. Or Facebook. Or Reddit.

The reason you procrastinate is simple, really. You’re avoiding pain, whether it’s the fear of failure or making a decision, the stress of working hard, or the anxiety of an impending deadline. So slacking off is all about avoiding this pain. Sometimes it means doing something fun, but often it means just doing something that’s not as painful.

Structured procrastination means using this quirk of the brain to get things done. You don’t fight your inner slacker but instead embrace it wholeheartedly. You structure your tasks so that when you procrastinate, your fall back is working on something else on your list, instead of slacking off.

How to make procrastination productive

The key to structured procrastination is making a list. That list will be your sherpa, a guide that will tell you what to work on when you want to slack off. It’s your taskmaster.

This list needs a few things to work, though:

1. The list needs a big hairy task.

This should be something that’s important, something you absolutely must get done, sooner or later. For example, the horrible task could be writing your year-end report or restructuring your mortgage.

2. The list needs to be in order.

Arrange the list from most important to least, with the big hairy task right on top. So when you need to work on something, you’ll see your big hairy task. If you avoid it by procrastinating, you’ll be forced to move down the list and pick something easier to do.

3. The list needs to be long.

This is what makes structured procrastination work. You always need to have something else to work on, something that lets you dodge your important tasks at the top. So make your list as long as possible. You can even add small (but kind of important) things in there, like backing up files or updating your resume.

4. The list needs to be convincing (at least for you).

Of course, this whole thing won’t work if you don’t believe in your list. That big hairy task needs to be something that’s truly important, not just something that’s “made-up important”. And the tasks in your list need to be truly important, not just time-wasters disguised as work. It does take a little self-deception to make the whole thing work.

So now, embrace your laziness and use it to your advantage. Make a long list, place that big hairy task on top, and if you avoid it, work on the next item. Surprise people by being the most productive person in the office by being a true slacker.

Here’s another way to leverage laziness to get things done.