A long time ago, I was a lawyer.
In that corporate world of high flying Type-A personalities and shoulder pads, my colleagues wore their stress levels like a badge of honour on their pin stripe power suits.
Working 14 hour days, skipping lunch to annotate extremely important (and impossibly long) documents and conducting life-or-death conference calls on packed out commuter trains, barking into their headsets like petulant children kicking the back of your seat.
It was a constant barrage of ‘walk and talk’ busy-ness that always forms such a major part of the corporate clique… think Wolf of Wall Street, without the hookers and drugs.
Even outside the hustle of business life, we (society, that is) put productivity on a pedestal.
“How are you?” “Oh, I’m sooo busy ….”
The American Dream demands hard graft. It’s ingrained in our culture that working hard is a matter of pride. Sacrifice, commitment, blood, sweat and tears = success, right?
But in the 21st century, as our fragile minds are increasingly bombarded with information and our already hectic lifestyles become a delicate juggling act between lofty career plans, never ending social commitments, family time, chores, hobbies and health, rolling up our sleeves and ‘getting on with it’ can get a little overwhelming.
Those hyper productive people—you know, the ones who post a morning ‘hill sprint selfie’ at 6am, followed by a quick lunch time update about scoring a major new contract at work and an afternoon Instagram pic of a freshly baked loaf they’ve managed to whip up somewhere between watching their child perform the starring role in a production of Billy Elliot, collecting the latest harvest of seasonal veg from their allotment, transforming cookie dough into a batch of actual cookies and volunteering at a soup kitchen for four hours.
All with picture-perfect lipstick and mascara that actually stays on their eyelashes.
These people are getting shit done. Or they appear to be.
But if you look beyond all the busy boating, you’ll see that some of the most productive people in the world have one thing in common: they are all totally bossing taking time out too.
Yes, I’m happy to break the news that Garfield has been waiting for all these years: being lazy really can make you more successful.
Here’s how you can finally readdress your stress levels and access some serious life gains from the comfort of your arm chair.
Let’s start with all that time you think you need to be spending in the gym…
- Get ripped whilst watching Netflicks
Most people think that ‘Brad Pitt in Fight Club’ physique can only be achieved by spending every waking hour in the gym, but it’s a common misconception that a nice pair of guns and independently flex-able pecs means a husk of a life outside the weight room.
The most important training session of the week isn’t even performed in the gym. The changes we want our body to make in response to our hard work in the squat rack—ie, the physical adaptations that will make us stronger, fitter and more jacked—all take place not whilst sweating our way through a HIIT session or grinding through that last set of deadlifts, but when our bodies are at a state of rest.
Without proper rest and recovery time, those physical adaptations are reduced, which means ‘Netflicks and shred’ REALLY can mean ‘Netflicks and shred’.
Rest for results isn’t just limited to individual rest days either. Elite level athletes maximise their performance by cycling their training programmes, which includes a period of time off from formal training (typically a week) at the end of each cycle, to give a physiological and psychological break.
Take home? Swap deadlifts for your duvet every now and then for a smarter, less stressful, more productive way to achieve your training goals.
- F*#k the to-do list
We may feel our most productive when we’re firing through our to-do lists like a beaver chewing a log, but ignoring that list and doing absolutely nothing has the power to set us on a much greater path than simply feeling smug for the rest of the afternoon about getting the laundry nailed before Wednesday.
Think about your most creative moments. Those times when you’ve had an epiphany-like surge of inspiration – a new business idea or a sudden realisation of which direction you need to go in.
Where were you when that creative inspiration stuck you? I’m willing to bet it wasn’t quad-deep in reports and spreadsheets whilst pulling an all-nighter at the office to get through a to-do list as long as a lifetime.
Those sweet moments of clarity are far more likely to happen whilst sipping a mojito and day dreaming on a sandy white beach of the Caribbean with the sea breeze gently tussling your hair and the sound of the tide slowly creeping closer with every lap of the shore.
A calm mind welcomes insight. Give it the space it needs to problem solve, avoid getting bogged down in the quick sand that is day to day tasks and you’ll be much more productive in the long run.
- Desk time drooling: take some corporate nap time
There’s zero shame in good power nap.
Naps have been shown to improve alertness and creativity, reduce anxiety and depression, prevent burnout and boost performance.
This is why the midday snooze is now being endorsed by forward-thinking tech companies like Google, Uber and the Huffington Post, which all have napping rooms (or ‘nap pods’ to give them their proper hipster name) in their offices.
The nap gains aren’t just about speeding up the production line, though. A 2007 study[i] of 23,681 adults found that those who took a siesta at least three times a week lived longer and had a 37% lower chance of dying from heart disease.
In fact, Britain’s oldest man, Reg Dean, lived through two world wars and 24 British Prime Ministers in his 110 years and said his longevity was thanks to his laziness[ii].
Idleness for the win!
- Get efficient as f*#k
Working less doesn’t mean being less productive, it just requires more efficiency.
Bill Gates once said that he would always “hire a lazy person to do a difficult job” at Microsoft. Why? “Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
Super-efficiency is often confused with idleness but intelligent lazy people just automatically have more down time because they choose to work smarter, not harder.
They are able to zone-in on the important things that need to be done without wasting time on distractions that won’t help them achieve the ultimate end-goal.
Be lazy. Be efficient. And be proud!
Despite our glorification of ‘busy’, a break, a nap and even a ‘lazy’ attitude can actually have a positive effect on your body, your brain and those all-important productivity levels.
Let’s add ‘afternoon nap’ to the top of our to-do lists immediately. In fact, let’s screw those to-do lists in a ball, high dunk them into the bin, take the day off, chill the fuck out and restore work-life balance to the overworked masses of the world.
Balls to busy. Couch potato is the new cool. Who’s with me?