The benefits of laziness

Laziness isn't always bad - it's time for a more specific definition of what we mean.

At different stages in my life, I've been told that I'm either incredibly hard working, or incredibly lazy. When I was younger, I spent time puzzling over why I could be receiving such conflicting feedback. My viewpoint now is that this feedback wasn't contradictory at all, but people were using two different definitions of laziness.

Good Laziness vs. Bad Laziness

The majority of people who viewed me as very hard-working came from the tech industry. This was typically based on metrics like how much work I was able to complete, the quality of that work, and responsiveness to messages.

In contrast, most of the feedback of laziness was from people in education, who I met while at school. Their focus was much more on hours spent, while simultaneously constraining the approaches which were deemed as acceptable. The idea of improving efficiency was not recognised as a positive, nor was making sure the project was actually solving the correct problem in the first place (and often, it was solving no problem at all)

I've come to define two forms of laziness:

  • Good Laziness: Desire to spend as little time on something as possible, while being ambitious in the outcomes and having a high quality threshold
  • Bad Laziness: Desire to spend as little time on something as possible, with a lack of ambition and no consideration for the quality of the work produced

Another difference here is what the reason for getting things done quickly is: for me, it's to increase the total amount of work that I'm able to focus on over time, rather than wasting the remaining time.

How to Embrace Laziness

Good Laziness was definitely one of the initial reasons that I learned to code. I found myself having to complete a number of important but repetitive tasks while I was still at school; the thought of sitting there for hours completing it filled me with dread. Instead, I learned how to write a Python script to complete it, and it decreased the time it took. I've done this many times since in all sorts of work. It encourages you to think in terms of leverage, rather than working linearly.

Good Laziness also makes you less willing to sit back while observing inefficiencies and bureaucracy. Instead of executing a process that makes no sense, it pushes you to suggest changes that would benefit everyone. I have no doubt that my local council wouldn't take six months to reply if they looked to embrace good laziness and automated some of the most common processes, so that everyone working there could spend their time more intelligently.

Good Laziness pushes you towards automation and delegation, which are both vital within a scaling company with ambitious growth plans. Andrew Wilkinson wrote about how he embraces 'Lazy Leadership' in his blog post of the same name. I hope that more companies embrace good laziness as a way to scale in the coming decade.

A related closing thought:


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