How to structure life around your laziness

Takeaway: If you consider yourself lazy when it comes to tasks like working out, eating well, or staying productive, add some structure around those habits to give yourself no choice but to do them.

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 44s.

Considering I write about productivity for a living, it often surprises people when I tell them how lazy I am. While I have a good deal of energy most days, the truth is that I’m one of the lazier people you’ll meet. My ideal day doesn’t consist of adventures: it involves laying on the couch watching documentaries and reading, while gorging on copious amounts of takeout food. As someone without kids, I struggle to get out of bed many mornings, especially on the weekend. While my fiancé loves traveling the world, I’d much rather stay at home. If I do go somewhere, I’m more of a vacationer than a traveler. And on my days off, you’re far more likely to find me at the spa than on a hike or a road-trip.

Here’s a little secret: this laziness is one of the primary reasons I invest in my productivity. Becoming more productive lets me accomplish work in less time, which gives me more time to chill out. Over the past several years, I’ve also figured out how to structure my life so I can stay productive, healthy, and lazy.

I recently chatted about this idea with David Allen, a friend of the blog and author of Getting Things Done. During our conversation, he immediately started talking about how lazy he himself was. “People often ask whether I’ve always been organized,” he told me. “My answer is ‘no, I’ve always been lazy.’” This is also what makes him so interested in productivity: “I wake up thinking, ‘how much easier can I do whatever it is I’m doing?’ If you know what you’re doing, efficiency (and style!) are your only improvement opportunities.”

Like preemptively blocking distractions, the trick to structuring your life around your laziness is to address this characteristic before it gets out of hand.

There are two steps to doing this. The first is to realize laziness is an art, and that you’re probably not lazy about everything you do. The second step is to add structure around the things you are lazy about.

Think about the boundaries of your laziness: what you’re lazy about, and what you aren’t. For example, I’m lazy when it comes to getting out of bed, eating well, and resisting work distractions. However, I’m far less lazy when it comes to doing work, because I love what I do.

After figuring out your boundaries, add some structure to the tasks that trigger laziness. This structure will prevent you from indulging too much. I’ve done this in countless ways:

  • I keep my phone and tablet in another room while I write and read. I know I’m too lazy to get up and fiddle with them.
  • I lay my gym clothes out the night before. If they’re out, and are easier to access than my other clothes, I’ll wear them, and exercise as a result.
  • I log out of my internet accounts—Netflix, social media, and email—because I know that, in the moment, I’m too lazy to log back in. I’ve made my passwords impossibly long so typing them is an even larger uphill battle.
  • I deleted my phone’s email app because I’m too lazy to log into Gmail through my phone’s web browser.
  • I know I’ll eat something that’s in front of me simply because it’s there. I’ve started putting cartons of spinach on my desk so it’s easier than making (or ordering) something less healthy.
  • If it’s the weekend, I’m often too lazy to get out of bed. So I sleep with my phone in another room, and have my fitness tracker wake me up.
  • Even though my basement is so close, it’s too far to go for workouts. I keep a kettlebell next to my office desk. Once I start exercising with it, I’m more motivated to head downstairs.
  • Since I’m often too lazy to go to the gym, I bribe reward myself with “workout points.” Once I accumulate enough of these, I can redeem them for guilt-free snacks and drinks.

There are countless ways to add structure around where you’re lazy in your work and life. If you’re lazy about going for a lunchtime run, get a running buddy—this may mean going outside is easier than canceling on someone. If you have trouble waking up early, make yourself pay a public penalty—waking up becomes easier than paying the social price.

Laziness is an art, and it’s entirely possible to structure your life around where and when you’re lazy. Doing this has given me more energy and motivation, and has ultimately made me more productive.

Illustration by Sinisa Sumina.

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