You do not have to guard against laziness vigilantly, watching out for the slightest sign and nipping it in the bud. There isn’t even a risk that you will become lazy.
I would argue that no one is lazy. Many years ago I bought Havi Brooks’ Procrastination Dissolve-o-matic (unfortunately no longer available) and in amongst the useful practical advice was a statement that lazy is always a moral judgement. Over the years I’ve realized that she is right.
There is no objective standard for “lazy”. Lazy, like “promiscuous”, is the kind of moral judgement that says more about the accuser (and it is always an accusation) than the accused. Your accuser may be a gremlin in your own head.
Even longer ago I taught a Sexualities course with a couple of colleagues and one of them had a genius ice breaker exercise for the first class. He asked the students how many people you have to have sex with to be promiscuous. A lively discussion ensued. The answer is “One more than the person calling you promiscuous.”
“Lazy” has an evil twin called “Busy”.
“Busy” is equally judgemental. When you say you are Busy, you are emphatically saying you are not Lazy. Lazy and Busy need each other to survive.
Busy and Lazy work together to justify not getting enough sleep, exercise, or nutritious meals. If you are well rested, or have time to go to the gym, won’t people think you are slacking off? If you aren’t busy, won’t people think you are lazy?
Both Lazy and Busy might be sabotaging your efforts to do work that is important to you and to your employer.
- How many people are too busy to write during a teaching term?
- How many times have those who take a “research day” been suspected of being lazy?
What does that say about the relative importance of research/writing, which is part of your job and possibly the part of your job given the most weight in evaluation processes? (That’s not a mistake, by the way, that’s your employer’s way of saying “This is what I really want you to prioritize.”)
What happens if you accept the statement that no one is lazy?
If Lazy doesn’t exist, there is no need to glorify her evil twin Busy.
By not glorifying busy, I might post/share that I got something done, but I am done with listing and trying to prove that I am busy. I know that I am busy [in the sense “have a lot to do”] and I know that my followers are also busy. I also am not engaging those conversations where it feels like a colleague online or in real life is glorifying busy.
(Janni Aragon, Busy Olympics, University of Venus, October 2013)
You can focus instead on what enables you to do your best work.
That means prioritizing your myriad responsibilities and deciding which ones need your A+ effort and which ones get a C effort. Remember, a C is not a fail. The minimum wouldn’t be called the minimum if it weren’t acceptable (as someone pointed out on Twitter when I first published the linked post).
It means looking at the list of what you got done in a given time period and seeing what is on the list, rather than focusing on all the things that aren’t on it.
You are not Lazy. You don’t need to be Busy, either.
Laziness does not exist (2018) by Devon Price (on Medium)
Laziness does not exist, an interview with Devon Price (2021) on Smart Bitches Trashy Books, podcast & transcript
Shame, vulnerability, and academic work discusses Brené Brown’s work, and specifically mentions the evil twin “busy”.
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This post was originally posted on 27 April 2015, and edited 15 March 2016. Links updated 17 June 2019 and again on 22 January 2021, when it was republished.