The Lazy Winner

The Lazy Winner’s Work-Life balance

‘Ambition is a poor excuse for not having sense enough to be lazy.’ Charlie McCarthy (Edgar Bergen)


Do you want to do more with less effort? Do you desperately want a better work-life balance? Then you need to start by asking yourself some fundamental questions when the next job, piece of work, task or request comes your way.

Tip #1: Do I want to do this piece of work, job or task etc? Even if I do want to do it, do I need to do it?

Don’t do something just because everyone else does it or because it is the ‘usual thing to do’. Just running with the pack is never going to allow you to take control of your own time and will only lead you in to over-commitments.

If you really want to change things for the better then begin by asking yourself two questions: ‘Is this really necessary?’ and ‘Is this really worth doing?’

If the answer is ‘no’ to either of these questions then simply don’t do it! Of course there will be times when you ignore this advice because you are compelled to get involved because ‘it is the right thing to do’ but really you need to make these exceptions just that, exceptional.

Challenge yourself the very next time you are ‘invited’ to take on some new work – ask those two critical questions ‘Do I need to get involved and do I want to get involved’. By addressing objectively the decision making process, rather than being swept up in enthusiasm, acceptance of delegation, or assumption that you do have to do something then you will be better prepared to a) do what is important and b) do a good job on what you accept is important.

Tip #2: Is the result or outcome worth my effort?

Only do the things with the most impact. It is all about applying the good old 80/20 rule. What are the most critical things that you need to get involved in? What is the 20% that will deliver the 80% of value (and not the other way around that most people do – often the easier actions that deliver a false sense of progress). Get the priorities right and you will achieve far more, and by prioritising this way and assessing if the outcome or output is worthwhile then you can help do what is most important.

Your time is limited (some people seem to believe that time is flexible and infinite but they also tend to over-promise and under-deliver) so invest it only in things that give you the most return on your personal investment. As with all of these guiding rules there will be exceptions but at least by starting with the all important questions as and when you do ‘break the rules’ you will have done so with the right level of consideration and planning.

Tip #3: Do I have to do this myself?

Ask yourself if you really are the best possible person to do whatever it is that needs to be done or is there someone else in your network who is better qualified than you to do this thing? If there is then be generous and let them help you out.

The principle here is that allocating work to the best-suited person benefits everyone in the long run. Of course this cannot be done just to avoid work. You have to pick up some actions yourself.

The strength of saying ‘No’ should not be underestimated and saying ‘No’ can be a very positive thing, if you don’t say ‘No’, ever, then you will never achieve anything. There is the ‘what goes around comes around’ idea as well. Sometimes you shouldn’t say ‘no’ because despite the fact that you may not want to do something, need to do something and there is someone who could do it better, you do want to help out and be that team player or Good Samaritan.

Or, it is in your interests to take on a project so you can learn some new skills, in which case you may well not be the most obvious person for the job.

It is all about balance and priority. Overall you want to deal with the important stuff plus a reasonable amount of other stuff.

If you keep saying ‘yes’ then your backlog will never go down and you will spend far too much time working on the unimportant.

Tip #4: If you have to do it, then what is the shortest path to the point of success?

Don’t waste your time on the unnecessary. If it works in black and white don’t waste effort in creating a technicolour dream version of the same thing. What is the point after all if you are ‘just getting the job done’ (to the right quality level of course)?

Can you simplify it? Can you shorten it? If there’s something that you do that is complicated and difficult, find ways to make it easier and simpler. List the steps, and see which can be eliminated or streamlined. Which steps can be done by someone else or automated or dropped completely? What is absolutely the easiest way to do this?

Can it wait? Is it really needed when it is supposed to be needed? Will it impact on others if it waits? Sometimes, not always you understand, but just sometimes, not rushing into something can turn out to be a productively good thing as it turns out it didn’t matter anyway, or at least the need has gone away. We live in a complex world of interaction so at any given time just about everything is changing.

Do only the things that are necessary to get the job done. Cut everything else out!

Tip #5: What exactly is that point of success and at what stage will you just be wasting your time?

Having said take the shortest path to success there is a counter-argument that says can you make this of greater value in the long run. Can this be reused again and again? Can it have more value than just a ‘one-off’ piece of work? If it can, then scale it for a better return on investment.

Now the buck really does rest with you because you are committed, you are taking ownership of this one. But even now the ‘less is more’ mantra should be sounding in your mind. When you do get on to doing the things that you should do then consider this:

  • Can you automate it?
  • Can you scale it?
  • Can you make it reusable in a wider context?

Use that creativity that you have, that all productively lazy people have, and make ‘it’ repeatable, suitable for a wider purpose and audience, easily available without you having to act as a gatekeeper all the time (thereby taking up your future precious time).

At every opportunity you must think your actions through to the end, as best that you can, and aim to optimize your personal return on your personal investment.


The above is based on content from The Lazy Winner (Infinite Ideas) by Peter Taylor, The Lazy Project Manager – ‘productive laziness for all…’


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