August 5, 2017

Let's Talk About Laziness

I've always been a terrible procrastinator. Whether it was doing homework, drafting a term paper, or studying for a test in high school or college, I always waited until I was super close to the deadline to get started. I've always felt that this behavior was lazy, unsightly, or if I forgot, my parents or friends would just tell me that I'm a lazy ass.

I know I'm not alone in feeling this way about laziness. Many people get the same sense of dread of having to start doing something they don't want to do. There are a million other things I could be doing with my time rather than a boring homework assignment. I know I'll have to do the assignment eventually, but I'm in no rush to do something that seems trivial or boring.

Now, most times when the topic of being lazy or being a procrastinator comes up, it's typically from a negative point-of-view. Lazy people are slackers, idiots, and/or failures. They're supposed to represent unsuccessful people, people without drive, people without ambition. While that may be the case in many circumstances, it is hilariously and dangerously wrong in many other circumstances.

For example, because I'm so lazy and procrastinate on just about anything I view as uninspiring or mundane, I've trained myself to become super efficient and productive in the small amount of time I give myself to do the task once time has run out. Once I sit down to do the mundane task, urgency takes over, drowning out my desire to avoid the task. This sense of urgency generates energy and manifests intense focus. I get busy and in the flow, but how I work as a consequence of being a slacker reveals something interesting.

First, I intensely focus on priorities. When it comes to tackling any task, some things are vastly more important than other things and demand a proportional amount of attention. What am I doing and what needs to be done? What are the most impactful things to produce a good or great result?

For example, say I'm given a graduate-level assignment asking about the differences between management and leadership. Well, if you've ever done even a high school assignment, you know that your teacher has certain criteria that must be met to achieve a good grade. These criteria include things like word count minimums, reference minimums, citation minimums, and adherence to a certain writing style guide, etc. So you can craft an excellent essay response but receive a poor grade for not meeting the minimum requirements.

The point is that some things are critical to success and you have to identify those things. There are many trivial things as well that you have to filter out. This is what I've become an expert in. I've been adept at sifting through massive amounts of information, discarding 80-090% of it while identifying, writing down, and remembering the critical 10-20%. This may sound familiar to you because it's called the Pareto Principle, or 80/20 Rule.

In general, the 80/20 Rule simply implies that 20% of the causes are responsible for 80% of the effects. Here's a great video of Richard Koch explaining the 80/20 Rule and how incredible it is. Most things and information in life are trivial (the 80%). Only a handful of things are significantly important and demand your attention (the 20%). Therefore, spending an equal amount of time on all things and information is a complete waste of time and in fact, could be very detrimental to productivity, efficiency, and success. So let's go back to being lazy.

I discovered the 80/20 Rule from being lazy. I had to identify the 20% because I still wanted a top grade. The only way I could put out an A paper in such a short period of time was to identify the fundamentals of a good paper and master them. I wasn't going to waste my time on anything that wasn't vitally important to get a top grade.

After years and years of perfecting my laziness, I've come to a point where I can effortlessly discard what most people say or write. Most communication and especially persuasion is fluff. If I'm trying to find the truth behind the message or someone's intent, I can cut through the 80% like butter, laying bare the 20% for intense analysis.

So the point of this rambling post about laziness and the 80/20 Rule was not to toot my horn, although this post will probably come off that way. My intent was to show that something like laziness is not as simple as one might think. You can blanket stereotype lazy people at your pleasure, just don't be surprised when they crush you on an exam, or paper, or sport.

Some lazy people have mastered the fundamentals because that's their expertise. They've mastered the jump shot, free throw, or leg kick, or right hook. Doing other fancy shit can be fun and helpful, but less impactful than spending more time of the fundamentals.

Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who had practiced one kick 10,000 times.”


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