To practice what I preach, this week I'd like to express my appreciation to readers of this column who responded to my recent piece on laziness.
As you may recall, I wrote a couple of weeks ago about sometimes "hitting the wall" and wanting to let things slide, even when I know I should be productive. The question I asked readers was, "Is it ever OK to be lazy, just for a while?"
The response was unanimously in the affirmative — with some caveats.
Typical was the brief response from a reader named Philip, posting on my Facebook page: "Yes, but don't get stuck in the lazy zone!"
That, of course, is the danger. Being lazy for a while is one thing, and probably not the end of the world. Being lazy for an extended period of time, on the other hand, could have serious negative consequences.
Another reader went a bit deeper on the topic, relating it to personal struggles with staying focused and avoiding distractions.
"I ... find difficulty focusing on tasks that I believe are pointless, or won't really ever have any lasting consequence on a project," this reader wrote. "The idea of busywork for the sake of busywork really leaves me cold. If the end sum of my labors is nil (perceived by me, reinforced by management), then I can spend that time much better doing my thing, rather than their thing."
That works, as long as management is OK with you doing "your thing." If your manager isn't happy about it, it could lead to some problems.
In an additional online comment, a reader wrote that normal, productive people face the laziness question all of the time.
"If you don't schedule down-time, your mind will guilt/force it through spin-down, which you see as laziness," this reader wrote. "You need to play more, and the tendency to avoid through express 'laziness' will decrease. Just give yourself a firm limit of how long it can last, and you'll be fine. Count on it."
That feeling was echoed in another online comment. "I feel it is totally OK to be lazy sometimes, and even necessary. It's important for me to have a little down-time once a week or so to recharge.
"There is nothing better than a Sunday afternoon nap. When I get up I can then focus on the week ahead, plan out my schedule, and what I'm going to need to do to accomplish the tasks I have ahead of me."
Ah, the Sunday afternoon nap. It can be a beautiful thing, but I rarely make time for it. That's one thing I really need to add to my to-do list.
Another reader, Johnny, wrote that he would go "absolutely crazy" if he spent too much time being lazy, but he does think about such things when he daydreams about winning the lottery.
"I would consider myself a workaholic or at least a busyaholic," Johnny wrote in an online comment. "I don't necessarily have to work at 'work,' but I can't sit still. ...
"I tell my wife I know that when I 'win' the lottery I could keep busy enough fishing, but know that at some point that I would have to be doing something else, too. I will never admit that to her though."
Your secret is revealed, Johnny. Sorry about that.
I appreciated all of these words of wisdom, but my favorite advice came from the person who has been giving me good counsel since the day I was born.
"You know, I'm sure, that I like to work. In fact, I love to work. So it took me a long time to allow myself to be lazy," she wrote in an email. "Your father helped me overcome my guilt feelings about not working all the time. He's way more laid back than I am.
"It's just since I retired from teaching that I've allowed myself a daily lazy time, and that's after supper. OK, I'll admit it. Sometimes I catch up on emails a bit after supper, but mostly it's my time to watch an old movie on TV, do the daily crossword puzzle and cryptogram, and read, read, read. And it feels great. I really look forward to it each day.
"Now I realize you're a whole lot busier than I am, and, of course, you're not retired. But just keep plugging away. Your really lazy days are ahead of you, and they're something to look forward to. In the meantime, give yourself a few hours off once in a while. You deserve it."
Thanks, Mom. With your permission, I do believe I'll go take that nap now.
And if this column has had a soporific effect on some regular readers, too, that's fine by me. Just be careful if you're napping at work. Some bosses frown upon that rejuvenating activity.
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