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Why Lazy People Are More Productive

“Here, man, let me help you with that.”

My classmate Shaun reached over to my screen and quickly resolved a coding bug we’d spent hours trying to resolve. Our study group was all impressed.

Not because Shaun wasn’t smart but because others had deemed him a lazy student. This was back in college when we were all studying to be programmers and threw ourselves into our studies.

Shaun never put in nearly anywhere near the number of hours we all did, but he seemed to always get his work turned in on time. He also slept more than all of us, had a fulfilling social life, and went about his days in a state of less stress.

Needless to say, we were all in awe, and heck, even envious.

Why lazy people are more productive

I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.

Bill Gates

Today Shaun is a successful CEO of his own software company and he didn’t have to kill himself to get there. I still remember him fondly because he’s the perfect example of what Bill Gates spoke of. He always found an easier way to do things.

I founded my own startup, Jotform back in 2006 and have spent nearly two decades trying to replicate this mindset into action. We have a form-building business with over 20 million users worldwide that helps them automate otherwise tedious tasks.

The truth is, we should all embrace the lazy mindset and ask ourselves: “How can I automate my busywork and save my brain for the big stuff?” Incorporating automation means changing the way you view productivity. It means thinking of it as a way of streamlining your work day. The point is to build a system that frees you from boring tasks and allows you to go deep into the ‘big picture’ work while harnessing your innate talents and interests.

Adopting a lazy mindset isn’t really about being lazy

Raise your hand if you’ve ever watched a colleague breeze through their workday while you’re still stuck responding to emails. You’re probably even annoyed by how they seem to have endless hours in their day. But here’s the reality: many of them are not burning themselves out because they’ve figured out a secret: how to automate tedious, time-consuming tasks.

It’s one of the concepts I explore in Automate Your Busywork: Do Less, Achieve More, and Save Your Brain for the Big Stuff. Because I know there’s a better way, and I’ve seen it work for me and others over and over again.

“Lazy people” build systems rather than work themselves into the ground. They design and optimize strategically.

For most professionals, it’s easy to get stuck in busywork while ignoring the bigger picture and vision they have for their business.

Here’s how to step aside

When my wife was pregnant with our second child, I decided I wanted to be more present during this time than ever, taking a three-month paternity leave. To be honest, it was both exciting and terrifying to think about letting go of the reins for such a long period of time.

The only way to achieve the above was to review my daily tasks and really see what could be automated. I thought of Shaun and how easily he would find solutions to what took us hours of trying to figure out.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  • Instead of another cog in the system, think about your work as a machine that you can design and optimize.
  • Delivering success isn’t about burning the candle at both ends, it’s about focusing on the bigger picture.
  • The point isn’t to work less, but to work smarter — to focus on the kind of work that enhances your career.
  • Figure out the result you want to achieve and design a machine that delivers that result.
  • Forget the conventional term of “laziness” and think of your business as a well-oiled machine that can work without you.

I took all of the above into account before going on paternity leave and especially since. One of the key preparations I focused on was automating time-consuming tasks while I’d be away. Rather than focus on busywork, I concentrated on these high-value activities instead.

I can’t help but think that Shaun would be proud of these efforts. We’ve lost touch over the years, but he was one of the initial inspirations that invited me to believe in a new kind of mindset. One where “laziness” wasn’t seen as a negative but an attribute.

As a recovering perfectionist, it was hard relinquishing control, but it’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned along the way. One of the most surprising realizations about automation has been how it’s removed obstacles and opened up a world of possibilities. But that was also the gift of those three months. I understood that by automating, we have to step aside and spend more time focused on the highest good of our careers and efforts.

Stepping aside for three months let me behold a new view of the business I’d spent building: one that was stronger and far more equipped to handle challenges than I’d previously thought. And that’s made all the difference.

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