The Secret to PRODUCTIVITY is Laziness

Want to know the quickest way to get motivated so you can stay productive, get more done and feel great doing it?  Easy. Be Lazy. Well, kinda, you’ll see. Read on…

As self-made entrepreneurs, we all tend to be obsessed with personal development and self-growth.  Why is that?  I believe that when we set out to do something “on our own” (ie. start a business!), we quickly realize that the only thing that can truly limit us is ourselves.  Thus, most entrepreneurs are intrigued by such topics as time management, productivity and motivation.  We are all students of these subjects, and as we continue down our paths, our experience makes us wiser in these areas.  We learn more about ourselves, what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t!  …or so you would think.

This article is inspired by a real question left by a good friend and fellow entrepreneur who posted the following on Facebook…

“Ever get in a funk with work? The last couple of days I have been in one. 
Simple tasks are hard to complete.  Motivation is lacking.  What do you to get out of it?”

Before the end of the day, this comment had received over 60 unique “answers” from friends, peers and mentors in the industry.  The comment sparked a lot of buzz and communication…and it makes sense!

Can you relate?!  Have you ever felt like you were paddling up stream, and every task seemed to take ages just to complete?  Motivation was low and productivity suffered?  Of course!!  We all have!  And I’m sure there have been others times where hours flew by, and you checked more off your list than ever before!  Why is that? (the answer is coming…)

Are You Taking Bad Advice?

The reason I am writing this article is because of this: most of the advice given in response to that question was awful!

I love that so many people came to this individual’s aid to show their support and love, but I feel too many of us have been fed bad advice which we pass on to others.  And it’s not your fault.  When YOU had a headache, you probably took some pain reliever and it went away.  But that doesn’t mean prescribing pain reliever to your friend in need is the answer!

Now, in all fairness, I actually think the question from my friend was worded wrong from the get go.

The quality of our life is determined by the quality of questions we ask ourselves, right?  We need to ask a better question here. Here’s the BIG FAT “Catch-22” staring us right in the face…

The question was: “Hey, I’m unmotivated, what do I do to get out of this funk?”  Do you see the fallacy yet?  This individual is in a place where his mind, his body and every part of his being is screaming, “I don’t want to do anything!” yet he is looking for some ACTION to take to NOT be in this “funk.”

And as a result, he got tons of great answers telling him to DO things.  Go listen to this motivational tape, watch this inspiring YouTube clip, go for a long run, go work out, etc. etc.  All of these action-oriented solutions are simply forcing or tricking your brain into going further, pushing past the pain (no pain, no gain, right?!) and ignoring what your body really needs (rest).

The problem is, too many entrepreneurs are trying to sprint a marathon.  That just doesn’t work.  Eventually, you break down, your productivity hits an all time low, and feel even more stressed and overwhelmed as tasks add up, and more and more deadlines are missed.  It’s a dangerous cycle, because once it starts, its hard to get break it.

So, the million dollar question: what DO you do when you feel unmotivated? What do you do when productivity is low, and you feel tired and uninspired?

The Answer: Do absolutely nothing. Rest. Relax. Be as lazy as possible!

Your body is telling you it’s had enough. You need to stop and you need to rest.

Note: How many of you reading this are upset, because the answer is just too simple? (and probably too good to be true!)

Why Doing Nothing is More Productive Than Something:

About two years ago, others began giving me “just stop, do nothing” advice, and I hated it!  I was so rooted in an action-oriented mindset, that I literally thought all my success was completely attached to how many hours I logged each and every day.  “The harder I work, the more money I make!” (WRONG!) It wasn’t until I became so burnt out and would spend days getting just one or two things accomplished, that I realized I was completely fatigued, both mentally and physically.  I felt like I was working in metaphorical quicksand.

But the real breakthrough happened while reading a fitness book by Vince DelMonte.  In the book, he shared one of the biggest misconceptions that men (and women) have about getting in better shape is that they attach their  physical results to the action they take in just that 60 minutes inside the gym.  That’s just 60 minutes of your day.  You have 23 other hours ya know!  DelMonte goes on to describe that the current results you have are actually a sum of all the work you do for the remaining 23 hours in a day.  If you have a stressed lifestyle, don’t get enough sleep and eat like crap, it doesn’t matter what you do at the gym, you still won’t get the results you want. Fitness is a 24 hour job.

It’s the same with you and your relationship with WORK at the office.  If all you do is work, then work some more, and finally just force yourself to ignore those signs to stop, you’re ignoring a much bigger problem.

So here’s the Secret…

If you really want to be more productive and motivated while you work, start by ALLOWING yourself to rest.  Rest as long as you need it..and then rest a little bit more.  But there’s a trick here.  It’s not just REST. It’s “allowing” yourself to rest. Give yourself permission.  You can’t feel guilty for being away from the computer.  You Can’t go watch tv or veg out and still be stressed about what you should be doing.  You need to understand that while you are watching tv, or relaxing, or sleeping, YOU ARE WORKING!    This is so important I am going to say it again…

Your decision to REST and RELAX is ACTUALLY YOU BEING PRODUCTIVE. Inaction is still work. It’s apart of the equation. It’s the Ying to your Yang! It’s a key ingredient to PRODUCTIVITY!!  (ok, I can only repeat one thing so many times).

This is your pit stop.  NASCAR drivers can’t win a race without taking pit stops, right?  This is the time that you get to be creative while recharging.

Why You Are So Tired

There are two things I want to point out as to why we can get so drained both physically and mentally when we are in our work.  Here’s the first one: As a true entrepreneur, we are creators.  Every day we are creating.  We are doing things that have never been done before, thus we must think differently and take action in a different way.  This creativity can take a lot of energy!

The image I get is of a “bridge builder” hanging out over a ledge on a cliff building this new bridge one step at a time.  Every time he takes a step, he must build another foot of the platform.  But the person behind him (not the entrepreneur), simply follows behind the bridge builder, and doesn’t have to build anything.  There is far more work for the bridge builder (the entrepreneur) than the person who follows.  As entrepreneurs, we are creating new paths, bridging new gaps, and doing things very differently.  So, give yourself a break, what you are doing takes time and work.(Patience, young grasshopper!)

But there’s another reason why you may feel like you’re in a “funk.”

(Note: Remember, if you feel in a “funk” nothing is permanent.  And this WILL pass.  My goal is to show you the path of least resistance to moving past the “funk.”) Yes, your body is telling you to rest and recharge.  But we have to come to an understanding that some tasks will drain you much quicker than others.  In fact, some work will actually charge you (which is why we can work for hours and hours on end at certain times!)

You’re job is to get very clear at just what things DO charge you.  Chances are, the things that drain you the most are the things that you already KNOW you shouldn’t be doing yourself.  As an entrepreneur, you want to change the world, but you are stuck spending hours being your own Customer Support rep, answering emails, fixing technical problems on your website, putting out fires, and other re-active problems that don’t really excite you.  These tasks are important, and need to be done, but do you need to do them?

As much as possible, you need to “let go,” and get others to do this work for you.  If you think you can do it all yourself, your crazy.  …and if you are doing it all yourself, it means one thing: You Don’t Value Your Time.

In Conclusion…

I’m sure a lot of you got excited before reading this post, thinking that you were going to learn something you could go out and DO in order to get more motivated and be more productive.  In fact, you may be reading this, seeing this simple solution of “do nothing” and be completely disappointed.  But even “doing nothing” can be difficult for the driven entrepreneur!  Like I said, so many of us are attached to the notion of physical action being the only factor in our success.  It’s not.  So, give it a try…

Go take some well deserved rest. And rest is such a vague term!!  Do something that you love that charges you.  See if you can unplug from the computer and email for two or three days-heck try four!  I guarantee you, after one day, you’ll want to flip open the laptop, because of some brilliant idea you just had, or a creative solution to a problem you’ve been experiencing in your business.  These ideas and solutions can NOT come to you when your face is buried in front of the computer and your nose is to the grindstone.

The “million dollar ideas” and creative solutions come to you only when your mind is free and open.

In fact, you should make it a habit to take a few days off every few months to prevent a burn out!  I’m not saying a few hours a day, I’m talking FULL DAYS with no work!

And if you are completely resistant to this idea, and that voice in your head is saying you can’t unplug because you don’t have time,  there is too much to do and too little time, I get it! You’re stressed out!  But remember, the primary emotion behind stress is FEAR.  So, what are you afraid of?

Hmm…that’s another post for another time.

Share Your Thoughts!

Speak your mind! Have you had a time where your most productive work time came right after a big vacation or period of rest?  Or do you completely disagree with me on this?  What are your habits and rituals for unplugging and recharging? Share your thoughts, comments and own experiences on productivity in the comment box below!

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  1. says

    My husband left his job a couple months ago to going me full time in my business. We have deemed naps as part of our “corporate culture.” We love it! Your brain needs rest, too, and if you’re tired, you can’t think.

    Great post!

  2. says

    It’s sooooo hard to stop, but when I do… and actually take those days off… completely unplugged, I always come back refreshed, alive and more creative and productive.

    Recently I hired my Filippino VA and gave her a bunch of (draining) tasks that free me up to create more (and rest more). Just 6 weeks after I hired her I took 10 days away, and “the wheels didn’t fall off the bus”. She handled everything, and made me money in my absence. It was wonderful!

    I still don’t have enough for her to fill her day, but everyday I discover new things that I would automatically just do, then I stop and say: “I can give this to my VA”! She paid for herself 4X over in the first month!

  3. says

    This was perfect. I have fibromyalgia so there are times when my mind and body just quit on me. Sometimes its hours or could be a day or more. This past weekend I had to veg and was feeling so guilty the entire time. But on Monday, I was so excited to start back up with great energy. THANK YOU for your article. I will no longer feel guilty when I am not able to work but will look at the situation as a mind and body recharge. Can’t impress upon you how powerful this message is to me. Thank you again and again!

  4. cheryl says

    This afternoon I was feeling slightly overwhelmed due to a new project I’m working on so I took a quiet timeout and laid my head back for about 45 minutes. I felt better afterwards, more refreshed and when I checked my email there was your “Productivety” post. How weird…but thanks James…I needed that!

  5. says

    I love your stuff James. Always really great insight about things that are important and valuable. And you nailed it with the idea that you have to take time off that is free off guilt and other negative and draining emotions. Just being present in the moment and aware of it instead of thinking of the past and future with regret or fear, it’s been discovered, changes the brain. Thanks for the post.

  6. Lucy Jennings says

    I have finally learned not to feel guilty for “wasting” time. I often, especially when projects are looming, just delve into tasks that find me wandering around the house, seeming to get nothing done. But I am rejuvenated after zoning out, I think it’s good for my brain and in the end… productivity.

  7. says

    I got so tired after reading this post. Now I want some rest 😀

    James, nice analogy about the bridges. I am going to use it in my seminars and public speaking events.

  8. Conor says

    I was actually excited to read this article because well, laziness was the secret to productivity like what it said on the title. I was intrigued with the content of the post and I’ve actually liked what I’ve read. Well done, James!
    Whenever I get stuck on work and my mind can seem to think of anything productive, I sleep or get some fresh air. It’s like my refresh button. It totally works.
    I would also want to share an equally awesome post that I’ve read. It might add helpful ideas on how to stay productive. 🙂

  9. Jim says

    Hi James,
    Very nice and I agree with you, but how can I stop and do nothing when on the bottom of the page you placed a number of Videos, I have not seen before?
    I end up spending more time working… viewing your videos…thanks for the help. I just did 13 hours only today instead of 16. I am turning my computer off for the night. THANKS.

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