Laziness is something we all drop into now and then.  But, unlike many American pastimes, we don’t really focus enough on it.  It can be perfected.

Today, a few points that may improve your “Lazing Skills.”

Laziness ISN’T Lazy

In fact, laziness is very closely aligned with a much different concept:  Efficiency.  Let’s take a “use-case” and you’ll see what I mean.

Let’s look at a typical cleaning task around the shop here at the ranch and you’ll see what I mean.

Outside my office door is a 60-inch long workbench that is a kind of “catch-all” space.  Originally, this was to be a space that would be used for shipping (since I sell a thing, or two, on eBay now and then) as well as a charging-station for our light-weight yard equipment.  Often, though, the bench will be used for unpacking small boxes from Amazon, as well.

Problem:  Since I walk by it, it tends to collect everything.  There’s an ultrasonic cleaner on it, along with two fresh (in the box) laser printer cartridges, a battery charger, two rolls of tape that failed to fly themselves back onto the shipping tape shelf, a roll of wire for  an antenna project, a can of bug spray, plus a……well, you get the idea, right?

The Trap:  All of us have a myriad of such minor cleaning projects around the house. There’s always at least one “drop-stuff-here” place, too.  What usually happens is one of two things:

A) While doing the project (reintroducing ORDER to the bench in this case) you get interrupted and so things get completed ASAP.  Instead?  You can take that phone call or whatever the intrusion was.  Things get dropped in situ.

B) The other thing that nails us on a regular basis is mission creep.  All I want to do is clean off the bench top so I can see wood again.  But, often as not, that expands and suddenly I’m putting up new shelves, moving the bench and cleaning under it, or refinishing the top, or….  If you’re the least bit prone to ADHD, this is a killer…trust me.

Eventually, I will sneak up on the problem, but before doing so, there’s a checklist of systematic ways to leverage my time.

  • Is there a way to re-scale the task?
  • Can this project be  compressed?
  • Can it be batched?
  • Can the task be made “modular?

All useful strategies worth a mention:

Re-scaling the task means only doing the absolute minimum.  For my bench, this would mean getting the big stuff out of the way and calling it good.  Next scaling level would be to complete to actually clean…From there, the upscale would be to vacuum the top and under the bench, too.  Crazy is putting up new shelves and putting ceramic tile on the benchtop.

Compressing the task involves considering ways to make the job go faster.  Since the office needs to be vacuumed one of these days, maybe the end of the bench cleaning becomes part of that.  After all, the big shop-vac will be out.  OR, I could time-compress. Stopwatches are miracle workers.  Figuring out the fastest possible ways to get this task done and make it a race against time….

Batching is a form of compressing tasks.  The battery charger lives in a different part of the shop, so is there anything else I can “dual-purpose” over there?  And say! Three of those boxes are heading for the same upper storage shelf inside the office…so we can nail those at the same time….

Modularizing simply means putting the boxes away this morning (as they occupy the largest space, then do the battery charger tomorrow, left-out tools the day after.  Since each of these fits with walking by, it should be simple to do many small modules (steps)…

Laziness Gets More Done

I ran into my own stupidity head-on last weekend while out working in the yard….in fact, twice in the same project.  Illustrates many things…

Understand that the big trees between the house and the office/shop are always dropping small branches on the pea gravel…so every so-often, they get picked up.  I roll the electric chipper out, plug it in, turn it on and start collecting branches and tossing them in.  I would walk back and forth to the chipper almost countless times.  Then I got LAZY.

Out comes the wheel barrow…I was gleeful at the prospect of batching the task into two parts:  collecting (into the wheel barrow) and then mulching (shredding).  What’s more, since there’s a low retaining wall and Elaine had raked some of the yard debris to the wall,  I could simply walk along the low side of the retaining wall…and toss things in.  No bending…bonus time!

Great, right?

Well, no.

Out comes Elaine (who’s a marvelous supervisor) just as I’m about to run the overflowing wheel barrow to the chipper.

Why are you going to chip that stuff, we don’t need mulch right now.  Why not just throw it in the tractor bucket and dump it on the burn pile?”

Boy, did I feel stupid.  Men are especially prone to this kind of hole in their thinking.  I had jumped right to the power tool instead of thinking first about the objective and laziness….

“Great idea, dear…thanks!”

I had failed to step back – before engaging the task – and look at how to best SCALE to hit  the fastest (therefore most time-efficient) outcome.

You know George, your time’s more valuable than feeding a chipper…”  I had missed that myself and I’d previously thought I was a pretty smart cookie.

Alas,Elaine was (as usual) right.  A broad smile spread across my face… The chipper was going back inside and I hadn’t run the power out, yet.  The tractor was 15-feet away and a dump of the wheel barrow into the front-end loader bucket and it was off to the burn pile.  Then, as long as the tractor was running, I decided to bush-hog about 4-acres so when the burn ban comes off (due to seasonal lack of rain) that will have been done.  Better (and more relaxing) use of my time.  The tractor has a “cruise control.”

It was then I recognized – after nearly 70-years of Life – that I tend to wrongly mechanize things.  I was powering OK, but not necessarily with the right/fastest/bestest tool available!

Silly discussion?  Not really…

Procrastination gets all of us at one time, or another.  If you’re lucky, a spouse, friend, co-worker, or role-model will come along and will teach you the “better way.”  Deep down, procrastination is the little voice saying “Gee, we don’t want to spend time and effort on THAT, do we?”  Shorten the effort, trim the time, and sell your “little voice” on the usefulness of the outcome/benefit…

Since then, I’ve sworn to be lazier…and it’s starting to pay off.

This weekend, after running into some issues on my electronics bench with hand-cobbled small circuit boards (for the Light Crown project), I’ve decided the lazy way to get them done better is to take the hour or so to download the free PCB Layout software from www.pad2pad.com.  I can order a bunch of small boards and just stuff and solder, instead of spending a lot of time using Vectorboard…great stuff for one-offs, but to make up some unite for relatives and friends?  Nope…the time solution is to stuff boards and that will increase reliability and drop production time to nearly nothing.

And that’s the point.  Since, as one of my late mentors schooled me long ago, “Life’s only 29,000 days long and you burn one every morning…”  the only way to get more out of life is to be studiously lazy.

Which we now see is really RUTHLESSLY EFFICIENT.

A few readers have asked “How is it you get so much done???”

The answer is that I work extremely hard at being as lazy as possible while still getting to the outcome I’m after.

Do with it, what you will…when you get around to it, of course.

Write when you get rich,

George@ure.net