Is Busyness a Form of Laziness?

I hate raking leaves. I mean I really hate raking leaves. It just so happens that I have five large oak trees in my yard that drop copious amounts of leaves, including a live oak that drops leaves all year long. My wife loves a clean, leaf-free yard. So you might say, “No problem, hire someone to rake the yard for you—make your wife happy and prosper.” Well, I am also cheap, so while I hate to rake leaves, I hate to pay someone to rake them even more.

Each fall, a ritual happens in my house. The weather cools, the leaves change and begin to fall and cover the ground. My wife hints that it may be time to clean it up. I acknowledge (and ignore). My wife more forcefully hints (several times) and I reluctantly agree that action must be taken. So, do I grab the rake and start bagging this problem that covers my lawn? Nope. I take over tasks my wife does exceptionally well (to lighten her load, and distract her). I will develop a desire to clean the house, wash, dry and fold clothes, cook dinners, pack lunches for the kids…anything to avoid this curious disdain for leaves. I have even built a deck onto the house and re-built a fence to keep my bride content—all while avoiding the inevitable. 

Author Tim Ferris addresses this busyness to avoid necessary, undesireable action in his new book, Tools for Titans. He states, “If you consistently feel the counterproductive need for volume and doing lots of stuff, put this on a Post-It note: Being busy is a form of laziness—lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being busy is most often used as a disguise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.” 

To conquer this issue of busyness as a form of laziness, Ferris recommends writing down the three to five things that are making you most anxious. Most of the time, these are the things punted from one day to the next that have been supplanted by tasks of convenience that are also of lesser importance. Ask yourself, “If I do these things, will I be more comfortable?” Then block our two to three hours and focus on ONE of those tasks, without distraction. Block out your schedule, stay off social media, avoid phones calls…you must focus on this one task.  When that issue is handled, move on to the next one in the same fashion.   

That is it. That is the secret sauce. Acknowledge the uncomfortable task and attack it. Put aside your busyness, contemplate what is making your rest uneasy and specifically devote time set aside to the issue until it is no longer an issue. 

So, what happened to my leaves this year? Well, I took Tim Ferris’ advice (my wife gave me the book, by the way) and addressed the leaves without hesitation this year. Now, if I can repaint that kitchen, I think all will be well in the Smith household. Those clothes aren’t going to wash and dry themselves. 

Subscribe to Culture Matters

About the Author 

Timothy is a senior manager in government services where he drafts and negotiates contracts, and reviews legal documentation and potential acquisition of bid awards. He is among the many passionate team members who have embraced their role in building the Wise Firm.

Topics: Focus, Leadership

Leave A Comment