The Art of Being Lazy

It’s been a lazy week.

I’ve sat on my butt for nine straight hours, eyes locked on a screen, typing and revising and generally sitting motionless for a significant chunk of the day. Come 5pm, I make the drive home and immediately collapse in front of the computer, sitting even more through those dwindling evening hours.

This week, at least, I haven’t done any number of useful, positive things I could be doing. I could be exercising. I could be taking a walk. I could be closing the laptop and staring at something other than a glowing rectangle, and I could be going to bed earlier as a result.

But that’s the nature of work, sometimes, and a routine that anyone familiar with a desk job can fully understand.

Sometimes you just want to go home and sit. Sometimes you just want to watch TV. Sometimes, ahem, you want to play this new game that came out last week and steadily ignore the fact that it’s slowly consuming your life.

These are all behaviors that any self-help blogger will frown upon. I warn against them myself in my first eBook, Simpler. We call it wasted time, and that’s a pretty accurate description — these are hours we could spend with books, with family, with friends and pots and pans in the kitchen.

And let me be clear: most of the time, we should take advantage of these hours. Most of the time, we should use our limited evening minutes to emphasize the things that really matter.

But sometimes we don’t, folks, and guess what? That’s okay.

This is my week to be a lazy bum, I think, and I am perfectly happy with this decision. If you’ve ever felt the same, then do yourself a favor and keep the following few points in mind.

1. You’re not going to gain 30 pounds.

You might even lose some. Why?

It’s as simple as this: if you’re moving less, scale back your eating to match it. I know my activity level for this week is pretty miserable, so I’ve taken a few easy steps to compensate: cut out about 90% of my snacking, eat smaller meals whenever I plop down at the table, and stop, breathe, and listen to my stomach.

My appetite has decreased alongside my exercise levels. I don’t need to eat as much, accordingly, and while I’m definitely a fan of big meals, I’ve really gone out of my way to stop eating when I’m actually full.

The net result? Even with the lack of exercise, I’ve effortlessly maintained my weight. My designated vanity time in front of the mirror indicates I might have leaned out a bit more, which is always a perk too.

Again, the takeaway is simple: a handful of lazy days isn’t going to derail you. Eat a little less to help make up for it, if you want, or just operate like normal. A few days of relaxation should be just that — a few days to smile and breathe deep, not beat yourself up for giving yourself a break.

2. There’s no need to be hard on yourself.

We live in a culture of productivity — goal-oriented, eyes on the prize, and with a mentality of go, go, go at every hour of the day. This gets a lot of things done, admittedly, but it does come with a cost that’s more damaging than we might think.

We feel guilty whenever we take a break. We get down on ourselves whenever we’re not 100% productive 100% of the time, and we soon start linking our vegetation time with so much depression and heartbreak that we can’t even enjoy the occasional mindless hour.

Let’s stop this.

Let’s remember that we’re not machines, people, and let’s remember too that taking time off to drool on our desks can be a powerful — and necessary — way to recharge our batteries. Let’s stop feeling guilty, in other words, when we take a few days to collect ourselves, and let’s try and wring as much enjoyment out of those days as possible.

The Bigger Picture

I have just about a million things I need to do.

I need to exercise. I need to work on my next book. I need to do this and that and everything under the sun, but this week I’m happy to say that I need to do just one thing: unwind. I need to remember that my health won’t collapse if I take a few days to sit on my butt, and I need to remember that I should enjoy these hours as much as possible.

I can be productive tomorrow. And in the grand scheme of our lives, a lazy day (or four) is little more than a ripple in the water — so why don’t we enjoy it?


  1. ealina says:

    I agree! We must stop feeling guilty for taking a lazy day now and then. Both body and mind need to unwind sometimes.

    In our family of five we recharge our batteries every sunday :)

  2. Primal Toad says:

    Great message Matt! I’m taking the rest of time prior to this years Thanksgiving to unwind as you described here. I will be walking a lot, spending time with my family as its my mothers 61st birthday this weekend, etc. I’ll be going to bed earlier as I did last night.

    I’m taking life slow. I have a to do list that I look at for a second and then engage on one task. I don’t freaking care if I don’t get that done when I really probably want to. I just let it be. I do it and when I get it done sweet!

    I took 15 minutes while sipping on tea this morning to watch squirrels chow down on crab apples – it was awesome. I then walked the golf course next door and talked to myself out loud. It was a riot.

  3. Pingback: Link Love 11/18/11 | Cordelia Calls It Quits

  4. Grace says:

    Well, you’re human! I find productivity and lazniess come and go in phases. I try to enjoy both equally:)

  5. Mia says:

    I am lately toying with the idea that everything in my life is exactly where it needs to be, so I should stop worrying about it. Your post is excellent, and fits in with this perfectly. If you are feeling lazy, BE lazy… and trust yourself to get back on with it when you need to.

    Also, I am typing this while sitting on my couch watching movies. I moved from my bed after spending several hours THERE watching documentaries. Clearly Im up to speed on how to be lazy. :) Now to avoid the triple cream brie while I do it, which is admittedly harder…