According to Merriam-Webster, “lazy” means not liking hard work or being active, as well as moving slowly.

If we think about it, “being lazy” then, is open to interpretation. Would you call a colleague who’s always on social media but manages to submit his reports on time lazy? How about a locksmith that over time, has mastered enough skill to fix locks in a matter of minutes? Is he lazy because he doesn’t spend hours on his work anymore?

It’s All in the Brain

One of the most energy-consuming activities humans do everyday is decision-making. From the second we wake up, we are instantly faced with a multitude of decisions: from what to eat for breakfast, how to get to work, what to wear – or whether to just forget it all and lie down in bed again. If you’re like millions of “lazy” people who need that extra five minutes before getting up, don’t feel bad. It’s all in your brain.

A recent study conducted by scientists at Oxford University found an interesting difference between “lazy” versus motivated people. The participants were instructed to complete certain tasks with different levels of reward, while an MRI machine scanned their brains. Surprisingly, they found that there’s an area in the brain of apathetic people that showed HIGHER activity when taking action.


Professor of Neurology and Cognitive Neuroscience, Masud Husain, explained that perhaps it is due to inefficient connections that’s why their brains ended up using more energy than usual. This means that if a certain decision requires more effort, “lazy” people would either pass on the chance OR feel totally exhausted afterwards.

It may seem as if apathetic individuals aren’t doing the hard work you expect – but that’s only because they approach work a bit differently.


They Work Smarter – Not Harder

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” – Bill Gates


Like mostly everyone you know, you were also probably brought up to believe that working hard is the only way to get what you want in life. Apparently, that’s not the rule that “lazy” people follow. Often, it’s not what you do but HOW you do it.


Back when Bill Gates and his team were working with IBM on developing MS-DOS, they had to beat a tough deadline of only a few months before upper management pulled the plug on the project. Instead of creating an operating system from scratch, Gates bought the rights to an OS made by another software company in Seattle and just built MS-DOS on it.

They Avoid Burnout by Taking Breaks

“It’s important to prepare for the demands of the everyday, but it’s equally as crucial to enjoy life.” – Richard Branson


Photo by Jarle Naustvik via Flickr licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

One of the things that scare busy people – especially entrepreneurs – is taking a break. There’s something about NOT doing anything on a hectic Monday morning that gets a good number of people upset and illicit such responses as “you’re wasting time”. However, being swamped with work isn’t good either. In fact, being too busy may in fact, lead to burnout and less productivity.


That’s why businessman Richard Branson invests a lot on his vacations. In one of his blog entries on Virgin Australia, he encourages busy folks to stop, relax, and be inspired. According to Branson, his breaks have been crucial to his decision-making and they have helped him achieve a work-life balance.

They Focus on Quality – Not Quantity

“Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.” – Steve Jobs

Photo by indigo_girl via Flickr licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.


People often assume that someone is lazy when they see a person doing only one thing, as opposed to a million other tasks (i.e. multi-tasking). It’s built into our system to feel impressed when we see folks with a hundred tasks to cross off their to-do list. But the real question is: what kind of work are you really doing?

Wharton management professor, Matthew Bidwell, states that often, managers focus only quantitative aspects of work to measure productivity simply because well, they’re easier to calculate. But producing more doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re also doing better. Instead, why not just do better?


Steve Jobs made a similar statement after he talked with Nike CEO, Mark Parker. Jobs was blunt when he mentioned that while Nike produced a lot of cool products, they also made tons of bad stuff. To Jobs, productivity happens when people focus on only one thing. Focus on this single task, hone it, and improve on it – until you have something that a lot of folks would find hard to live without.

Lazy In Thought – Not In Action

Don’t feel bad if people think that you’re “lazy”. It could be your strongest point if you know how to act on it. Just because you’re not juggling 50 tasks today doesn’t mean you’re not doing something productive.


Whenever somebody points out your apathetic tendencies, just remind them of Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Steve Jobs: all professional, successful, lazy people who rose in their fields thanks to how they patterned their actions. By working smarter, taking plenty of breaks, and focusing on only one task at a time, they were able to become more productive – not only in their careers, but also in life.