Creativity and laziness. Two contradicting concepts that to the untrained eye appear diametrically opposed, but in many ways aren’t much different. Both require energy and sacrifice.
Active Procrastination in a Hectic World
We live in a world that values hustle and hard work. When we’re not productive, we feel that we’re not doing all that we can. We believe that we’re exercising our “free will” when we’re constantly striving to achieve our goals.
This can cause significant amounts of negative stress.
Creative laziness can be defined as the art of procrastination. It’s neither laziness nor inertia. It’s a delicate balance between the two.
While it allows us to not do things, it never leads to a complete abandonment of action. Nor slip into idleness.
Rather, creative laziness is the conscious decision not to hurry when there’s no need. It means living at a leisurely pace when it’s feasible.
It’s a pause in activity to enjoy each moment to the fullest.
As human beings, we need to be, well, human!
Pareto Meets Laziness
The Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, applies in creativity as much as anywhere else. 20 percent of the effort leads to 80 percent of the result.
It comes down to deciding what effort to put forth – and that’s where laziness can play a role!
The interesting thing is that creative laziness still means focusing – it doesn’t mean sinking into dissolute chaos or inertia! Or succumbing to the endless distraction of social media rabbit holes. In this sense, there’s a spectrum of laziness that we need to be aware of!
I’m a lazy person by nature. I take naps and am always looking for good ways to do things! But napping doesn’t mean I do everything half-heartedly.
But it does mean that I try to clear my head to do more interesting things – create more interesting things – instead of being caught up in boring processes that consume time and energy.
Laziness as a Driver of Creative Efficiency
This is where the laziness comes in – it’s an engine for creative efficiency!
In “laziness time” my mind gets into a kind of diffuse state. Thoughts ripple along – it’s the time when the big wheels are in play (unlike brainstorming, where a barrage of creative thought, some big, some small, hits me).
Interestingly, this state occurs when my mind is freed from doing things “for real.”
I can snooze, listen to music, or prepare dinner. The ideas don’t come in spurts, but are there all the time, mingling together.
As a writer, this kind of mind-wandering allows me to gather all my scattered ideas and put them together.
Limit Creative Tasks
Improvement, productivity, and creativity are all about improving your ability to get new things done in the most elegant way possible.
Laziness forces you to ask yourself the question: What can you do without? Which unnecessary tasks can I eliminate?
If you can figure out what you need to do and what’s most valuable, you’ll get more done with less effort.
There’s a good point where laziness and focus meet. It’s the freedom to do what you really want and the determination to achieve it.
Stand Back and Observe
For creativity, it’s important that you step back from life – and allow life’s arrows and slingshots to strike you far away.
This is the moment when daydreaming is possible. In daydreaming, the mind spins in unique patterns around a kaleidoscope of experiences, feelings, and memories.
This downtime for the brain is important for creativity because it allows the mind to take in the world without filters, without having to solve problems or find solutions – just to absorb and reflect.
Time to reflect allows the mind to go places that are out of reach for you when you’re in the thick of things.
You can never be creative in the middle of things. There are too many distractions. You need to be able to remove yourself – to withdraw.
Meditation of any kind is, of course, a wonderful way to stand back.
Life Isn’t About Goals
Life isn’t about chasing an endless series of goals. If you think creatively, you’ll find the right way to do things. That’s what creative laziness is all about.
We’re at our best when we can focus our attention on the task at hand. When we can stop obsessing over irrelevant stimuli, and when we can postpone gratification.
The quality of “laziness” is important here. The ability to turn off the pursuit of reward, to get out of a rut, is critical to your creativity.
This is the time to dream, take a walk, sit in front of the fireplace, and pause.
The Connection Between Focus and Laziness
Focus gives creative people the ability to accomplish things. But it requires the ability to tune out distractions and really want to accomplish something.
Creative laziness is the ability to accomplish something, to focus on what you want without being distracted by life.
The trick is knowing how to vary lazy creativity with productive creativity. During the day, it’s important to step back and let the creative thoughts have their place.
But at other times, it’s important to just get on with the actual creative production, whether it’s writing, filmmaking, business planning, or whatever.
Mindset and Creative Laziness
The art of building creative laziness into your day is partly a matter of mindset, partly a matter of timing.
Creative laziness means you’re willing to take time out. It’s about being willing to be distracted – by something other than work.
We need to allow ourselves time when nothing needs to be done or is being done – except what we ourselves want to do.
And sometimes we need to turn off the distractions and get on with the work!
Schedule Lazy Time
The other side of the coin is simply scheduling time. For creative purposes, I schedule time for laziness. I schedule time for creative tasks, and I schedule a time to relax.
Then it’s about doing things at the right time – the right time to take a break, the right time to reflect.
It’s about knowing when it’s time to be creative and when it’s time to relax.
I find that keeping a regular schedule of rest and sleep really helps also.
Creative Laziness and Ideas
When it comes to creative ideas, there are two big problems:
- too many
- too few
Either there are dozens of ideas coming at you and it’s hard to untangle the clutter, or there’s a terrible silence. No ideas and no motivation to get anything done.
The challenge is to find the balance between these two poles.
This is where creative laziness comes in. Because creative laziness focuses your mind on the big fish, it allows you to think clearly about the next step. It creates a thinking space for you to get clarity on what’s really important. It creates space for you to get clear about what you need to do. To find creative solutions.
It’s almost like having a conversation with your “inner voice”.
A Love-Hate Relationship With Work
I find that we tend to have a love-hate relationship with work. This is true for creative work as well.
It often makes up a big part of our identity (even though we know it shouldn’t!).
That’s why it’s so important to build in some unstructured time each day to be lazy; we need to reduce the hate we’ve for our work!
Sometimes taking a whole day off is a really good idea. A conscious decision to just play, “switch off” and free your mind from the tasks of the day. To give inspiration the oxygen of time.
Don’t worry, they’ll be waiting for you when you get back!
Being creative is a process; we can’t expect to always be on top of our game. But we can work hard to get to that state, and then schedule time in our week and day to be lazy.
When we do that, we give our creativity the time it needs to grow and blossom. New ideas can come. Possible solutions loom over our mental horizons.
There will be some guilt.
Trust that your renewed creativity will quickly dispel the withdrawal symptoms you experienced during your day off when you’re back at your desk, canvas or camera.
Just as your emotions are under pressure during time off, creative chaos is a yin-yang game!
No matter how tidy I get my desk, I can be pretty sure that some chaos has accumulated in it.
The trick is to enjoy that back and forth.
And to question what the current state of the desk, papers, etc. says about where I’m at in various creative activities.
It’s that quality of observation and awareness that a messy desk can really give to your imagination and creativity!