Let’s talk about “Lazy.” I keep hearing this word – usually from high achievers referring to themselves the instant they take a moment to relax. I’ve read a lot of tweets lately with the author using the term “lazy” to refer to themselves when they weren’t working or being “productive.” I don’t know about them but to me “lazy” has a negative connotation. Webster defines it as “not eager or willing to work or exert oneself; indolent; slothful.” Other online sources offer: “disinclined to work or exertion; averse to labor; idle; shirking work.” Not exactly a description I would want to use referring to myself or anyone else.

So what’s up with this duality of being either productive or lazy? Is there no middle ground? And why do so many people refer to themselves as “lazy” when they are not doing, doing, doing? Is it not okay to relax?

How have we come to be so hard on ourselves? And how hard are we on our employees if we perceive that they are not productive 100% of the time? A recent study states that using the Internet at work is good for productivity.

Is it perhaps, not only okay, but even necessary to relax and recharge? Is a half hour of daydreaming on a lounge chair in the yard a bad thing to do? Or is it a valid human activity? Can it be necessary to soothe my neural synapses, enabling refreshed and more creative “productive time” later?

The Healing Power of Not-Doing

About 15 years ago a friend’s husband suffered brain damage from a car accident that left him cognitively disabled. Her trauma from this experience was in some ways worse than his. He was no longer himself, had violent outbursts and needed constant supervision. Previous to her husband’s accident, she was a full-time physician. After the accident, she left her medical practice and once her husband was settled in a care facility, she spent 8 months on her couch watching the trees sway outside her bay window. A few years later, once she had put her life back together, she shared with me the necessity of that healing practice. That powerful image of what she needed to do (or rather not do) for her healing, has stuck with me.

In Jill Bolte Taylor’s book My Stroke of Insight, she shares that after her stroke, what she needed most was sleep. What her brain and body needed was not more testing or the doing of “rehab,” but the soothing, nurturing, regenerative power of rest. Would we call her “lazy” for not getting back in the saddle immediately? Of course not. But yet we judge ourselves and others when we take “downtime.” Downtime? How’s that for a negative expression? “The computers are down” means they are useless. And when humans are “down” they are depressed. So perhaps we should stop taking “downtime” and instead set aside time for relaxation and renewal.

And for those of you who have people working for you – Hire the most competent and reliable staff you can find…and then trust them. Trust them to get their work done in their own way. Get off their backs. Let go of the micro-managing and allow your people the freedom to relax a little, surf the net, chit chat, etc. They will be happy. And they will be productive.

“All work and no play makes Jill a dull girl.” It also makes Jill a less creative problem solver, as well as weary and prone to making mistakes.

Let’s give Jill a break. Literally.