Why it’s actually *good for you* to be lazy!
We all do it, don’t we? Take on too much and then get stressed out about it — it’s far too easy to be busy all the time. Muddy Berkshire editor Sarah has been chatting with Laurence Shorter, whose new book is all about the delights and benefits of being lazy. Feet up and read on…
Laurence Shorter is an author, leadership coach and stand-up comedian and his latest book, The Lazy Guru’s Guide to Life (Orion Books, £14.99) is a charming and lighthearted look at a serious problem. We are all on the hamster wheel and it seems to be getting faster, so how do we stop? Is it really possible to achieve more by doing less, and be happier for it? Before Laurence appears at the Hungerford Literary Festival on Sat 22 October to answer these questions and more, I had a chat with him and he gave me these tips.
I’m a busy working mum, I haven’t got time to be lazy!
Well it’s called the Lazy Guru rather than just being lazy – it’s not about slumping around all day. For the majority of us, what we consider ‘lazy’ is not really lazy at all, and what we consider relaxing isn’t actually relaxing. So when you’re watching TV, reading, scrolling through your phone etc. you’re actually filling the space that could just be left empty. Regardless of how busy you are, if you can allow yourself to tune in and do nothing for whatever precious moment you have, on a train, in a taxi etc. you nourish yourself in a really deep way. You do not need to be checking your phone, watching TV, reading a newspaper… so stop loading every minute or hour with something functional to do.
But I don’t think I can live with the guilt of doing nothing?
Guilt is a strong emotion, but it always leads to trouble. You feel guilty, then this builds up resentment which will eventually express itself in exhaustion, burn-out and depression. We all have those voices in our head that are telling us what we ‘should’ be doing, and notice how convincing they are too: ‘I shouldn’t leave my kids to play on their own’; they should be reading, I should be more creative with my kids’, but all these ‘shoulds’ never leave us alone, and the fact is if you think about when you’ve been most creative and fun with your kids it was probably when you were just hanging out with them doing nothing. Eventually it’s a decision about whether to put your health and happiness first, or to put productivity first. Who do they most want to be around? Someone stressed, or someone who is relaxed, open, able to listen to them and support them?
Some quick tips and tools to help me de-stress please!
Well, the book is based on 7 practices, so here are my top 3:
- Beditate. Even if it’s just 30 seconds or a couple of minutes when you’re in bed, before you get up allow yourself to just lie there quietly, without going immediately into action mode. I’m not talking about meditation or yoga as such but just give yourself a break, you don’t have to do anything, sometimes that’s all you need to recover.
- Dump your ‘shoulds’. You actually have to see what they are first, because often they are invisible and we just have an overwhelming feeling that we should be doing something. It’s not that you shouldn’t be doing any of them but just be aware of them, you don’t have to control them, let them go.
- Un-distract yourself. We’ve all got ways we fill space – you think you’re recharging by having a coffee, but it’s just more of an addictive thing to fill your space. Be aware of the crutches you use, experiment by removing them. Be gentle with yourself.
If I only have time to do just one thing, what should it be?
There is one main practice, and this is what all lazy gurus do, and that is to STOP. If you’re not enjoying something, or getting stressed by it, stop for a moment, and wait. Stop; tune-in; let go.
Can the Lazy Guru help children and teens too?
Although I didn’t write the book for children I think it’s great for them as it’s a cartoon book and it’s written in such simple language – a friend of mine’s 10-year-old just read the whole thing in one sitting and loved it. A lot of the book is about how we bottle up emotions we don’t want to talk about so we make ourselves busy, so it’s a good way to talk to children about their emotions.
As a Lazy Guru, do you ever get stressed out?
Well, one of my big shoulds is ‘I should get a job’, because I’ve spent a lot of my time in cafés writing things and I run workshops, I have a puritan voice telling me I should get a ‘proper’ job. There is no end to shoulds, it’s like you’re fencing them and you have to stay on them to keep them at bay. As I progress in this work and I teach it, I do find that it’s easier and easier for me to be relaxed. I sometimes get nervous before giving a big talk but I know what really matters is how I am, not what I say. People are only moved and touched by how you show up as a person.
And a final message to leave us with?
My ultimate message would be, who do you want to be in life? Do you want to be someone who is successful at achieving a thing, or do you want to be someone who creates ripples of health and well being around them? We need to give ourselves more downtime and not fill it with stuff. If you don’t build in enough of the space and learn how to relax, then you will hit the wall eventually and then you’ll have no choice – your body will give you no choice. I’m not there yet, but I know when I’m in that space, I create so much more value. Just learn to build that space around you, even if it’s in tiny little pockets – bring your energy and attention into yourself for a moment, and just do nothing.