German military chief General von Manstein said:
“There are only four types of officers.
First, there are the lazy, stupid ones. Leave them alone, they do no harm.
Second, there are the hard-working intelligent ones. They make excellent staff officers, ensuring that every detail is properly considered.
Third, there are the hard-working, stupid ones. These people are a menace, and must be fired at once. They create irrelevant work for everybody.
Finally, there are the intelligent lazy ones. They are suited for the highest office.”
Cultivate lazy intelligence. Do you lack smarts or lack laziness?
If you think you’re not so smart — and to think this, you have to be quite intelligent after all — work on your knowledge and expertise in a very narrow area, where extraordinary results are available for modest effort.
If you are smart, but not lazy, work on laziness. To do everything, simply because you can, lowers effectiveness. Concentrate on the really important things that get amazing results. Do only the few things with greatest benefit.
It’s amazing how often people dispute this advice. A typical conversation runs like this:
“You must be joking when you say become lazier.”
“I’m deadly serious. I can’t focus well enough on the 20 percent if I’m also trying to do everything else. Far better to spend twice as much time on the magic 20 percent, and far less on the rest. Bottom line: 60 percent more results for 60 percent less energy.”
“Shouldn’t we put 100 percent energy into the magic 20 percent and get four times more?”
“Fine in theory, and in practice eventually, but first slow down. Stop inessential things. There’s a limit to how much time we can spend on the magic activities without diluting quality. Force ourselves to do less. Win time to find more vital areas to work on and more effective things to do.”
“But you don’t really believe in being lazy, do you?”
“There are lazy people, like Ronald Reagan, who achieved a great deal just by being focused on one or two objectives. And there are super-hard workers, like President Carter, who had too many objectives and failed frenetically. Still, there are excellent scientists or artists, obsessed with their work, who love it. I wouldn’t tell them to become lazy. I’m not really advocating laziness, but time to concentrate on what matters. If you don’t like the word ‘lazy,’ try ‘relaxed.’ Do what you enjoy, do it calmly and without worries.
“A hard-working person is often too busy to spot what’s really significant. A lazy person wants to do as little as possible and so concentrates only on the essentials. What’s really productive is a lazy person who thinks new thoughts and is focused on making them happen. Thinking is often disturbing, sometimes even frightening. Burying ourselves in trivia is less threatening.
“For most of us, the only way to create something new and valuable is to slow down, do fewer things, chill out. If you really love what you’re doing, you don’t need to be lazy. If you’re doing lots of things you don’t enjoy, cut them, keeping just the valuable and enjoyable things.”