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Laziness and Productivity

Jordan Harrod
Jordan Harrod
3 min read
Laziness and Productivity
a sunset on the Esplanade during one of my walks this week 

Happy Friday!

Over the past several months, I've come to dread the weekday hours between 11AM and 2PM. This is the window when a fog descends over my brain, where my ability to work is abruptly halted for no clear reason, and where I haven't figured out how to pull myself back out other than to let the hours pass. I've wasted a lot of energy attempting to work through this period, trying to force my brain back into the flow state that I usually find myself in each morning, usually without success.

Lately, however, I've been taking a different approach to these hours, largely thanks to a book I discovered and read this week called Laziness Does Not Exist (💲). Written by social psychologist Devon Price, Ph.D., it argues that the symptoms of "laziness" that we see in ourselves or in each other are actually our bodies trying to tell us something. Usually, that something is to take a break, to rest, or to change our patterns towards something more sustainable. Instead, however, many of us have been taught to see these symptoms as moral failings; evidence that we are not working hard enough; a sign that if we just drink more coffee and sleep less, we'll eventually rescue ourselves from our laziness and return to our morally good status as productive workers.

This mindset, which I'm still personally reckoning with, feels reminiscent to the hedonic treadmill running in reverse. Instead of returning to a stable level of happiness despite positive or negative events in our lives, we return to a level of fatigue, dissatisfaction, and negative self-criticism despite the progress or lack thereof that we've made in our work. In my case, I consistently found myself in an increasingly negative headspace as the clock ticked towards 11AM, frustrated that I couldn't just force my brain to work differently during those midday hours.

Over the past few days, however, I've begun to look forward to those hours. Instead of spending three hours attempting to force myself to work on tasks that drain my executive function, I've taken this time to go for my daily walk, to read a book with a cup of tea, to cook myself a delicious lunch, or to take a nap. And when 2:01PM comes, I can come back to my desk feeling happier, more alert, and more interested in the remaining work that I've planned for the day. In fact, I end up getting more done, in spite of the fact that I'm technically working fewer hours.

Obviously, I am in a privilaged position to be able to have this amount of work-life flexibility, and not everyone can exert this much autonomy over their schedule. But if you've decided to diverge from the typically 9-5 schedule, I'd love to hear what your day looks like - you can always ping me on social media or shoot me an email.


☀️This Week's Snippets

📖 Reading: The Fifth Season by N. K. Jeminsin (💲) - I'm about a two-thirds of the way through this, and it's been such a good read! I don't think I've ever read a science fiction book that focuses on female and/or POC protagonists, so this has been a nice change.

🎥 Watching: Supergirl Season 6 Episode 12- I have a love-hate relationship with this show, largely due queerbaiting and weirdly inconsistent social justice messaging, but last week's episode (co-written by Azie Tesfai, the first Ethiopian/Eritrean person to play a superhero) featured some really compelling scenes in which many of the main characters have to reckon with the fact that they've historically overlooked the challenges faced by marginalized groups in favor of fighting the next magical enemy.

📖 Reading: Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price (💲) - I discovered this book in an NPR interview with the author, and immediately picked up an ebook copy that I started and finished in the same day. Having read a lot of the popular producitivity books (ex. Deep Work, The Four-Hour Work Week, etc.) this year, it was nice to read something that came from a very different perspective of acknowledging when your body is telling you that you need a break.

👚 Wearing: Merch from You're Wrong About and Maintenance Phase - We've established in previous newsletters that I'm 1000% obsessed with both of these podcasts, so it should come as no surprise that I finally got around to buying some merch.

🧠 Quote of the Week:

"When we feel unmotivated, directionless, or “lazy,” it’s because our bodies and minds are screaming for some peace and quiet." - Laziness Does Not Exist by Dr. Devon Price (💲)