I’m a huge fan of harnessing the power of your default. If you can make your default decision or action the one that’s most helpful to you, life becomes easy. This is really the reasoning behind my obsession with creating good habits. A good habit is, by definition, a default situation that gets you the result you want.
Of course, creating new habits takes effort, which is the exact opposite of what we’re going for here. This led me to wonder, how could we make ‘creating new habits’ into a habit? The answer came from a conversation I remembered with a gymnastics coach around the concept of ‘creative laziness’!
If you have teenaged children, you may be familiar with the amount of effort one person can put into finding ways to avoid doing something that they don’t want to do. Often, the energy my children have put into avoiding a task is an order of magnitude greater than the energy required to just do it right from the start. If you’re sensing a slight hint of frustration about this, I’m not surprised.
The trick I’ve found is to really highlight the amount of effort that is wasted.
The gymnastics coach I mentioned would continuously remind her students that good technique is creative laziness. She wasn’t just telling them to engage specific muscles for the fun of it. She wanted them to use perfect technique because that is the easiest way to achieve what you’re trying to do. Doing a pull up using your shoulders, back and core is significantly easier than trying to perform the same movement using just your biceps. Once you realise that, being too tired to do a movement properly doesn’t make sense because what you’re really saying is “I’m too tired to do this the easy way”.
Initially, like the gymnastics students, you might need someone to point out the ways in which you’re not being optimally efficient. Initially, like the teenager, you might be reluctant to recognise that your ‘lazy’ option is actually more work. Once you start really thinking about the way you’re approaching tasks, and the principles behind what you’re doing, you can often see opportunities for creative laziness.
Creative laziness isn’t about trying to fit more into your day or always pushing harder and faster. Rather, it’s about taking the things you already want to be doing and making them easier to achieve. For me, this involves 3 main questions…
Am I using the right tool for the job?
In the case of exercise, this would be about whether you’re using the right muscles and the correct range of motion to give yourself the best possible chance. At work, this might be about asking myself whether this is actually a task that I ought to be doing myself or whether it could potentially be outsourced or even automated.
Am I performing tasks in the correct order?
If I ask the kids to clean the kitchen, there’s a reasonable chance that they’ll sweep or hoover the floor but almost no chance that they’ll wipe down the work surfaces. When they’re reminded to clear up the crumbs, these will be swept onto the floor, undoing all of the good work done so far. If I’m making tea for myself and coffee for my wife, it’s more efficient to start the coffee machine before boiling the kettle for my tea, as coffee takes longer to make. Most of us are used to this kind of project management planning in our work lives, but making this kind of question automatic is an essential part of making ‘creating good habits’ into a habit.
Is there a better way to achieve my goal?
Sometimes we can get so wrapped up in streamlining our current process for accomplishing a task that we don’t take a step back and wonder whether there might be a better way. Being ready to throw out all of our preconceptions and being open to radical suggestions is key to allowing good habits to appear by themselves.
And that’s why I’m throwing out my preconceived ideas of making the tea and coffee myself. Instead, I’ll spend a little time teaching the kids how to make the perfect cuppa and then buy a little bell. I just hope they don’t get too creative with their laziness!