Like most people, I don’t enjoy reading something pithy that stands in stark contrast to my personal ethos, especially when I’ve managed to turn a vice into a virtue. I can’t count the number of times I’ve smugly told someone, “If you want a job done efficiently, ask a lazy man to do it.” (Well, I could count them, but I won’t. Because I’m lazy and it’s almost brunchtime.)
When you have a terrible attention span for boring tasks, but also force yourself to complete said tasks because you’re a good team player and not a work-to-rule shirker, it’s inevitable that you’ll seek and find shortcuts. Maybe you do a document-wide find’n’replace instead of scrolling through pages and pages to capitalise every instance of the word “Tom”. Or perhaps you’ll pad out an explanatory paragraph with two examples where one would do, instead of using that precious word count on deeper analysis that might not be fully grasped by the reader otherw- you get the idea.
But these little efficiencies don’t always pan out, as the unbracketed portion of the heading up there – a translation of the Spanish El flojo trabaja doble – demonstrates. Worse, when I read it, it was immediately followed by an example that made sense to me: try to carry too many dirty dishes across a crowded room to save yourself a second trip, and you may end up spending that saved time sweeping up broken crockery. Or maybe you’ll submit a document that’s now filled with ‘Tomato’ and ‘botTom’, because you didn’t think you had to give it a final once-over.
Of course, if you’re in a management role, you have to look at this through the lens of productivity, or what you really want from your workers. If you’re paying people to do a task by the hour, inherent laziness is possibly the only reason they’ll be seeking to do that task more efficiently (and, if they’re dodgy, they’re possibly inserting a few extra ‘checks and balances’ along the way, if you know what I mean. Yeah, you do.)
On the other hand, if you’re paying a flat rate, there’s more incentive to speed through it without checking for those corner-cutting unforced errors. Do you treat the new employee with suspicion when they whiz through their work in a morning instead of taking three days like the last guy? Or is it a cause for celebration and/or promotion?
It’s a tricky balance to strike, isn’t it? But there’s an obvious solution, that’s been staring you in the face. How can you figure out the best path for your organisation without going to a great deal of personal effort and expense? Ask a lazy man to do it.
Righto, that’s brunch.