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Slothtivity: the Secret to Happiness with Sloth-paced Productivity

3 min read

Our brain is wired to conserve energy whenever possible. In that sense, everyone is lazy. This is called the Law of Least Effort, which states that people will naturally gravitate towards the option that requires the least amount of work when facing two possibilities. We are motivated to be lazy. Instead of working against nature, why not work with it?

I’m a lazy person.

I do not go the extra mile. I’m not the one who arrives early and leaves when everyone’s left. I don’t wake up early and work out first thing in the morning. I don’t attend all my classes. I don’t do everything on my to-do list.

I’m also a slow person.

I take some time to grasp some things. My brain takes a long time to digest information and new skills. I can’t watch a video and replicate it.

But I still get things done. I’m still progressing on my goals because I’m being intentional and progressing slowly.

This is how I approach medical school. Despite skipping most online classes and spending my time writing, reading and playing tennis, I still did well in my exams. I was pretty lazy and didn’t spend much time studying.

The trick was to study the right things and study consistently, albeit slowly. And spending less time studying was beneficial for me. It allowed me to be more focused and attentive whenever I sat down to study.

I call this slothtivity. It is the idea of being slow and intentional with your work.

Sloths are slow and intentional to help them conserve energy and survive. Humans, too, are biologically tuned to save energy. Taking the easy way out is one way. Society calls this lazy, but screw that. What matters is getting your work done.

Slothtivity has its premises in the Pareto Rule, which states that 80% of your output will come from 20% of your input. If you’re a student, do you notice that 80% of what comes up in your exams is 20% of your syllabus? If you listen to music, do you realise that 80% of what you listen to is just 20% of your playlist? That is the Pareto rule in essence.

Practising slothtivity means to work on the 20% and still get a lot done.

Slothtivity in practice

Here’s a 5-step process to show how you can start practising slothtivity.

  1. Use the first hour of the day to write down 3-5 things that make you most anxious or uncomfortable. Your most important tasks are the ones you are most worried about.
  2. Ask yourself these questions for each item:

    • If this is the only thing I did today, will I be satisfied with my day?

    • Will completing this thing make other to-do’s unimportant to easier to knock off later?
  3. Focus only on the tasks where you’ve answered yes to for at least one of these questions.
  4. Block at least 2-3 hours to work on just ONE of them today. Let the other stuff slide. Be slow on purpose. What matters is being consistent.
  5. Use sync sessions to ensure you show up to work when you block your time. Sync sessions are video calls where you work with someone at the same time. You can either do this with friends or use Focusmate. Sync sessions force you to show up and focus on your work.

Making slow progress

There will be some days where we feel inspired and motivated to work, and some days where we can’t be bothered to get out of bed.

Slothtivity allows you to keep making progress on your goals even though you work less. Focusing on only one thing and committing to showing up via sync sessions makes it easier to stop your impulse for distractions.

Whenever you feel inspired to get work done, you should follow the muse and get all the extra work done. Whenever you can’t be bothered, stop once you’re done with the bare minimum. Slow and steady wins the race.

Practising slothtivity also makes you feel good about yourself. You feel successful when you get to complete your one thing. We all have productive days and many other days that are less productive. We’ll be happier and more productive if we just accept these biological rhythms and develop a habit to at least accomplish the bare minimum of tasks on our less productive days. There’s no need to beat ourselves up with guilt.

Even your superheroes struggle

It’s important to realise that we’re all human. Everyone is struggling in some way or another.  Even your superheroes. Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: “When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.”

It’s okay to cut yourself some slack and be lazy.



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