So, what’s wrong with being lazy?

Absolutely nothing — if it is done deliberately and with insight. In fact, an off-day of allowing you eight or more hours of just plain loafing may be the only truly productive time you have spent in a while.

I know.

I used to be one of those “industrious” folks who are constantly overscheduled, overworked, and overwhelmed. Being productive meant running around all over the place, chasing from one appointment to the next and ending up going in circles, before finally arriving back at the point from which I had started. In the process, I had depleted my energy and quite often accomplished little more than killing a lot of time.

I know.

We all have things to do that are part of our commitments, obligations and duties. Still, I think that feeling “accomplished” is a state of mind, depending on who you are and what you are trying to achieve. Some tasks we must do ourselves to assure their effectiveness while so much other busy-work could be delegated or ignored altogether. The problem is that so many of us just cannot seem to let go of the activities we view as useful and important. That seems to go all the way back to our childhood when we were told time and again that being busy was good and being lazy was bad.

I know.

When I was about 12 years old, I loved books and daydreams. Living in a small town, I would roam the nearby forests and lay on the mossy ground for hours staring up into the trees, catching glimpses of an ever-changing sky. The time flew doing nothing and I embraced every moment of it. I also was an avid reader. Many people encourage their kids to read, but my own European parents, hard-working folks who struggled to get back on their feet after World War II, had little patience for leisure-time activities. So where and when I was growing up, even reading was not considered particularly productive. It was something you did when you had nothing better left to do.

Manipulation & innovation
To assure time for my favorite activities — the three R’s of roaming, reading and resting — I learned early in life to become manipulative. To obtain permission to go into the woods, I would offer to go searching for harvestable berry patches. Claiming that those were very often hard to find, I covered successfully for my daydreaming.

In the same way, I was also quite innovative in carving out time for my books. In addition to reading at night with a flashlight under my covers, I grew very adept in cashing in on every spare moment I was home alone. I usually succeeded — but once, when my mother came home from work early, she caught me lying on the couch reading a novel. I was so engrossed in the story I didn’t hear her approaching until she stood right in front of me and asked sternly, “Why don’t you do something productive?”

Hmm, what a strange question, because I thought I was.

So, as you can see, my love of loafing goes way back — and no one had to teach me. I was a natural. Slowly, gradually, I had this so-called weakness challenged, prodded and finally transformed until I, too, became a productive member of society, doing things I often didn’t want to do, many times exerting my efforts for accomplishments that left me empty and unfulfilled.

In general, though, it seems that predominantly for young people just being in motion and expending energy for the heck of it makes them feel important and in tune with their peers. After all, this is what’s expected of us, isn’t it? To be busier than the next guy is somehow quite impressive. Even small children are not always exempt from this type of conditioning.

Then, later on, with a household and a family to worry about, just getting through the day with meeting all the demands made on us by the people we love is an accomplishment in itself. There is little or no time left for oneself, let alone for relaxation. During those years any hint of being lazy consists mostly of sleeping an hour longer on weekend mornings and taking a rare bubble-bath before turning in. Plus, even those minimal self-indulgences may leave us with a guilty conscience for “being lazy.”

The Milestone
Around 50, that milestone of all milestones, something suddenly seems to happen.

The kids are gone (or soon to leave), frequently the spouses as well, and even if the marriage is still intact, many of the “better halves” are often busy with their own involvements in life. Of course, for some the option of early retirement or semi-retirement may be available, and for those still in the workforce, at least the pressures on the home front may be easing somewhat. Suddenly there is time to think, to reflect, and to re-evaluate where you have been, where you are, where you are going — or better yet, where you might like to go. Maybe for the first time in your life since graduating from high school you are facing the challenge of deciding all over again what you want to do with the rest of your life.

To help you sort out what steps to take next, being lazy can be very helpful. For the ultimate luxury, take a day off to sleep in as long as you want, then just sit in a chair and stare at the ceiling — and think — or let your mind wander. Don’t look at it as doing nothing; consider it a mini-vacation from the stresses of life, to recharge the engine that monitors body and mind.

If a whole day is not in your present schedule, no matter how many priorities you try to minimize, then simply opt for a walk here and there, with or without a companion. Dogs are great. You can tell them whatever you want, and they seldom interrupt and break your thought processes with little more than an occasional potty stop. An hour a day can produce a week’s worth of insights — and once in a great while “the insight of the year” — as far as your approach to life is concerned.

Be creative
Now, let’s assume that at 50-plus, due to a later start or possibly a repeat performance in having children, your outer self is still in Stage 2, the job-family-kids stage, while your inner self craves getting to number 3, the after-50 level of easing up on daily routines, and moving on to rethinking your world. Well, you may just have to be creative.

Allow yourself an entire weekend to play, to build sandcastles with your family, or take a little one for a leisurely walk in the stroller (like dogs, babies are harmless listeners, and your secretive ramblings are safe with them). As far as harvesting a bit more of that highly desirable time-out, take a rest while the kids are asleep.

So, allow yourself to do nothing occasionally — and try not to feel awkward or guilty about it. Just keep in mind that “being lazy” could prove to be extremely productive and may just turn out to be the best personal investment you will ever make.

To quote a famous writer:

“We owe most of our great inventions and most of the achievements of genius to idleness — either enforced or voluntary. The human mind prefers to be spoon-fed with the thought of others, but deprived of such nourishment it will, reluctantly, begin to think for itself – and such thinking, remember, is original thinking and may have valuable results” — Agatha Christie

Helga Gruendler-Schierloh is a bilingual writer with a degree in journalism and advertising, as well as advanced credits in linguistics. Her short stories, essays, articles and poetry have been published in the USA, the UK, Canada, and online. Contact her at


  1. I loved your article. Helga! Helped absolve some of my “guilty” idle meananderings. A kindred Spirit,


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