Learn to Be Lazy - You Might Feel Better

Lars Svensen is a professor of philosophy at the University of Bergen, and his dangerous idea is that “work” isn’t what is wearing us out these days, but our leisure time.

We have never worked less than we do today. Most people are actually happy with their work even though they believe that work in general is getting harder. But their own work isn’t getting harder, in their reports. And we sleep less that we used to a century ago, by one or two hours a day. But whatever we’re spending that extra time on, it’s not work. So really, what is wearing us out? What is making us burnt out? It’s really our leisure time.

The whole norms of work have invaded our spare time, turning it into a commodity that has to be spent as effectively as humanly possible. We’ve turned Benjamin Franklin’s old saying that “time is money” into a norm for our leisure life. Many people are more guided by strict timelines—by various appointments to keep and so on—in their spare time than in their working time. What everyone should call such a time, it’s definitely not “free time.”

So what I would do is really to embrace laziness. The problem today is that we’ve forgotten proper laziness. And as the old proverb goes, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Which isn’t as new as many people think; many people think that it stems from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining but it really goes back to James Howell’s “Proverbs” from the 1640s.

When you turn your entire life into work you become a really dull boy, and one could say what differentiates working time from leisure time these days is that you get paid for your leisure time and you have to pay for working even harder in your leisure time. So, start relaxing. Be lazy. Do absolutely nothing. And then perhaps this whole phenomenon of being burnt out will be burn out.

Dangerous Idea: Embrace Laziness

Philosopher Lars Svendsen's Dangerous Idea? We shouldn't fear being lazy.

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