Yes, I am still my very workaholic self; and no, my laptop hasn’t been stolen or hacked (yet)! I know it seems unbelievable (coming from me anyway) but you are about to read a piece of writing on the virtues of the so-called ‘Laziness‘.
If you wish to click on the last word of the previous sentence and read a few definitions of that term. To sum them all up, I would say that laziness is perceived as a propensity to do nothing; or a reluctance to work or effort.
When I considered the latter definition, I honestly couldn’t think of anyone willing to do nothing at all. After all, I (like many others) woke up this morning, made my bed, brushed my teeth, had a shower and I’m now sitting on this chair writing this article. The society we live in, would probably dismiss most of the items I listed and classify them as ‘nothing (that matters)’. The last item on that list would be the only one to be classified as ‘something (that matters)’.
Until fairly recently, I would have probably been the very first one to adopt that ‘nothing (that matters)/something (that matters)’ binary approach. In fact, I used to consider myself as (psychosomatically) allergic to laziness.
When I started my Ph.D. a few years ago, I had this sort of simple and linear perception of what it would be like. I had studied before (BA and MA), I wasn’t required to attend classes anymore; and I had 3 to 4 years to write, submit and defend an 80,000-word thesis after which I would be called ‘Doctor (Dr.)’ (Yay!). Moreover, I have always considered myself a workaholic, believing in the saying “hard work always pays off”.
I thought that with hard work, I would probably finish my research degree in less than 2 years and achieve high results as I’ve always done. Simple, isn’t it? Well, I had it all wrong right from the beginning. Yes, I am not required to attend classes anymore. Yes, it’s a 3 to 4 years full-time programme where I should write, submit and defend an 80,000-word thesis; and gain the right to be called ‘Doctor (Dr.)’. No, it’s not linear and certainly not simple.
I thought my research proposal was great. After all, I applied and was offered various places in Ph.D. programmes using that proposal. I thought I would just be ready to go but on the first meeting I had with my Ph.D. supervisors, the reality hit me hard. My proposal had potential, nothing more, nothing less.
I needed to reshape and redraft it until my supervisors were both happy with it. It took a couple of months if not more before I was finally able to start researching, writing, and getting everything under control. I thought I had everything under control anyway.
After the first year, I considered myself halfway through it and thought it would be just fine. I kept pushing myself during that second year and by the end of it, I’ve done 2/3 of my research and written half of my thesis. But Gosh I was so tired, weak, and ill.
I needed a break. My body and soul were both whispering to me: “we told you we would disgrace you but you wouldn’t listen”. This was true, I ignored and pushed aside various signals sent to me by my body and my soul when I was halfway through and thought everything was fine. They were saying: “Are you sure? Do you eat properly? Do you sleep properly? We will disgrace you”. At the time, I just thought: “Oh Please, that’s just laziness talking to you and trying to mislead you. Ignore it”. Well, I managed to push it aside for a bit of time but my attempt to ignore it has proven itself to be unsuccessful.
It took me nearly three years in a research degree to learn how to listen to, understand, and embrace my episodes of laziness. As they say, it’s better now than never. Laziness (and its best friend – procrastination) can be, in my case anyway, a little indication of broader issues: the meals I eat (or don’t eat), the way I sleep (if I manage to sleep), my personal circumstances (health conditions, anxiety & stress, financial struggles, family struggles, etc.), my studies, etc.
Laziness has been an ungentle reminder that I needed to flush my body/spirit whenever I use it before I get to the point where I can’t bear to use that body/spirit anymore. I also now know that it can sometimes indicate that I need a break, that I’m not enjoying what I’m doing, that I need to change my routine, that I need to do something that I like thereby being a proper lazy cow in a capitalistic world.
In my opinion, the word ‘laziness’ is mostly meaningful in contemporary capitalist societies. In fact, being lazy is about not doing what it would be necessary for people to do, for themselves and others so everyone can live a better life. Therefore, it has little to do with people’s willingness to do nothing, but all to do with people’s capacity to produce capital/value for themselves and others. Now that I’ve written that sentence, I’m wondering what capital/value I’m producing with this article.
I’m not gonna do that for too long because I am at a stage where I feel like such investigations don’t matter much to me anymore. What matter are the meanings of me binge-watching bits and stuff on Netflix several days in a row instead of watching research videos, me reading fictions instead of reading research books, me listening to music for several hours instead of listening to research podcasts, or me writing blog articles instead of writing my thesis.
This is me flushing and getting ready for another round of value production (I’d like to think my research project is of some value anyway). Besides, you’d be astonished by the flows of research ideas and theories I get when I’m being ‘lazy’. I’m always astonished by them myself. Funny enough, before embarking on any laziness episode, I always think that I’m stuck (studies’ wise) but when those flows start illuminating me, I’m like: “why hadn’t I thought about it before? it is so obvious”…. Well, because I needed to flush. Isn’t this amazing?! Isn’t laziness amazing?!