Is Laziness Underrated? Why Leisure Time is Better for You Than You Think

By Rachel Puryear

We’ve all been warned since childhood about the supposed dangers of having too much time on our hands. “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” “You have too much time on your hands.” “Hard work builds character.” There are many more sayings and quotes to evidence an ingrained moral and cultural belief that always staying as busy as possible is ideal, while having or taking more than just a tiny bit of leisure time is something to feel guilty and ashamed about. We tend to believe that packed schedules and a lack of free time are a sign of success and importance, and we like to show off how busy we are.

This begs the question, however – is more leisure time really all that bad? Is staying constantly busy really something to strive for, and to worship?

Woman laying in red and black hammock, in a forest, looking out over a lake and mountains. By Zach Betten.

A WW2 military strategist once said that people who are both clever and lazy are suited for the highest leadership positions. Von Hammerstein-Equord divided his staff members into four categories: lazy and stupid, hardworking and stupid, hardworking and smart, and lazy and smart.

To paraphrase how Von Hammerstein-Equord believed he should assign workers’ duties based upon their combination of traits:

  • Stupid and lazy staff members were suited only for routine duties which didn’t require much judgment, and where they were easily replaceable.
  • Stupid and hardworking staff members were a liability – they would likely only create trouble and increase busywork for all, so it was best to get rid of them.
  • Hardworking and smart staff members were worthy of mid to high level positions which could utilize their knowledge and diligence – such as experts, management, and professionals.
  • Lazy and smart staff members, however, were suited for the highest offices, and leadership positions – where they could innovate, challenge the status quo, and inspire others.

So, why were the lazy and smart staff members desired for the most plum positions, ranking even above the hardworking and smart workers? The reasoning behind such a selection process was that the lazy-and-smart combination lends itself to taking plenty of time to think, and carefully consider new ideas. Furthermore, whereas hardworking people do whatever it takes to get a job done; lazy people will tend to explore newer and easier ways of accomplishing a task. Von Hammerstein-Equord viewed these tendencies as being ideally suited for a leader.

Whether or not you agree with Von Hammerstein-Equord’s reasoning; there’s still a pretty good argument that taking leisure time is needlessly demonized – and that doing so is in fact more beneficial than we think.

Feet stretched out on a deck with a lantern nearby, with a view out onto the blue water. By S Migaj.

During periods of down time, people have more mental space to process thoughts, events, problems, and solutions. Relaxation is typically a time of creative thinking, new ideas, innovation, looking at problems from fresh angles, and even simply recharging.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the link between leisure time and well-being is a bit nuanced. In short, people had better mental well-being with more free time – provided, however, that they used their leisure time well, with meaningful activities.

Leisure activities that increase well-being include positive activities like socializing, spending time with family and friends, traveling, hobbies, relaxing, and so forth. Leisure activities that were a little bit detrimental in large amounts were activities more along the lines of excessive social media use, TV binge watching, and so forth.

So, dear friends, there’s no need to feel guilty about some leisure time, if you are able to take it. If it’s difficult to take, prioritizing leisure time by doing what you need to make it possible is worth the effort. The world won’t fall apart because you stopped working for a little while, I promise. You might even find that it leads to an important idea that changes your life for the better.


Thank you, dear readers, for reading, following, and sharing. Here’s to more leisure time – especially the more fulfilling kinds – and the exciting new ideas and insights that often comes along with it.

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