I recently read Devon Price’s book Laziness Does Not Exist. When I closed it, my first thought was: I wish I’d read this at my last nonprofit job.
Price (they/them) is a social psychologist, professor, and author. Their book explores the historical origins of “laziness” and discusses why laziness does not exist. It’s merely a natural reaction to our bodies needing rest and down time in a work-obsessed society that holds unrealistic expectations.
Reading this book made me feel validated and totally NOT guilty about taking a sick day last week. In honor of Mental Health Month, I want to explore why this concept is so important for everyone–but especially nonprofit employees and fundraisers.
When we lack motivation or feel tired, we often feel ashamed or embarrassed. We groan about our “unproductive” day at work or not crossing enough tasks off our ever-growing to do lists.
Because nonprofits are operating with fewer resources and staff, everything and everyone needs to be more efficient, more streamlined, more productive to make a bigger impact. To hit goals that are constantly growing, even when your staff is not increasing in capacity.
Nonprofit employees have an extra layer of obligation because they care about the mission and the work. In addition to caring deeply about the people we serve, we also ascribe much of our identity to our career.
After all, what’s the first question you ask someone you just met? “So, what do you do?”
If you’ve found yourself falling victim to the “laziness lie,” here are 5 lessons from Laziness Does Not Exist to take into your nonprofit work this week:
- Focus on quality, not hours spent at work. We’ve all felt the pressure to be the last person to leave the office. But there isn’t inherent value in working more hours, especially when our work begins to have diminishing returns when we overextend ourselves. What time of day are you most productive and focused? Prioritize the tasks that need to be completed most urgently and sign off right at 5–without any guilt.
- You deserve to rest. Few of us have the privilege to totally restructure our work lives. But what we can do is set boundaries at work and say “no” to the pressure to fill our calendars outside of work. Skip the gym and binge on TV. Make time to just “do nothing,” even if it’s only for 15 minutes. Leave the laundry unfolded and just relax on the couch.
- Your achievements are not your worth. Not hitting your fundraising goal doesn’t make you a bad fundraiser (or employee, or person). Achievements are fleeting and won’t give you a lasting sense of self-worth.
- Approach others with compassionate curiosity. Think about who is often deemed “lazy”: folks who are homeless, unemployed, poor, or who struggle with addiction or other mental health issues. Rather than make assumptions, it’s important for us to understand what social context that person has been born into and approach them with compassion rather than judgment. We deserve rest, and so does everyone else.
- Stop associating productivity with goodness. Is “productive” really the best quality a nonprofit employee can have? What about creative, kind, empathetic, problem-solving, or innovative? These qualities all require a slower pace and down time for our brains to recharge. When we don’t take care of ourselves, we can’t care for those around us.
Could your team benefit from this practice of slowing down and being more intentional? To kick off this conversation at your nonprofit, share this blog and today’s freebie, which is an activity that helps folks combat the “laziness lie” in their work and personal lives.
Note: I want to acknowledge that it’s a privilege to be able to work less and set boundaries at work–one that is more often afforded to white, salaried professionals and not folks who work hourly-pay jobs and/or who identify as BIPOC, LGBTQ+, or having a disability.