How to distinguish between laziness and needing a break

‘Idleness is the only refuge of weak minds, and the holiday of fools.’  Lord Chesterfield

Creating legacy and finding balance

Creating legacy often depends on finding balance in your life. Take too much time off your legacy projects, and you will soon see the momentum fade away. Push yourself too hard on your legacy projects, and your body will soon start sending you worrying messages.

But here is the problem: taking time off your legacy projects because the old brain needs a rest often looks the same as taking time off because you’re being lazy. How do you tell the difference?

Giving yourself a break vs. being lazy

I’ve written before about how creating legacy is something you should think of doing every day, and how feeling down is not an excuse for taking a day off. It is important, however, to occasionally take time off your legacy projects.

You can tell whether you are taking time off your legacy project due to laziness vs. due to needing a break based on how taking time off makes you feel.

When you are being lazy, taking the time off makes you feel guilty; the more time off you take, the guiltier you feel, and also the more difficult it is to get back to work.

On the other hand, when you genuinely need some time off, taking it feels good. In a sense, you feel like you are being more productive by taking this time off, than by sitting aimlessly at your legacy project HQ trying wrecking your brains for little progress.

If you’ve ever been on a diet, you’ll know what I mean. While you’re keeping to the diet, you may be occasionally hungry and craving all sorts of stuff, but as long as you don’t give in to temptation you are feeling virtuous; every day you stick to your diet feels like a new record. Eating according to the diet plan feels all the better for having battled with your hunger in the periods between meal times; this is the equivalent of taking time off when you really need it.

If you give in to temptation and go for that delicious cupcake, on the other hand, eating it gives you a sense of emptiness while your taste buds are going crazy with wanting more and more and more. You don’t just feel the sense of emptiness after you’ve eaten it, the feeling begins the moment you take the first bite, and lasts long after the cupcake has been digested. This is the equivalent of slacking off your legacy project on days when you are being lazy rather than genuinely needing a day off.

 When chores become tempting

There is also another way to tell when you really need time off your legacy project: when you feel tempted to do a chore instead, something you usually hate doing.

It happened to me yesterday. It was getting close to my legacy project time allotment for blogging, and I suddenly felt the urge to clean my bathroom. Now – let’s be clear – I would normally never prioritise cleaning over working on my legacy project.

While I do value cleanliness, I also know that it doesn’t take long for something to get dirty again – whereas the time I spend writing something is a very long-term investment. Quentin Crisp used to say that after the first four years, the dust doesn’t get any worse – an interesting hypothesis I’ve always been tempted to test out for myself.

But when I felt a craving for cleaning my bathroom – which, may I add, I hadn’t cleaned for about four months – I realised that this was my brain pleading for a bit of time off my blogging legacy project. What my brain was basically saying was ‘please, I’ll do anything, anything, I’ll even help you clean the bathroom, just give me a break’.

So I decided to grant my brain’s wish and clean the bathroom instead of writing my blog post. The result was that it took me less than a third of the time it normally takes me to clean the bathroom, because I was perceiving it as a mini-holiday from my legacy project rather than a chore; and cleaning gave me the time to think about writing this blog post. It also means now I don’t have to schedule ‘clean bathroom’ into my diary for another four months – only joking 🙂

If you’re ever in this situation, and feel like doing a chore instead of working on your legacy project, I’d advise you to give in your urge to do the chore. As long as this is a once-in-a-while thing and not a weekly occurence, you’re doing the right thing – you’re doing something you’d have to do anyway at some other time but in a more effective way, because your brain sees it as a mini-break from routine. So go for it, and enjoy it!

What about you?

How do you distinguish between being lazy and needing a break? Do you think it’s a good idea to take an unscheduled break every once in a while? I’d love to read about your thoughts in the comments section.  

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at