How to be rich and lazy

By  •  Updated: 07/30/22 •  9 min read

“I choose a lazy person to do a hard job. Because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”

Bill Gates

This quote always impressed me, not just because it validates the way I think about working smarter, not harder, but because it comes from the guy responsible for hiring the “lazy person”.

When have you ever seen the word “lazy” in a job description?

Sitting around, not accomplishing the goals you need to, is obviously a bad trait, but when we break it down to a task level, things start to look a bit different.

What if we could get to our goals without doing all the tasks?

When I break down my goals into the tasks to achieve them, there’s 3 filters I pass them through before I do anything.

These filters take out the busy work, the low ROI tasks, and frankly, anything I don’t really want to do.

Here they are…

Filter #1: Can I eliminate the task?

Is this busy work. Am I just doing this because “that’s the way we’ve always done it“. Do I want to do this or is it just expected of me, and if so by whom? Do they matter to me?

So much busy work is done because we think it’s “expected” of us. But in reality either it isn’t, or the people who expect us to behave a certain way, we don’t care about, so why try to keep them happy?

Before I set out on my own, I noticed that the best companies I worked for had almost no irrelevant meetings or reporting requirements.

Progress was easily visible by your output. If your output wasn’t visible, it was probably BS.

I still have figures to report on, I still do my own reviews just like having a boss, but I spend almost no time on them. The numbers are just there in the systems where we do the work. Not in some monthly report that takes hours to tart up and nobody reads.

I have a minimum of things I need to do:

But I don’t spend ages reporting on what I’ve done. The numbers are there for anyone to see (if I worked with anyone who needed to see them)

I’ve also been careful to stop the business from creeping into something more complicated.

I don’t post on more than a couple of social channels.

I haven’t created a coaching programmes that take a mountain of my time

I haven’t committed to more than a weekly email

I’ve looked at where the results come from in my business and I know the 20% of effort that gets 80% of the results.

I’m not going to sacrifice family, friends and fitness for that extra 20%.

Filter #2: Can I automate it?

Fortunately I’m wired for this stuff.

I’ve written before about my first email campaign. A sales email that went to just 24 people.

This was in the days before Mailchimp so there was no easy way to send bulk emails, or at least not one that most businesses could afford.

Most people would have cut & pasted 24 emails into their email client, but not me.

I found a tool that would record & replay my keyboard strokes. I sent one email by hand, recorded my actions, and then set the computer to work.

It definitely took longer to set up than sending 24 emails, but form that point forwards I cold send a campaign every week with just a couple of clicks.

My boss caught me reading a book in the office cafe one day and asked what I was doing.

“Sending an email campaign” I said.

She wasn’t happy, but when she got back to her office and saw the orders rolling in, she couldn’t argue that I hadn’t been telling the truth.

A big reason I decided to go and work for myself is that the typical business will punish you for this efficiency.

If you find a way to do something faster, they’ll merely fill the time with something else, and the reward will be minimal.

It’s a big reason why employees keep doing dull work, finding ways to “skive off” and why productivity is nowhere close to the levels that we should be at given the advances in computing and robotics over the last 50 years. They know that the harder they work, the harder they’ll get worked.

Here’s a stark warning.

If any part of your day is spent moving data from one place to another, formatting reports, or doing any sort of repetitive task, there’s already a robot that can do your job for less than $100 a month.

It’s your job to be the guy that hires that robot.

If you’re not “wired that way”, you need to find someone who is.

Don’t expect this to be a single massive win though.

Get them inside your business, looking at the tiny details of your day and find places where they can add up “5 minute jobs” into hours saved each week.

“5 minute jobs” will shave away your free time, one by one until you’re overworked and underwhelmed.

In the same way, automating the 5 minute tasks will shave away at your “day job”, leaving you underworked and wondering what to do with the extra time – and energy. It’s a weird feeling, and you should start thinking about it now.

This brings me on to the last, and biggest filter.

Filter #3: Can I delegate it?

You might notice I’ve dropped the “SoloGrowth” tag from the emails this week.

That’s because as I wrote this post I realised that it wasn’t 100% in line with how I really want to run my business, and by definition, my life.

Focusing too hard on the “Solo” element can have two downsides:

  1. It cuts you off from partnership opportunities.
  2. It can absolutely leave you overwhelmed with trivial tasks as you grow

Story time…

After I sold my first business I made a conscious decision to NOT build a business that involved a load of headcount in an office.

It started out as a reaction to the stresses of meeting payroll every month, but I quickly realised it was cutting me off from a pool of global talent.

For someone like me who managed freelancers as an agency owner for years, that was plain ridiculous.

The people who will commute to an office in West London are a tiny portion of the people capable of doing the jobs I want doing. Even 10 years ago when I made this decision, remote work was in full swing for digital businesses.

It took the pandemic for most businesses to realise how digital they really are.

As well as the usual suspects of Fiverr, Upwork, and PeoplePerhour, dozens of people I’ve met on Twitter & Facebook have helped me with my business.

Some of them doing things I can’t do – like design and coding.

Some of them doing things I don’t want to do – like data entry and desk research.

Both of these tasks have gone through our first 2 filters already.

1. Don’t delegate work that’s not necessary.

Once you delegate a task it’s easy to forget and you could end up with a VA who is busy doing things that don’t move the needle on your business.

2. Don’t delegate work that can be automated.

I’ve worked with some great freelancers but on a long enough timeframe they all take holidays, get sick, have off-days or leave. It also makes no sense to employ intelligent people to do monotonous tasks.

Delegate things that a person can get better at with practice.

To run a really successful business you need to go through 2 phases.

First you fire yourself off jobs you’re not good at.

Then you fire yourself off the jobs you love.

The second one is REALLY hard, and you have to accept that you’re not going to find a remote VA who can do the really valuable stuff like sales, strategy or higher level creative thinking.

But if you have to go for a really senior hire, you have to ask yourself if you’ve created a business that will ever be able to scale and maybe sell.

Keep your business simple, and focus on products, or highly productized services and you should be able to get any capable hire up to speed in a few weeks.

Truly successful entrepreneurs approach delegation way earlier in the game.

They don’t solve problems themselves then try to find someone else who can do it just as well.

They start by looking at the problem then finding someone else who can solve it.

The question is Who?, not How?

(Legendary business coach Dan Sullivan even wrote a book about it)

So, what’s left?

The things that are left are me being me.

Plotting and creating. The 2 things I don’t even consider to be work. The things I’d do to avoid doing uninspiring work in my agency.

Naval agrees:

In other businesses, which are more brand-driven than name-driven I’ve managed to hand the creation parts to someone else, but I wanted an outlet here to share the lightbulb moments I’ve had building a few info product businesses.

So, I started the Do Less, Make More project under my own name, for now at least, and I don’t see that changing for a while.

Summary

1. Start by finding the tasks in your business that create 80% of the value for 20% of the effort.

If you want to avoid a breakdown, learn to ignore that other 20%

2. Find tasks you can automate.

If you’re telling yourself you’re not good at tech, get someone to help.

3. Delegate early

Get used to setting other people the job of solving problems, not just repeating tasks.

4. Keep the things you love doing, unless you intend to sell the business, in which case get rid of them before you get too attached.

My hope is that you’ll be more critical about each item on your to-do list in future, and have a way to prioritise how you deal with each task.

I also hope you’ll have a long think about what you’ll do with the time you’ve freed up, and don’t just fill it with more work.

Stephen Pratley

I build email lists, that grow into one-man businesses.