Taylor PeterPeter Taylor is the author of a wonderful book called „The Lazy Project Manager“ and „The Lazy Winner“. Being a man writing about laziness – he still went to the effort to answer some questions for Lazy Literature. (Photo: Copyright Rebecca Dawe Photography)

Thank you for taking the time for this interview.

My pleasure – thank you for asking me.

What is it about the word „lazy“ that fascinates you?

Well it is a good ‘headline’ that gets people interested in what you have to say – it seems contrary to everything that should be right and so many want to know a little more, what do I exactly mean by being lazy, how can this work in a positive way?

But very quickly I added the word ‘productively’ to the ‘lazy’ tag since I am definitely not talking about real laziness; doing as little as possible, avoiding work, not achieving what needs to be done. I am talking about efficiency of performance and achieving success with the appropriate levels of effort – working smarter and not harder.

When did your interest in professional laziness start?

Well actually it all began with an insult from my manager. At the time I had been working on a training program for our project managers across Europe and one of the common questions people asked me was ‚how do you manage to seem so relaxed and yet run a large business operation with hundreds of projects?‘ Added to that was the simple observation that about half of the project managers were reasonably successful but worked reasonable weeks – 40 hours or so – and the other half were equally successful but were putting in 50, 60, 70 hour weeks. I was intrigued by this behaviour.

I was on my way back from Milan, Italy, and travelled with my manager. Now at that time we had worked together for the last 15 years across three companies and he does know me very well. As we chatted about what would we like to do in life I mentioned that I enjoyed writing and speaking/presentations and that sort of thing could be fun to do. He agreed saying that I would probably be very good at this but that I was too ‘lazy’.

And there you have it – an insult? Perhaps but more an insight really, he had identified the key to describing my approach to work and life.

From these two sources came ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ and the world of productive laziness.

Now have I always been ‘professionally lazy’ – no I don’t believe so. Certainly in my early days of project management I worked long and hard but after completing a major three year project I looked back and reflected on the effort I had put in to make the project successful. I realised that that much of what I had done was unnecessary and that I often created work for myself that was either not really essential or that others could have done (probably better than my efforts if truth be told).

Your book „The Lazy Project Manager“ is a very practical guide for project managers who want to work smarter. How do you feel about other publications about „laziness/idleness“, e.g. „The Art of Procrastination“ by John Perry, „The Lazy Way to Success“ by Fred Gratzon and books by Tom Hodgkinson?

Fred’s book I read after The Lazy Project Manager was published and I enjoyed it, fun, irreverent and any book that comes with the warning that ‘this book contains ideas that may be hazardous to your present way of life’ has to be worth reading.

‘The Art of Procrastination’ I haven’t read but a quick check seems to have it as a ‘tongue in cheek’ style so maybe I will look that one up later on. I do love Brian Tracy’s books and in particular ‘Eat that Frog’, which is all about not procrastinating.

And Tom’s books are fun but take a slightly different angle to this ‘laziness’ theme.

In general I just feel we are conditioned to believe effort, and then some more effort, is required in all things and this fills our lives up to a point when there is no real balance at all and actually no real return on our investment either.

Any books, or presentations, or workshops or articles or discussions that cause people to think differently must be a good thing.

What prompted you to write „The Lazy Winner“ in which your findings are transferred to the private life? (Read here a free sample of the book.)

As I began to speak at more and more events around the world people, who liked the whole ‘lazy’ concept, asked for more guidance on ‘how to be lazy’ and also was this only applicable to project management.

Well of course this isn’t the case, I just happened to write a project management book because I was a project manager. And so, based on the success of The Lazy Project Manager, my publishers invited me to write a second book which turned out to be ‘the Lazy Winner’ – How to Do More With Less Effort and Succeed in Your Work and Personal Life Without Rushing Around Like a Headless Chicken or Putting in 100 Hour Weeks!

‘The Lazy Project Manager’ has best been described as a guide ‘to managing yourself effectively whilst you are managing projects’ – ‘The Lazy Winner’ is all about managing yourself effectively in order to manage your life successfully – with balance between work and personal life and all of the other pressures that are out there.

In Germany Timothy Ferriss has been on the bestselling lists for quite some time now with his „The 4-Hour Workweek“. Why do you think has the interest in time saving and laziness increased in the last few years?

Interestingly Germany is one of my biggest markets as well; in fact ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ was first translated in to German back in 2010 and continues to sell well in both the original English form and the translated German form. This did surprise me a little as this doesn’t appear to be the ‘German way’ at all on the surface but perhaps under the surface there is a secret rebellion to be ‘lazy’?

The rise in interest in this area generally has come from a realisation that there is more to life than work – a strong ethic in the 80s/90s perhaps – and that, whilst the day job has to be done, and done well in order to progress your career, there are other equally important aspects to a happy life.

But this is not so new – I was inspired a little by Robert Heinlein’s 1973 short story ‘The Tale of the Man Who Was Too Lazy to Fail’ – It is a funny story, loosely based on some of his personal experiences at the US Naval Academy. In the story a young officer, assigned to a particular task, realises that the laborious way people were doing it before was short-sighted. So he finds shortcuts to make his job easier, because he is so incredibly lazy, but since he gets his work done better and faster he gets promoted, over and over again.

How has the „laziness“ affected your own life?

I feel it has allowed me to do some of the things that I always wanted to do – writing and speaking around the world – and still supporting my family’ both financially as well as all of the father/husband duties that make life worthwhile.

I think has also allowed be more relaxed about challenges and the difficult moments that we all face from time to time.

How do you find the time to write books while living a very busy life?

Well the answer to that has to be ‘productive laziness’ works!

I generally think my books through a lot before I commit to writing, and I usually have three or four book projects on the go at any time. When I do write I write very fast (and then have to be dragged through the whole editing process screaming … I should thank all of my publisher/editors at this point for putting up with me).

As I travel a lot there is always time on a plane or in an airport to put some thoughts together and, these days, I have also began writing in partnership with some great people around the world – so sharing the pleasurable burden.

Do you read for leisure or do you prefer audiobooks to save time? What are your favorite titles?

I both read ‘real’ books and eBooks these days, and I also listen to audio books – it just depends on where I am and what I am doing. Audio books are great for travelling for example.

I get asked to review a number of business books these days and that is fun, but for pleasure then I tend to head towards the crime novels.

Jo Nesbo is one of my current favourites with his Harry Hole series.

I also love the ‘free’ eBook marketing approach these days on Amazon, I have done this with my own books. A new book comes out and it is set as free for a period of time and then switches to chargeable. But if you regularly check out the top 100 free list you can get some great downloads – and this allows you to explorer new authors. The advantage is that it gets a book known and you often go and buy the other books that the author has written – so it is a win-win.

What can we readers expect from you in the future?

I have just released a very different book called ‘The Thirty-Six Stratagems: A Modern Interpretation of a Strategy Classic’. The 36 Stratagems is a Chinese essay used to illustrate a series of stratagems used in politics and in war, as well as in civilian life, often through unorthodox means. I have updated these essays to apply to modern life and success.

Apart from that I am working on second children’s book to follow up on ‘The Dance of the Meerkats’ and three new project management books: ‘Strategies for Project Sponsorship’, ‘Project Branding’ and ‘Delivering Successful PMOs’, all due out sometime on 2013. And finally my first self-published book on ‘Project Management Fun’ will be come out this year as well I hope.

Thank you for your time!

Thank you.