How Not To Be A Lazy Slob


My biggest fear in retirement is morphing into a teat-sucking layabout—that is, a lazy slob. Work, for all its faults, adds structure to your life. It gets you up early and out of the freakin’ house (or in my case, down the freakin’ stairs).

But I no longer have the spur of work. Sleeping late won’t get me fired. Binge watching Breaking Bad won’t threaten the household’s finances.

So what to do? How do I force myself to exert myself when my brain knows I don’t have to? Yes, waking up at 5:30 in the morning and doing something constructive will do wonders for my soul. But sleeping to 9 or 10 feels so damn good.

To avoid becoming a teat-sucking layabout, I devised the following strategy. It’s certainly tailored to my needs and circumstances, but I think the average reader will find it quite advantageous as well. Let’s begin.

Industry Begets Industry

Aristotle believed that to become a just person, one must repeatedly do just acts. He was an early proponent of the notion that habits are destiny. So if we take this wisdom and apply it to slothfulness, our remedy is simple. In order to avoid being a teat-sucking layabout, one must not waste one’s free time ensconced on a couch or glued to Facebook. One must get off one’s arse and do something constructive. Industry begets industry. Here, then, are four anti-teat-sucking constructive acts you need to do every day.

Clean something. If you have stuff, there’s something to clean. If you have a car, your own place, and a pet, there’s even more to clean. So clean something every day. Mrs. Groovy and I have a cleaning schedule for our house. Every day, we each hit a different part. Today I dusted, wiped the top of the refrigerator, and cleaned the microwave. Mrs. Groovy cleaned the stairs and the toilets (poor Mrs. Groovy). And your cleaning doesn’t have to be a deep cleaning. Just engage in 15-20 minutes of moderate effort. That’s all you need to do. Your stuff will never be immaculate. But it will be tidy, and you’ll begin the process of turning constructive acts into habits.

Exercise. Every day Mrs. Groovy and I walk two miles. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I do my pull-ups and squats. Make exercise a part of your daily routine. And remember, exercise needn’t be grueling or time-consuming. Start out with 10 push-ups, 20 squats, and one minute of jumping up and down. Just do something physical. That’s the point. Less sitting and more moving.

Perform a random act of industry. Today, while I was walking past the kitchen sink, I noticed it contained a few unwashed dishes and utensils—the remnants of Mrs. Groovy’s breakfast. So I washed them. And while I was washing them, I noticed that our soap dispenser was getting low on soap. So I added soap to the dispenser. There, in five minutes I performed two random acts of industry. This is a great habit to get into. If you see something that needs to be done, do it—immediately. Don’t worry if it’s not your responsibility. Who cares about that. Remember, your goal here is not to become a teat-sucking layabout. And the more constructive acts you do in a day, the further you’ll be from being an actual teat-sucking layabout.

Learn something. Every day I do five Duolingo Spanish lessons. I also try to watch at least one Butterfly Spanish video on YouTube. Y mi español es todavía mal! Of course I want to become conversant in Spanish, but I know that might be a rather far-fetched goal at this point in my life. No, I humble myself daily with Spanish for two different reasons. First and foremost it’s another constructive act. And the more constructive acts you can cram into your day, the better. Second, I have an extreme bias toward learning. If you ain’t learning, you ain’t living. So please heed me on this one. Find something you want to be better at and practice it. Want to learn the piano? Play the piano for 30 minutes every day. Want to learn how to create your own widgets for your WordPress blog? Spend 30 minutes on every day. Want to learn personal finance? Read the three newest posts on Rockstar Finance every day.

There are only so many hours in the day, of course. And if you work or have kids, performing the above four constructive acts every day might not be feasible. But let’s say you’re an anti-teat-sucking-layabout rockstar. You not only perform these four constructive acts every day, you’re looking for even more to do. Well, if that’s the case, here are two bonus constructive acts for you.

Declutter or organize something. Do you have closets? Do you have kitchen drawers? Do you have a garage or attic? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you surely have something to declutter or organize. I currently have a basket stuffed with bills and medical records sitting on top of a file cabinet. My goal is to attack this basket for 10 minutes every day until everything is filed. Then I’m going to organize the cabinet beneath my kitchen sink.

Fix or improve something. Last week, Mrs. Groovy and I went around to every room in our house and made a punch list of things that needed to be done. Haven’t attacked the punch list yet. But that smudge on the bathroom wall that glares at me and mocks me while my arse is parked on the toilet will be painted over by Friday. So help me God!

Discipline Over Motivation

Motivation can only take you so far. When I worked in uptown Charlotte, a co-worker and I used to lunch occasionally at a Chinese restaurant that occupied a storefront right next to a mega gym. And every January 1, my co-worker and I would make note of how every stationary bike, treadmill, and, elliptical machine visible through the window was occupied—probably close to a hundred. We would then make note of how many were occupied on February 1. Invariably it was less than half. By March 1, only a handful of those machines were occupied.

Your best defense against the scourge of laziness is discipline, not motivation. So schedule your constructive acts for a set time every day, preferably in the morning. I wake up every morning at 5:30, and by 8:00 I’ve done my Spanish, my cleaning, and my exercise. Not exactly fun, but it’s a great way to make sure I have a good shot at “winning” the day. Remember: industry begets industry.

Another way to harness the power of discipline is to boycott television until a certain hour. There’s no hard and fast rule here, but if you can refrain from watching television until at least 9:00 pm every night, including the weekends, you’re very unlikely to become a teat-sucking layabout.

But a Little Motivation Never Hurts

Although you can’t depend on motivation for the long haul, it never hurts to have a little of it. It’s putting the “spring in Springfield,” so to speak.

To get my fix of motivation, then, I have two go-to podcasts: The Art of Manliness, hosted by Brett McKay, and The Tim Ferriss Show. Brett and Tim are both whack jobs, but in a good way. They both focus on how to become better human beings, and they’re not afraid to challenge conventional wisdom or take things to the extreme. And I especially like their podcasts that deal with mental toughness. Here are two recent examples of that.

Jocko Willink on Discipline, Leadership, and Overcoming Doubt

The Workout the World Forgot

I also get my motivation fix from YouTube. I’m fascinated with habits and willpower and how I can use these tools to my advantage. If you’re interested in this as well, I encourage you to YouTube the following people: Brian Johnson, Kelly McGonigal, and Charles Duhigg. Here are three great clips to get you started.

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

How to Turn Stress Into an Advantage

The Power of Habit

Final Thoughts

“I spent most of my money on booze and women, and the rest I wasted.”

I don’t know who said this, but I used to love this quote when I was a younger man. But now I have second thoughts. Is being a complete libertine really the answer to a fulfilling life? Perhaps some can pull it off. But I think most who try it will end up being broken down sots with vile STDs. And that doesn’t strike me as very appealing.

No, to me, a fulfilling life is an active life—where one endeavors to create or build, where one is a hero to his or her family and community, and where one is curious about the world and eager to explore it. After all, why were we bestowed with such exquisite brains? So we could just eat, sleep, and rut?

Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. What say you? Is my strategy for avoiding the perils of laziness sound? Or am I missing something. Let me know what you think when you get a chance. Peace.

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  1. I’m a tad young to fear the retirement sloth but I do recall the antics of my libertine friend being $80K in debt and making a spur of the moment 9 hour drive (with a gas guzzler) across the border to Canada because she needed to “get away” since she can’t pay her rent anyways.

    Guess how mad I was…and I’m not even her mother. So no I do not want to be that, definitely not.

    I wholeheartedly agree it’s important to learn something everyday. Its hard to find the time to do so if you tied yourself down to a set schedule. In my old age, 40 years from now, I want to be fit and rich as heck (thank you very much :p) so I have the opportunity to learn and create as much as I can.

    My worst fear is not leaving a legacy, any legacy. Bill Mays did something, I want to do something.

  2. Keeping up at learning new things is really important to me. I definitely expand my brain and expand what is possible for me to do. I hope that I’m like this in retirement as well.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, ZJ. It’s sad. We’re so curious about the world when we’re children, but somehow a lot of us lose this curiosity in adulthood. Why is that? Glad to hear you’re a life-long learner. I can’t imagine living otherwise.

  3. Mr. Groovy

    Thanks, Vicki. Your comment really hit home. Mrs. G’s mom had dementia and her dad had parkinson’s. So we know what it’s like to watch a loved-one deteriorate mentally. I feel so sorry for you and your dad. Not fun. But you and Mrs. G have the right attitude. Faculties are fleeting, and it would be a crying shame to waste robust faculties on doing nothing all day. Live while you can.

    • A major reason I got off the cholesterol meds, which I wrote about, was fear of dementia – I’ve got a double-whammy hanging over me. I don’t know that there’s empiracle evidence about statins leading to dementia, but why take a chance? Especially since even my doctor is now in agreement that I don’t need a drug.

  4. I love your focus on learning. After watching my dad suffer with Alzhemier’s disease, I want to learn all I can and stay active because you never know if that is something you’ll be able to do all your life. I look forward to following your story as you “figure out” retirement. It sounds like your first chapter has a great beginning 🙂

  5. Great to see you guys are productive in retirement. Being motivated and having discipline seems to be a quality in most FIRE folks. Although I’ll admit that it’s tough when you feel like you have all the time in the world…sometimes you need structure or a deadline to force you to get things done!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed, Andrew. The key for me is still get up early. Maybe 5:30 is overkill. But I fear getting into the habit of sleeping late. I don’t want my day to start a 10 or 11. As long as I get up early and make sure I accomplish a handful of chores/tasks, I think my retirement will go well. Like you so eloquently put it, “you need structure or a deadline to force you to get things done.” Beautiful mindset, Andrew. Thanks for stopping by.

  6. My dad’s first day of retirement was yesterday. He’s mad because he’s bored.

    He did so many things. He had some banking to take care of since he sold his business. He fixed their furnace. He even learned how to use the wireless mouse I bought him. But I think the trick for him will be to figure out the ways in which he keeps busy in a valuable way. I keep trying to get him to start reading blogs for ideas!

    • Mr. Groovy

      Definitely! Your dad sounds like a pretty accomplished person. People like him need to be busy and get things done. He’ll find his calling, especially if you’re helping him. Thanks for stopping by, Penny.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Nice summation, TTW. Little daily improvements are like compound interest. Early on the benefits are negligible. But years later the benefits are astonishing. Thanks for stopping by, TTW. I really appreciate your kind words.

  7. I think that is a fantastic plan. I think in retirement I would need that structure some days more than others to keep myself industrious. I can imagine starting a big DIY project or trip to see family or whatnot derailing the habits on a short term basis, but I still wouldn’t be considered a slob. And then returning back to the routine shortly after to keep the wheels turning.

    I love the quote at the end, btw. It caught me off-guard and gave me a good chuckle!

    • Mr. Groovy

      I love it. Derailing habits on a short term basis is certainly permissible, especially when it’s for a good cause. And even though it’s no longer a creed of mine, I still get a kick out of George Best’s quote. Thanks for stopping by, GS. Always great hearing from you.

  8. I love your new schedule! It sounds like you have great balance. How about fun? 🙂

    I thrive on structure, so I’ve been trying various strategies on for size. I’m striving for balance (actually, maybe all of us are?), but it’s been tough. My primary goal in the morning is to ensure we start each day with everything we need to be successful–having breakfast and lunch ready, vitamins, etc. Sometimes I dive into work right away and I lose track of time, so I’m thinking about setting alarms to take breaks and go for a walk or a run. Glad all is well with you! 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, Claudia. It’s amazing how one can get lost in work once one is rolling. I love the idea of setting alarms to take breaks for walking or running. I was really bad when I had gainful employment. I would start work around 8-8:30 and wouldn’t stop until early afternoon–when Mrs. G ordered me to put down the mouse.

  9. This is a very admiral approach to retirement. My husband and I are so busy lately, that being lazy seems like a reward. I agree that it’s important to have structure in your life after retiring from work, but feel like we will want to take a little time to recuperate. But, there’s always the danger of staying lazy for too long. I think we’ll be fine, lots we want to do in addition to having the luxury of naps here and there. However, it’s good to be cautious about sliding too far.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. Laziness is like alcohol. Imbibe too much of it and you’ll become addicted to it. But if you imbibe it in moderation, you’ll be fine. As you alluded to, Harmony, there’s nothing quite like a little power nap after work. Definitely one of my most sought after pleasures when I toiled 9 to 5. Thanks for stopping by, Harmony. I really enjoyed your insights.

  10. I am pretty self motivated. So far since quitting my job I have not had much down time. Just as I knock one project down, another pops up. But all the projects I take on these days are things I enjoy. And a good days work always makes a beer in the evening taste better.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Excellent point one: If you have the right mindset, you’ll always find projects to do. Excellent point two: If you can limit those projects to things you enjoy, you’ve won the game of life. Excellent point three: A beer tastes especially good after you’ve worked your tail off. Freakin’ excellent comment, Mr. CK. You made my day.

    • Mr. Groovy

      THANK YOU, Geri! You inspired me to get off my arse and google the booze and women line. And, yes, it was indeed uttered by George Best, a British soccer star. I thought it was going to be the wit of a famous politician (Winston Churchill) or a famous author (Ernest Hemingway). But a soccer star will do.

        • Mr. Groovy

          Hey, Trevor. You’re absolutely right. W.C. Fields’s line was: “I spent half my money on gambling, alcohol, and wild women. The other half I wasted.” I love Best’s line, but I think I like Fields’s more. Thanks for pointing out an earlier ode to debauchery!

  11. It sounds like you have a great system. I feel a little lazy or down on myself sometimes if I’ve been internetting or reading a novel for hours, so it works for me to schedule this down time like I’d schedule more productive activities.
    R&R is essential, so rather than feel guilty, it goes on my to-do list and it’s another item I get to cross off!

    • Mr. Groovy

      R&R is indeed essential. My job was no where near as mentally and physically taxing as yours, and I hit the wall every day–usually around 8 pm. After that bewitching hour, I needed a mindless diversion. So by all means get that daily R&R. And if that means you need to schedule it, so be it. Love that you add R&R to your to-do list.

  12. I love how you break your industrial acts down into manageable pieces each day. When I procrastinate, I try to “just do 10 minutes” or “send just one email”, anything to get me started and keep me moving forward.

    It’s funny you mention the gym in January. My husband and I go to the YMCA on a regular basis, but January is horrible! We can’t find an empty machine anywhere and the place is packed. By March, we have our choice of any machine we want…

    • Mr. Groovy

      You nailed it, Amanda. “When I procrastinate, I try to ‘just do 10 minutes’ or ‘send just one email…” That is such a great “trick” to fool our lizard brains. I often use the “just do 10 minutes” when it comes to blogging. I love blogging, but writing is freakin’ hard–at least for me, anyway. The “just do 10 minutes” gives me the strength to sit down and write. And most times, I keep going past the 10 minutes and write for an hour or two.

  13. Great ideas. The wife and I plan to engage in each when we retire. As I often say, each day we should be striving to do at least one thing, to improve in some way, in four key areas: spiritual, mental, physical, and fiscal. That applies to both our working and retirement years.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Love the breakdown, James. Spiritual, mental, physical, and fiscal–hit those facets of your life every day and you’re bound to do some amazing things. I know you and Mrs. J will rock retirement. Heck, you’re rocking things now!

  14. You are on the money – I ‘m really impressed with what you have going with your daily discipline and routine.

    I ‘m a fan of learning and strive to learn something new everyday – love your quote “If you ain’t learning, you ain’t living.”

    You pointed to some interesting resources and podcasts and I will be checking them out.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Thank you, Michael. I really appreciate your kind words. And let me know what you think of some of those podcasts when you get a chance. I’d love to hear your take on them.

  15. Sounds like a good plan. I know from experience how difficult it can be to maintain such efforts in the long term when you have few external commitments to hold you accountable. But having a plan and a schedule are good ways to instill the discipline it will take to keep it up.

    • Mr. Groovy

      “[It’s difficult to maintain] efforts in the long term when you have few external commitments to hold you accountable.” What a great explanation for the need of discipline. Thanks for stopping by, Gary. Awesome contribution as always.

  16. “If you ain’t learning, you ain’t living.” I’m with you here! This is top of my list. There’s always gotta be something that you want to learn or be better at. Figure out what it is and put some time in.

    Thanks for the thoughts!

    • Mr. Groovy

      The one thing I miss about work is the sense of purpose it provided. At my last job, I was a database guy. So learning about databases was my purpose. Every day I would study SQL for at least a half hour. I would also work at least a half hour on a no-SQL database called Mongo. Part of me wants to continue doing that. But there’s really no reason to do so. Since I blog with WordPress, I’m playing around with making widgets and coding in PHP instead. And I love it. To paraphrase the world’s most interesting man, “Keep learning, my friend.” Thanks for stopping by, Matt. Always great hearing from another “learner.”

  17. You are definitely a miracle morning type guy! I need to work on getting myself up that early. I’m always so sleepy. But on the days when I do wake up early and get stuff done, I always feel much better the rest of the day. Like I’ve “won” the day.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Hey, FP. Wasn’t always a miracle morning guy. Up until I was about 30, I could easily sleep to noon every day. But then something weird happened. The older I got, the less sleep I needed. At my government job on Long Island, my hours were 6 am to 2 pm. And I had a 45 minute commute. So M-F I would get up at 4:30. And there’s no way I would have been able to do that in my 20s. Is my experience an anomaly? Is it common for older folks to need less sleep? You’ll find out, my friend. Thanks for stopping by, FP. Always a pleasure.

  18. I like it! I try and use television watching or video game playing as a reward. Only to be done after I complete all of the other important things I need to do. I like the different categories you are using. A little each day, so they don’t become stale. I’m not sure about the 5:30 AM wake up call I may dial that back a bit. 🙂

    • Mr. Groovy

      Here’s a confession for you, Brian. I love television. It’s probably my biggest vice. That’s part the reason why Mrs. G and I cut the cord. Too much Housewives and too little reading or blogging. And I hear ya about the 5:30 wake up. Problem is I’ve been doing it for so long it’s become ingrained. I never set the alarm clock. I just get up at 5:30.

  19. Cleaning stuff is a toss up for me. Yeah it works in getting me off the couch and moving, but often times I use it as a way to avoid doing something else, haha.

    Although exercise is something that has definitely helped me get more productive. As I’ve built the habit up, the results on my productivity have been great!

    • Mr. Groovy

      I hear ya about cleaning. I often clean to avoid blogging! And I totally agree with you about exercise. Things in motion tend to stay in motion. Start the day with a vigorous workout and you will probably do some great things at work. Thanks for stopping by, Colin. Nice insights!

  20. Structure is good. I don’t know how I got nearly as much stuff done when I was working an 8 plus hour day plus had a 40 minute each way commute, but we managed.

    Now that I’m semi “at leisure” we enjoy errands more (we can run them during the week and avoid crowds), we cook healthier and more often, and do more activities on the weekend as a family (because we have fewer things we have to take care of.) But, there are certainly days when I feel I haven’t gotten anything done, which was never the case when I was working a regular job.

    • Mr. Groovy

      Agreed. Very hard to get things done when you have a full-time job. Forty hours plus commuting time is the great sapper of energy. I had a relatively easy commute when I didn’t work from home, but I was mentally and physically wiped out by the time the dinner dishes were done. Glad to see you’re using your semi leisure to get things done during the week. It’s so awesome to hit the weekend and know you don’t have any major things to do. Thanks for stopping by, Emily.