Does laziness make us more inventive? It certainly seems that our love of free time can drive us to more creative answers. Clarence Bleicher, a car company boss, famously said in the 40s: “When I have a tough job in the plant and can’t find an easy way to do it, I have a lazy man put on it. He’ll find an easy way to do it in 10 days. Then we adopt that method.”
When it comes to cutting corners at work, lazy people know best – and their shortcuts can range from the wonderfully helpful to the outright dishonest. As narrated by Reddit users, here are fifty of the most inventive ways people have cut down their workloads.
1. The skateboard trick
I worked overnight at a retail store. One night the boss told me that every shelf had to be swept under by the next morning. The store is huge, and it would have easily taken 3 people their entire shift. I didn’t have 3 people to spare, so decided to assign the job to my closest worker. I didn’t expect the job to be complete, but could tell the boss we made an attempt…
About four hours later, the guy comes back and says he’s finished the entire store. In my mind though, I know this is impossible, so I go to check. And sure enough, it’s nearly spotless under every shelf. I ask the guy how he did it, and he shows me.
This guy grabbed a skateboard off of the counter, laid down on it with a dusty broom, and skated down the aisles. He literally cut the time needed to do the job in half, and he had fun doing it. Never underestimate the creativity of a lazy person lol.
2. Speedy ID
I worked at a movie rental store. The computers made you sign back in after something like 15 seconds of inactivity. It was so unproductive. After a week or two at the job, I bought some stickers and printed barcodes onto the back of my id badge. One barcode had my id, the other had my password.
I could scan them both in a second or two. I avoided telling my boss cause I didn’t want to get in trouble, but eventually he found out, and when he did, he had me print barcodes for everyone. Just thinking about that computer system makes me mad, and it’s been over a decade…
3. “Fixing” the printer
I was a temp. Got hired for the day to print 30 packets with 100 pages each. “Why would it take a day?” I asked. “Our printer doesn’t collate the pages so it will take you the day to sort the pages into the 30 packets,” they said. Right. It was a standard office Xerox printer.
It took me all of 30 seconds to find and click the ‘collate’ button. Clicked the ‘staple’ button while at it. All got printed by itself into nice stapled packets and I got paid to browse internet for the day. They thought I was a genius for ‘fixing’ their printer and gave me glowing recommendations to the temp agency that led to more jobs.
4. Weighing up options
At my last job, working in a truck suspension shop, we did inventory every December, and it was someone’s job to count all the washers and screws of every size. It was my first inventory, and I casually mentioned a method that had somehow never occurred to them.
They should just weigh one screw or washer, I said, then weigh them all and divide the weight to get the count. Everyone looked at me like I had given them the key to the universe. Counting washers and screws went from taking a day or two, to taking just a few hours.
5. Herding yaks
Herding yak with a drone takes the cake for me. They run from it, and oddly fear it. Which is surprising considering they have literally zero aerial predators. We only did it a few times because it really makes them uneasy, and doesn’t treat them well. But it is very effective and easy, and you can herd them from over 1/2 a mile a way from inside the house.
6. Blown away
My uncle worked as an industrial engineer at a Breakfast Cereal Manufacturer. The company started getting complaints because boxes were going out to stores empty. They brainstormed and created a scale under the conveyor belt right before final packing, which would beep if the box was underweight (indicating an empty box).
With the scale added, the operator was supposed to remove any empty box every time they heard a beep and continue the conveyor belt. A week or so later, though, the bosses saw that the data for the empty boxes had completely dropped off, and they were confused how this empty box issue seemed to fix itself.
Upon going down to the line, they saw the line operator had a new high-powered fan set up next to the line. The engineers asked him about it, and he said that the beeping was driving him up the wall so he rigged a fan which would blow the empty boxes off and not affect the full boxes.
7. Polite replies
College at the end of the semester, everyone wants an A. If you’re teaching 700 students, you end up receiving lots of excuses for missed assignments, grade bumps, etc. – in the last 48 hours of the semester. Over the years, I’ve compiled a document of excuses from students, like “my grandma died” or “I can’t get disability accommodations” – etc.
I’ve typed up a thoughtful, detailed response to each of those concerns, also saved in the file. When those inevitable emails come, I just Ctrl+F to find the excuse, and then copy/paste my template response. I don’t have time to tell thirty students the same thing, much less communicate an individually tailored response in classes with 50+ students. I even leave a spot for an individual comment, if needed.
The point is for the recipient to know I received their message, I understand their concern, restate it in a way that demonstrates I understand, offer a solution, my condolences, and a happy face or whatever suits the situation. And, I can reply to sad emails more quickly, letting students have efficiency in finding resolution for their issues.
8. Work for the guests
Worked in a huge hotel by the airport. We had layover with over 400 people, I think we were 3 employees. They had buffet for dinner and then left to go to bed since it was 1 or 2 am. Rule was, we should always go to the room and pick up as many plates as we could and then bring them to the cleaner. Took for ages and I wanted to go home.
I decided to roll out the cart and collect the plates and put them on the cart. Guest were seeing it and started putting their plates on the cart when they left. All of a sudden hundreds of people cleaned up their own stuff. Duty manager saw it and I thought he would blast me, since the hotel was a 5 star place. He just looked at me, smiled and said “that’s why I like to hire lazy people, they think of ways to finish work faster.”
9. Lazy campfire
I went wild camping with some friends in Wales, UK. The guy who organised it was very particular and very much a drill sergeant. He’d give you a job to do and it was your sole responsibility to get it done to absolute perfection. We arrived at the spot he’d been using for years and I set up my hammock and everyone got their tents set up.
I was tasked with chopping wood for the fire, except he was very specific, “the length of your forearm and as wide as your wrist”. The reason is because he built a circle out of rocks and lit a fire inside it and cooked on top of it. I’m no newbie to camping and no newbie to outdoorsy stuff. Instead of a circle of rocks, I make a U shape out of the rocks and just break branches and twigs and feed them in through the open side of the rock fire pit.
One of my friends says “oh my God why didn’t you ever come with us before? We usually take hours chopping the wood for the whole camping trip!” I turned what for them was usually a couple of hours’ worth of work into a 20 min job – and then I had a nap in my hammock.
10. Scanning crib
I worked as a cashier during the holiday season back when i was 16. The supermarket was selling drinks by the boxes and at that time, we only had barcode scanners that was at the front of the computer. No gun type scanners existed. I was lazy and didn’t want to carry boxes up to the scanner.
So, i politely asked my customers if i could carve out the barcode from their box to scan and keep. Some agreed, some didn’t want to, but eventually i managed to amass all the barcodes needed. Labelled them and kept them in a file for easy reference. Apparently some other cashier got green eyed at my “smart” move and complained to the chief cashier who promptly lectured me on how it’s dangerous for me to scan such barcodes as i might scan the wrong things.
She told me to throw it all away and carry the boxes like I was meant to. I mean, I was young so I could but the other cashiers were older and some were elderly and needed the customers themselves to help carry the boxes to the scanner. But whatever, I guess jealousy trumps common sense.
11. Trading parcels
A friend of the family was a messenger boy for a large bank in the 50 and 60s. Every morning he’d get a huge stack of documents to deliver all over the city. He’d pick them up and go to a cafe where all the other messenger boys gathered. They would trade packages.
These wily messenger boys would still deliver 80% of their own packages, but if there were locations a long way away from the others, they’d give it to someone else with multiple packages in that area to deliver. The organisations never knew and it went on for years.
12. Outsourcing snow
Have a friend who is the custodian of a school building at night and maybe the laziest person I know. I had tickets to a Bruins game and asked him to come but his boss wanted him to clear all of snow from school grounds and adjacent sidewalks. After a 2 minute pause, he came up with this brilliant plan. He contacted a handful of kids in the neighborhood, gave them some money and had pizzas delivered.
We went to the game and upon returning later that night I was amazed….not a flake of snow left. He didnt lift a finger, still got paid, created work oppurtunities for kids that didnt have any, got the job done and made his boss happy. Sometimes the people we percieve as being lazy are just creative thinkers. They often come up with easier ways to accomplish tasks that would take others hours, days etc.
13. A job for Squeege Girl
I taught Kindergarten, and a student spilling their milk was a daily occurrence. Before, the teacher would grab a couple of handfuls of those non-absorbent recycled brown paper towels and just kind of move the milk around the table, then carry the sopping paper towels to the trash can, still leaving the communal table with a thin veneer of milk.
My co-teacher and I were at Ikea preparing for the upcoming year and we picked up a $2 squeege. Then we someone spilled their milk, we’d say something like “This looks like a job for Squeege Girl!” and the child who had spilled their milk would hop up, grab the squeege and our plastic compost dishpan-thing and squeege the milk off of the table into the bucket. It worked pretty great. Kindergartners love having special duties, so getting to turn their accident into a fun moment was fun for them.
14. Sweet democracy
I am the lazy one in this scenario. When I was in 4th grade I was in a group project that was supposed to teach us about elections. We had to elect candy instead of presidents. I was forced to be part of a skittles campaign management. I didn’t like skittles at the time so I was unhappy from the start.
The rest of my group just didn’t want to work so they laid the work down upon me. I simply told the teacher, “in a democracy, don’t we get to choose who we vote for?” My teacher at the time was cool as f*** and very preserving of American democracy, excused me from the assignment and gave me an A+.
15. Eliminating your own job
A buddy of mine and I used to spend our time working out the most efficient way to do our jobs. We used to tell ourselves “I’m not being lazy, I’m just being efficient!” It became an almost daily thing…”why are we doing it this way? This is stupid. There must be an easier way.” Then we’d find that and implement it. Nine months ago, I’d made my job so easy it was eliminated. Be careful what you wish for.
16. Fooling the computer
An executive at an insurance company was complaining to me that his inner circle was looking to fire people who didn’t stay “active” in their virtual online office. Told me that it was really annoying because some of the doctors he oversees work offline a lot and said he considered buying a software to automatically keep him online and listed as “active” and then he would tell his team to use the same.
I told him don’t waste the money, took a wine glass off his shelf, and sat it on the space bar. Presto! A 45 year old MD, JD holder learned an old gaming trick. He was so happy that he told his team and now they’re all putting dense objects on their space bars.
17. Lazy maths
The mathematician Gauss. When he was a young kid, his teacher told him to add all the numbers from 1 to 100 together as a punishment. He answered very quickly with “5050.” Instead of adding all the numbers together by hand, he created his own method that you probably learned in high school.
Here’s what you do: you take the first term, add it to the last term, and then multiply that by the total number of terms divided by 2. So, (1+100)*(100/2)=5050. It’s pretty impressive he did this when you realize you were probably eating crayons and glue at the same age.
18. A blank look
In my high school freshman English class we were given an assignment to draw a visual representation of a self-chosen idiom or adage. “Kill two birds with one stone,” “Don’t throw stones at glass houses,” those sorts of phrases. Teacher gives us 20-25 minutes to scribble down our drawings. After maybe 10 minutes or so I look up to check the time and notice the kid across from me, let’s call him Georgio, is just sitting there, spacing out.
I’m thinking, ‘this guy is either a speed artist or gives 0 s***s about his grade.’ 15 more minutes pass and the teach tells us to put our pencils down. We popcorn around the room explaining our pictures to the class. It’s finally Georgio’s turn. He stands and hoists up a blank page like a matador cape so that the teacher can see. Written at the top is: “The best work done is no work at all.” He got an A.
19. Pairing lazy people
I’m a supervisor in a maintenance shop. Can’t really fire people since it’s the military but I usually pair the lazy guys together with someone that balances them out. I get more work accomplished that way because I’m pretty sure it’s a lack of confidence most of the time.
If they have that second person who is equally lazy/not confident, they’ll bounce ideas off each other and get something fixed. And they have fun while doing it because they’re not as stressed out about it and get to bulls***. Sometimes they’ll both just be lazy as f*** and scramble away but 80% of the time it works.
20. Trade secrets
In a recent job interview they asked me what my worst trait was. I told them that I am so lazy that I would stay late an hour for a month to figure out a way of automating a task that normally takes me a minute each, and make that task take 5 seconds. They wanted to see an example and I told them that it was a trade secret. I got the job and I’m using it now to write this out.
21. Copy and paste
I once was a temp at a tiny office on a construction site in around 2003. I was only there for one day while the regular person was on some training. They sat me down and told me that I just needed to copy all these numbers from one program to another. So I selected them, hit ctrl c and ctrl v. They stared at me. Turns out about 60% of this woman’s time had been spent manually typing numbers from one place to another.
22. Lazy marking
Had a creative writing teacher whose solution was simply, “Everyone gets a B+.” What’s that? You misspelled your own name but you met the word count? B+. Oh, you poured your heart and soul into this poem and drew from your own real life experiences? B+.
Is this short story two days late? Well, B+. Wait, you actually wrote an entire epic adventure story 100% in iambic pentameter AND the main protagonist is an orphan destined to become The Chosen One in order to save his people from the World’s Greatest Evil?!?! … B+.
23. Tractor power
My parents were having a summer get-together a couple of years ago and my dad wanted my brother and me to dig a small pit for a bonfire. He handed us two shovels and left us to dig. My brother went and started up our old tractor, drove it across the lawn, dropped the bucket into the earth and drove forward a few feet. The pit ended up a little larger than what we had planned but once we lined it with stones it was actually a pretty nice pit.
24. Pretending to write
Hey, teacher here! We have a K-3rd grade classroom with mixed ages. This year, we decided to assign a big project for pairs. We have a 3rd grade boy who’s cynical, argumentative, and refuses to do work even though he’s extremely intelligent and capable.
We decided in an effort to get work out of him, we’d pair him with a very energetic kindergarten boy that has underdeveloped, 5-year old reading and writing skills. Anyway, the older boy typed sentences on the computer in big 20-point text and gave it to the kindergarten boy to trace on our light board, as well as pictures to color. Well played.
25. Quiz cards
Back in high school I was taking a chemistry test. Our teacher gave us a packet of 150 random questions with the answers on it where 50 would be on the final test. We could use our notes and bring anything in we wanted for the test (no electronics). His idea was nobody was going to able to look through the randomly ordered packet of questions and answers and be able to answer all the questions in the hour we had so it was fine to give us.
Anyways here comes test day and my friend and I made a list of every question in alphabetical order and by the first world. For example if it started with “what is” that would be a category. We then proceeded to pass out 20 of our own packets of “notes” to the entire class and we all used them. Everyone got an A and the teacher wasn’t even mad.
26. The dunking method
I used to work at a company that manufactured precision equipment in Japan. There was a part of the process that requiring affixing small pieces of activated charcoal to a metal plate. At the factory in Japan workers would meticulously pick up a shard of charcoal with tweezers, paint glue onto it, and use tweezers to place it down the plate. It would take a worker many hours to do an entire plate. It was a very tedious and time consuming process.
The same company also opened a factory in the US. After some months, the managers in Japan noticed that the output from the US factory was of lower quality, but that their speed was orders of magnitude higher than in Japan. Naturally, they sent someone to investigate. The Americans were painting the entire plate in glue and dunking them into buckets of charcoal shards.
One employee could knock out dozens of plates in an hour. The managers decided that the reduction in quality was was a reasonable trade off for the money saved, and since then, the Japanese factory has been focused on customers that require very strict tolerances, and the US on customers that have looser requirements.
27. Anything but dish-washing
Growing up it was my job to wash the dishes – by hand in the sink. Wasn’t so bad. As a teenager I’d stand there washing the dishes while talking on the kitchen phone to a friend every night. Then I left for college, moved out, and my younger brother had to take over some chores I used to do- like washing the dishes.
That joker found a free, broken, dishwasher someone put out, got a friend who was older and could drive to help him bring it home, rode his bike to the parts store, fixed the damn thing and installed it in my parents kitchen. And that’s how my parents got a dishwasher.
28. Crushing the job
This guy’s whole job was to take the empty boxes off a long train of warehouse rolling tables, crush and bail them. He rigged up a box fan to blow empty boxes off the table/line and down a cardboard ramp he’d constructed. He’d then literally lay in the pile of boxes to crush them (BIG dude). It was brilliant though because if you did it manually you have to constantly watch the line and break the boxes down flat because you gotta race to the bailer while the line is paused.
He could just leave the line every so often, let the fan continue to blow boxes off and go distribute his few poorly smooshed boxes in the bailer (box compactor). Best thing ever, he comes back from being away from the line and more than normal amount of boxes have blown off: “ahhhh man” he said dramatically as he slumps into the pile and starts sitting on and smothering boxes flat.
29. Steamroller game
The joys of being a parent. As the parent of 2 hyperactive boys, I invented a game called the steamroller game. I would lie down across one end of the bed and the kids would start jumping. At some random point I would make a motor noise and roll across the bed. If they didn’t jump in time I would roll right over them. They loved that game. I just invented it because I wanted to lie down for a few minutes.
30. Fake audio
I, being lazy and having an interest in video production and coding, was given a task where I needed to edit a short film. I hate working with audio, and small spoiler, whenever the protagonist takes a punch, there is a sound for that. Walking, sound for that. So guess what lazy little me did.
With the help of three online friends, I coded something that would detect whenever a certain event happened and where. Phone drops on hardwood, phonehardwoodfall.m4a. Phone gets set down on table, phonesetdown.mp3. That was probably the hardest I’ve worked for a film. Not very lol.
31. The best essay ever
In junior high, I did an exit project about a dude from colonial America who was basically the unsung hero responsible for modern chemistry. My parents even bought me the source material on the dude since it’s so hard to come by. I then used it again in World history, American history, english, chemistry, english ii in college, american history in college, philosophy, and some other course I can’t remember. Through the years I just found more source material and added citations to details I already had. Never got less than an 88 on that essay.
32. Children in disguise
I worked in hospitality, at a franchise that constantly looked at your performance for upselling items and your average amount spent per customer. People that got highsales per seated customer? Were automatically verbally praised in front of other floor staff, and if you weren’t in the Top 3, you had further heat put on you.
Now this is where it gets tricky- my manager was KNOWN for constantly seating couples with children in my section. The couples would order $30-$40 of food and drinks for the adults, and 1 $9.90 kids meal deal per kid. So obviously per person, I’m not going to get the sales I would if I had say 6 adults on a table. This new guy starts, he gets praised for getting on average something crazy like $45/head on average for every.single.customer of his tables.
Even though he was a subpar server at best & never regularly checked in on customers. The manager starts frothing on his sales figure & telling all of us we should be more like him. His massive ego gets boosted further. One day, I asked him how he did it. How he kept getting statistically high sales per customer. Turns out, after plonking into the computer system that persons 1&2 were getting adult meals & alcohol, whilst 3-5 were kids getting cheap meal deals, he’d send the order through to the kitchen.
Then, log back in, and move the kids meals onto the adult seats, thus boosting his customer sales average. Which is a problem when the franchise is using those statistics to average how many customers they get each day/week/month. Sometimes, he’d move the parents alcoholic beverages (e.g. multiple beers and cocktails), with all the entrees onto the kids seats, as to raise the kids “average spending amount”, so suspicion wasn’t raised.
33. Nature’s lawnmowers
When I was a kid, we had a fence that when around the property and a gate as well as a pasture with horses. When I got older, my mom wanted me to start mowing the lawn during the warmer seasons while she did errands and what not. So one day instead of getting the mower out, I closed the front gate and let the horses roam the yard and eat the grass.
My mom came home confused as to while the horses were in the yard and I told her, “Why waste gas on a lawnmower when we basically have 4 furry lawnmowers that graze in the pasture?” She called me a smartass but she didn’t disagree with my logic. After that we let the horse out in the yard all day once a month when the grass got too tall.
34. Inventive cleaning
I had a job cleaning a new Six-Plex movie theater all night after they closed. In the first week it was me and another guy but he quit. I was supposed to sweep and mop under every single seat which took forever and was monotonous as hell. One night I was bored and went poking around miscellaneous areas. I found a leaf blower…
Back then the floors were sloped cement and it’s like 1am in this big empty building so noise isn’t any issue. I took the leaf blower along the furthest row in the back and blew all the trash under the seats down to the bottom, then I used a snow shovel to put it all in a big trash can. After that I’d dump a couple of steaming hot buckets of water with a little bleach or PinSol in it at the top, wait for it to flow to the bottom, mop whatever extra made it down then move along.
Ended up being able to clean the whole place (theaters, lobby and restrooms) in less than 2 hours then since I was on the clock I’d sleep or read in the lobby. When a manager came in to open around 7 or 8am I’d act exhausted, punch out and leave. Was getting paid for the full 8 hours even though I slept or read most of the time. They thought I was amazing because it’s always been a 2 man job and gave me a little raise.
35. Sneaky swiping
15+ Years ago I worked at a Wendy’s and we had drive thru time goals. I don’t remember what it was exactly, but it was something like in the 45 second range from the time the customer ordered to the time they got their food and drove off. That was our goal. We rarely hit it. We competed against the other Wendy’s in our region to see Which store had the best time over the course of a month.
Well we discovered that the timer in the pavement outside the drive up window could be tripped with a metal trash compactor pole. So whenever the drive was empty, we’d swing that sucker out the window and trip the counter over and over to bring our average times down to something ridiculous like 20 seconds.
We won a few months in a row, and then our manager told us to knock it off because corporate was getting suspicious that something was fishy about our numbers. Pretty sure our manager got some bonuses from being the fastest store in the Midwest during that run though.
36. Biscuit sabotage
When I was a kid I used to work at Fox’s Biscuits in Batley. (Brits will know.) It was backbreaking work. We used to be hunched over a conveyor belt processing biscuits (cookies to you Americans). We had to work at the speed of the machine so we didn’t even have time to stretch our backs and ease the pain. Just constantly hunched over.
I noticed the packing machine would mess up from time to time and the maintenance team had to come up to sort everything out. They would then stand at the machine when they got it working to see what was going wrong. They couldn’t work it out so then would leave until the machine messed up again. I was just a kid at the time and my back was killing me! I noticed the maintenance team trying to work out what kept messing the machine up so I did the same.
Only difference is I actually worked out what the problem was. As the biscuit packets were coming through the machine the design of the packets made some of them interlink which threw the packing machine off. So I did what came natural to a kid. I would purposefully interlink the packets. This gave everyone half hour breaks while the maintenance team tried to sort things out. I was a hero to my people!
37. It’s going swimmingly
When I worked as a regional supervisor for a pool company I came up with the easiest way to put calcium chloride or sodium bicarbonate into a pool with zero effort. The generally accepted practice was to put what you needed to add to the pool in a 5 gallon bucket, stir for 5-10 minutes, let is settle for 10+ minutes, poor the clear water in a skimmer, and repeat hourly for 3-6 hours or until finished.
Instead, I used two sand filled pool umbrella bases next to an open pool skimmer with the 5 gallon bucket leaning over the open hole with a third umbrella base behind it. I then put a hose running slowly in the bottom of the bucket to slightly disturb the material while only overflowing the clear water with the fully dissolved chemical into the pool skimmer. Usually took 2 hours with no effort.
38. A risky game
This last semester I took a class from a notoriously difficult professor, known for his academic standards internationally among his peers, and his ludicrously difficult classes among any student who has ever taken a class from him (there’s literally a support group on facebook for the class I just took, we post memes about him and cry all day).
The class was formed like this: Four midterms, each worth 20% of your grade, but one gets dropped. Homework and participation, 10%. And a final worth 30%. In his class, an A is an 85%, and the homework/participation is known to be some of the hardest undergrad assignments we will ever have to do. This is where the work harder, not smarter, idea came into play.
I was lazy, so I decided that instead of suffering over the homework every week, then stressing out about the monthly exams, I would completely ignore the class up until the week of the exam, figure out all the concepts on Monday and Tuesday of the exam week, then mark every type of concept and concept solution they have in the book, and study off of those from Wednesday to the exam on Friday night.
One may think this was absolutely stupid, but I ended up being the only person to get a 100% on every exam. The average on the exams ranges from 48% to 71%, and he allowed me to replace the final with a short paper due to my diligence in my exam preparation.
39. Selling a magic trick
I had a summer job in an office, the lady they had before went to raise her kids so they needed someone for a few weeks while they looked for someone permanent. Now this was basically just processing raw excel data input from countless different forms and invoices filed by different departments to get the important stuff like names, prices, phone numbers…
The lady that had this job before was doing it mostly manually, looking at the data, copying the name, correcting for capital letters, missing spaces, or copying the prices as someone would fill it out without points (123456,78) and someone with (123.456,78), etc. all manually. I spent one afternoon writing some excel magic and while after that I still had to do some stuff manually, I only had some actual work for maybe 30 mins instead of full 8 hours.
Spent the rest of the time surfing the web pretty much undisturbed as I was sitting in the basement storage room. After my time was up, I found out a friend got the job, “sold” him the “magic” for a few beers, he showed it after about a week to his boss as his own creation (with my blessing) kept the same money for this part of his job, but he could (and wanted) to do other work for which he got paid extra so in the end got a de facto promotion and a raise.
40. Notoriously lazy
Google did exactly this to scale up their web services. They gave mundane computer tasks to software engineers — things like back ups, hardware monitoring, routing, etc. Software programmers are notoriously lazy — and creative. They will program the hell out of something to ensure they do not have to do the mind-numbing admin tasks…
Lo and behold, this is exactly what happened. The end result was a fully functional cloud product with redundancy and automated error fixing that mostly takes care of itself. (For the nerds, this is called Site Reliability Engineering, but of course they already knew that!)
41. Looking lazy
I got a job processing images for scientific journals at a typesetting company, getting them into the correct style and format. Everyone had to wait for me to do my job before they could do theirs, and I didn’t like that pressure. I scripted more and more of my job, until I’d absorbed three other people’s jobs when they moved on and I still ended up twiddling my thumbs for about two days a week.
At one point early on, my boss thought I was being lazy because I slouched at my desk and looked very relaxed. He asked me to write down what I did for a week. When he saw what I’d done in a week, he swore and said I was doing more work than anyone else in the company.
42. Drives me nuts
If you don’t want your job to be eliminated due to efficiency, work for an insurance company. I’ve been a claims adjuster for 30 years, and this has been true for every employer I’ve had. I’m kind of old, and it drives me nuts. I can only imagine how annoying it is for younger employees who are a lot more computer savvy than I am. It’s like an episode of Mad Men, without the ridiculously attractive coworkers.
43. Changing the system
My old school district required that all teachers submit daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and semesterly lesson plans, along with unit overviews of everything we were teaching. IF you were able to keep up with everything, and did it well, it took about 7 additional hours a week to complete all of this bulls*** paperwork that nobody ever looked at, but checked to make sure you did.
The way they were all set up, if you did the unit plans well, you could copy and paste almost everything into the other needed plans. So, I had a programmer friend write a simple program that would auto-populate my daily, weekly, and monthly plans based on a unit plan I input. It literally saved me hundreds of hours every year. After about 5 years of this, my district curriculum coordinator called me in for a meeting to ask me to lead a professional development for every teacher in the district on lesson planning.
44. Stripping the room
When I was about 10 my parents went shopping and left me alone for the afternoon (they were gone about 6 hours). They gave me one chore to do and then said I could sit and play final fantasy: I had to strip the wallpaper from my room. They later (as in, later in life) admitted they thought I’d just not do it or only part do it because it was a day’s job.
When they came back all the wallpaper had gone. I’d used the internet to search for easy ways to strip wallpaper, I mixed up a mixture in a bowl (I vaguely recall it using washing up liquid and a few other household items) and applied it to the wallpaper, left it to soak for 10 minutes and then just pulled the paper off the wall in big strips. It literally just fell off the wall. Took me about 5 min to strip the whole room.
45. Plug-in prank
I was an intern at a museum while studying like 8 years ago or so and I was doing intern s*** all day while all I wanted was to get high. The museum lady told me I need to invite all our followers on Facebook to the next month’s events which always took them ages, because, back then by standard you had to manually tick each follower/friend to invite.
I asked to be send home to do this as there was no point to be at work while doing so. The finance guy I was in the office with smirked at me because he was the one usually doing it and it took a day and a half to invite the 3k followers to next month’s events. I took the work laptop home, looked for a plugin that allowed me to hit “invite all”, did so and watched the Big Lebowski. When the 3 months internship ended I uninstalled the plugin. Bet Kevin’s still inviting people manually.
46. Melting the problem away
Very late to the party, but at my work we have these chill wells/ open freezers used for keeping food cold. They build up ice and food scraps fall into them creating tremendous messes throughout a service period. For years apparently they would get a metal scraper and chisel away at the frozen refuse because it took too long for it to defrost. So one day I walked over with a bucket of boiling water and poured it in. 30 minute job per well reduced to 1 minute and everything washed down the built in drain.
47. Slip and slide
Many years ago I was hired to help set up a large store. They had pre-assembled shelving units that needed to be moved into place in the aisles of the store and each of them weighed about two hundred pounds. Me and another guy were assigned to move them into place but we had to do it without scratching the floor, which meant lifting and walking them where they needed to go.
I was in pretty good shape in those days and so was my partner so we started work on the lifting and moving but halfway through the first one we realized we were gonna break our backs doing this all day. On my way into the store, I’d noticed one of those long runner mats that are plastic grip on the bottom and carpet on the top.
The mat was a little longer than the shelf. In the end, we turned the mat upside down, put the shelf on it and then pushed the shelves along the floor into place. They slid like they were surfboards on water. We finished the job in a couple hours and spent the rest of the day playing games in the mall’s arcade.
48. The invisible polar bear
I don’t know if this counts, but in art class one year the teacher (the most art teacher-iest person you’ll ever meet, you know the type) split us into groups and put us on our “biggest project of the year:” coming up with a mural that would hang in the school for years. She wanted us to make “powerful, impactful, artistic statements” and the group concept was designed so we could “come together as artistic minds” and make something that “means something.”
Well, my group consisted of friends so we goofed off the entire time instead of working. All of the other groups were coming up with these big things and we were doodling and telling stupid jokes. When it came time to turn it in, we had nothing. So, class clown that I was, I jokingly told the teacher that the big blank, white piece of paper was “a polar bear in a snowstorm,” and she goes dead silent.
And I expect to be reprimanded and handed an F, but instead she glows and goes on about how powerful it is, it’s anti-art, it goes against common perceptions of what’s acceptable as art, etc. And so for like three years there was this big framed piece of white paper hanging up in the school cafeteria lmao.
49. The perfect opening line
A friend of mine found a great way to get through writing during his time in high school. Where i live, we have cram schools that make notebooks to advertise themselves and people stand outside of the school gates to give them to students. Anyway, a friend of mine got a notebook from a cram school that had a specific phrase in it.
The phrase was something like “in today’s world we have many problems that lead to many different outcomes”. My friend liked that phrase and literally copied it on the first paragraph of every single essay he ever wrote throughout high school, to the point where the teachers knew it was his essay because of that first paragraph.
50. The easiest way
Physical laborers tend to have a crazy amount of common sense. It’s not laziness, per se, it’s just experience. If you have to haul things, hammer things, weld things, you are very quickly going to find the absolute easiest way to do it. [One] example of this was when the port of Los Angeles was going on semi-strike. That’s the busiest port in the United States. And it wasn’t a slow down. It wasn’t a strike.
They just said, “we’re going to follow all the rules and regulations.” That meant no piggybacking on the rear of vehicles or extra-stacking boxes, or taking short cuts, or blowing through the trillions of traffic signs everywhere. Just that action was enough to bring the shipping companies to the table to negotiate with the unions! So that tells you how much rule-breaking goes on at a major port.
51. A fake internship
A friend of mine is a lazy bum, but with extreme entrepreneurial attitude, but too distracted to get anything done. In University (one of the top engineering institutes of the country) – he wasn’t happy with all the assignments he was getting. In the random s*** he does all day along, he found himself in a WhatsApp group with GSoC aspirers (Google Summer of Code – prestigious internship opportunity)
He sent out a message offering an internship opportunity himself to those students, and received a number of messages from interested people. He even made a website about it. Under the pretence of “testing their aptitude”, he used to get them to do his own University projects and assignments. Later used to tell them they didn’t make it, but they were a good candidate/came very close etc. Guy had even made a website for it. Mad genius, have multiple such stories about him!
52. Working 24/7
Got hired for a 3 week temp job that was transporting strings of text from a text document that the company’s app produced, into separate excel sheets relating to what the string in the text document was. It was hundreds of thousands of lines of records of which office was printing, calling, emailing, basically any time the network was used. They were making graphs about how much of call time was to what department/customer/etc, and things like that.
Yeah, just wrote a script that read the first couple words, determined which excel sheet for which string, then watched tv for the rest of the two weeks. It ran 24/7 while I finished a bunch of Netflix shows. It worked perfectly, and the company paid me extra to keep using the script I had written. To make things better, someone shut the computer down and couldn’t figure out how to restart the script properly so I came in and restarted it for an extra $50. Best 3 weeks of my life.
53. The mega-essay
In college, a professor always assigned 20 page papers. No one could ever get 20 pages out of one topic. We were only undergraduates. I consistently turned in papers that were 14-15 pages long and suffered for it. Then I learned about Kyle. He would write papers called something like The Origins of the Federal Reserve, its Role in the Depression of 1920, the Great Depression, and the 2008 Recession. Four 5 page papers = one 20 page paper!
54. Eliminating mindless work
I was a receptionist in a fancy hotel (Milano Marittima, Italy) when I was young… One time, my boss gave me a gigantic and boring task: to migrate all the client’s database from one app to another (newer) app, in order to upgrade it. That was huge: years and years of data to copy, literally days of mindless work.
Once I figured out that I was doing the same movements with my mouse all over again, I downloaded a program that allowed me to record my mouse actions and repeat them in a loop (it was called actmonitor if I’m not mistaken). Meanwhile I was reading my Ice and Fire books (that turned out to be an even more wasteful activity).
55. Folder theft
So more than a decade ago, we had to submit an assignment to this locked folder on the school network. You could only drop files in there, but if you tried to open it, it would say you need a password. And so what does this one guy do the day before the deadline?
Yeah, he copies the entire locked assignment folder and proceeds to copy one of the assignments in it, passing it off as his own. Somehow, the teacher didn’t disable copying the folder, and only put a password up to prevent browsing. The guy got an A for his assignment.
56. Hidden problems
I have an example of how the truly lazy will sabotage tracking so no one knows s*** is broken. There was this guy at a software company that does integrated software systems. He hated his boss and his job and apparently most of his team. Every time he was assigned a bug to fix, he would mark it resolved and assign it to a no-reply email address associated with the team.
The odd thing that I don’t understand is how he managed to keep issues from getting escalated to other real people. At any rate, no one caught on. When he found a new job and a couple people on his team took him out for drinks he said, “You should look into all the bugs I fixed. I never did any of that.” So the guys who took him out for drinks went back and audited his work and were like “Holy f***! He not only did nothing, he hid identified issues for like…a year.”
57. Scream test
We do the “scream test.” If something sounds useless, looks useless, and smells useless, we reversibly disconnect, hide, or disable it. If someone (rarely) screams, we restore it. Nothing required for safety or compliance, and everything is backed up to offline disk. Servers have been turned off instead of replaced. They’ll sit for a while then get melted down. I’m sure the big guys do the same thing with entire racks or even data centers.
58. Almost all automated
I automated 70% of my job in a large finance firm as an intern. Never disclosed it and got paid easy money for 6 months. I spent the time doing courses and applying for my grad school. Got my admission letter during the final 2 weeks of my internship and never looked back. Pro Tip: Python and Excel can be your best friend.
59. Boat crushing
A co-worker of mine had to get rid of a smaller junk fiberglass boat with no trailer. Our other co-workers are all telling him how much time and money he’s going to need to spend to get rid of it, and he’s just saying “Oh, is that so?” He took off one day, and sat down on his lawn with a cooler of beer.
Well, that day was garbage day. Inevitably, the trash guys roll up. This guy hands each of the trash guys a cold beer, and says “Hey boys, I’ve got $50 for each of you if you help me out real quick…” They fed the entire 12ft boat into the packer, crushing two feet at a time.
60. Done in minutes
In my first proper job, I got unexpectedly promoted to a mixed developer/sysadmin role, where a large part of my job was setting up accounts for students, giving them access to some form of public webspace, emails and mailing lists, etc. The guy before me had done everything by hand so the tasks took hours to do – being lazy I scripted/automated the lot, got it down to a handful of minutes work, then spent the rest of the day reading in the peace and quiet of the server room. It was the early 2000’s so the internet was still a bit voodoo to most people.
To add a bit of authenticity, I also captured the output of an Apache compile, and used to re-dump it out on the screen to make it look like my console was super busy. Wanted a break? Just turn on the dump, hang a sign saying “busy compiling, don’t touch” and then wander off around the busy university campus and pretend I was a student. Good times.
61. Copy and paste revelation
At an office I visited recently: one staffer’s job required making copies of files and making a few tweaks to the copy. To do this, she’d open each file, copy & paste its content into a new one, reapply the rather complex headers & footers, and save. Dozens of times a day. I showed her how to CTRL+C/CTRL+V from the folder itself. She cried.
62. ‘Controlled drop’
I work in finance at a large multinational corporation. I feel like a big part of our job is to just stop doing things and wait to see who complains. If someone complains, we keep doing it, if silence, then we call it a “controlled drop” and put it on our performance review for creating efficiencies.
63. Work harder, not smarter
My boss hated Excel to the point where he didn’t want us using formulas because “you can’t trust them to be right” so we needed to “do all the calculations by hand or on a calculator.” He would give me a spreadsheet once or twice a week that required lets say, 45 seconds to do, but maybe 7 hours by hand and he told me to “go to starbucks or something and crank it out.”
He thought that since I pasted as values and he couldn’t see the formulas that I did it by hand when really I just did it in 45 seconds, sent an email on delay for 7 hours, and studied for the next semester. Dude was the posterboy for failing upwards in your career. First day of internship he told me with a straight face he was a “work harder not smarter kinda guy.”
64. Selling your shortcut
Worked for a semiconductor company and we had 9 interns running simulations to optimize a substrate for a new semiconductor called 3D Crosspoint, aka 3D NAND memory. Anyways, I got tired of manually reading outputs on a DOS screen, so I wrote a small python script to scrub the outputs, take note of interesting data ranges, and then use Google’s vector API to generate a 3D heatmap.
You could click on the heatmap and it would show you the conditions under which that data was generated. However, the output was in a format only I could read. I went from running 50 simulations per day to running half a million. My boss was flabbergasted, and gave me the computers the other interns were using to run more simulations.
They got moved to a paper pushing department. When my internship ended, they had no way of reading the output of the script without me, so they had to buy the script from me separately for more than triple my total pay for the period. Worked like a charm.
65. MS Paint
When I was young, I had a job where I had to prepare a weekly report for the higher ups. The first time I tried, there was a graph on a program that I couldn’t figure out how to export to the slideshow. I told my supervisor I had spent an hour trying and couldn’t figure it out. He said “just do this”. He pulled the graph up on the screen, hit “print scrn” (screen shot) on the keyboard.
Opened a simple “paint” program and pasted the graph on there. Then he cropped it, saved it and dragged it into slide. I’ve used that little trick many times in school and other jobs. I’ve impressed some really smart people with it. At first it felt like cheating but over time I realized the point is that, if you’re doing a slideshow or a printed report, the inner workings don’t matter since people are just going to see the final product.
66. Outsourcing the office
An ex-employer had a bunch of people outsource themselves. Our local guy, the ringleader, was responsible for training compliance, making sure everyone that worked there was up to date on their certificates, licenses, etc. He worked maybe fifteen hours a week, went to five hours of pointless meetings, and took home $80K, so a pretty cushy job. But not cushy enough.
Of course, as with many multinationals, the company had lots of people doing the same job in many other places, most of which also had way too much time on their hands. A half-dozen of them got together and combined their workload, which was then done by a minimum-wage temp and an intern in the Florida office. Now all they had to do was forward on emails prepared by someone else, maybe handle a phone call once a day, and go to the pointless meetings.
Twenty hours a week was down to more like eight or ten. They got discovered when they finally got too lazy to send their own emails and handed their login details over to the temp. IT wanted to know why employees in MA, MI, IL and CA were all logging into Exchange from FL.
67. Sitting in the shade
Not mine but my dad’s story. He and a friend worked temp and paid by the day for a company that had a fairly large asphalt lot that had an assortment of large trees (mainly pine) around it. One weekend a storm rolled through and the lot was covered in leaves and pine tags. The boss went to my dad and his friend and said “One goes out to a job with me, the other has to clean the lot.” My dads friend volunteered to work all day in the sweltering heat to clear off the lot, dad was glad and everyone went on their way.
After 8 hours my dad and boss get back to the shop expecting to find the friend completely exhausted. What they ACTUALLY found was a stranger finishing off cleaning the lot and the buddy over in the shade on a chair drinking a 6 pack. Boss asked him what was going on, friend says “Well I get paid 50 a day. I went to the corner after y’all left, offered him 20 to clean the lot, he said yes, I bought myself some drinks and pocketed the rest, job done.” Boss hired both my dad and his friend full time with a raise after that.
68. Excel crash course
Worked for a small family business who had horribly outdated systems. Every Friday afternoon, someone had to to create a spreadsheet after calculating the weekly sales figures complete with comparisons to previous months, comparisons to projections, year to date, quarter to date, etc. to send out to the salespeople so they knew where they stood.
It was a complete pain in the ass and the lady who did it before me had to dedicate her entire Friday afternoon to it. I got handed the job when she retired. It took me one week of this nonsense before I decided I wouldn’t be doing that again. Instead, I spent a day on youtube getting a crash course in excel. Figured out how to set up the formulas so that all I had to do was take 5 min every week to enter everyone’s sales totals and excel did the rest.
Even committed the time to linking all of the various sheets to quarterly and yearly figures so I would never have to do anything with it again other than take the 5 minutes every week to enter those weekly numbers. Since the company still thought this was an afternoon-long process, I would spend the rest of my Friday afternoons playing Words with Friends with the Planning Manager.
My family bought a house that was in extreme disrepair to flip it – our fifth house we were flipping and we intended to live in this one. It has major high water table issues and we run sump pumps to keep the house from flooding. No big. Well one day my dad forgets the hose is running in the backyard so water collects against the basement wall.
So much water, in fact, that it found a nice hole in the stone wall to start pouring into the basement from. The house wasn’t finished and I wasn’t sure what to do because I didn’t have the supplies needed to properly fix the issue, especially because there is water actively running into the house from this hole. I kinda rummaged about and realized I was chewing gum.
I walked back into that part of the basement where my brother and sister were trying to clean some water out. I just put the gum into the hole. It worked perfectly. A year later and the flipping was done and the high water table issues were solved. Sad that they were initially created because the city carelessly flattened the land behind the house which meant runoff was cut off from the creek down the way.
70. Fruitful work
I used to work in the fresh department for a supermarket. Part of our routine is writing-off any vegetables, fruits or meat that had spoiled. We do this by using PDA with a built-in barcode scanner, so we scan the barcode on the packaging, and enter a quantity. The problem is that half the items are in measured in ‘kilogram’ (the other unit is ‘each’, these have their own barcodes). These don’t have their own barcodes that can easily be scanned, we had to find the ID number from a list of every single item in the database, sorted by ID number, and manually enter it into the PDA.
I, being the lazy guy, decided to make a excel sheet with only items with ‘KG’ as the unit, sorted them by type (apples, oranges, etc.), and downloaded a plugin that renders the barcode on a separate column, and printed it. Easily cut the time taken to write-off by a significant amount. Unlike most of the stories here, it was actually well-received by my co-workers, also because I added in translations to our mother tongue, as well as pictures for items we had difficulty telling the difference.
71. Battery testing
I just spending all day watching my stacks of computers run test batteries. I planned it all out. Got a room with a door that no one wanted. Dug up old shelving units and with spanner, rope, and lots of work built them up again. Budgeted out 6 computers and networked them to the same SAN. By hand soldered and braided the testinf chambers. Wrote all the testing framework code and bug reporting software. Months of 14 hour days.
Would come in every morning. Sip my coffee with my hangover and read the reports generated the night before. Alter the run scripts slightly. Day was over in 30 minutes. Would spend the rest of the time studying. Eventually feel into depression and took a real job.
72. Coding for class
Knowing how to code can really be your friend. In one college engineering course the final consisted of solving a problem that required a number of repetitive calculations that provided ample opportunity for input error. Since we had a really long time to take the test I pushed my test aside and wrote a program for my HP-48 to do the calculations. I scored high enough to raise my final grade to an A. (I okayed it with the prof, though he did ask me to turn in my source code.)
73. The simple solution
A few years back, I was roommates with a super mechanically inclined dude. Our top-loading clothes washer stopped working well because the lid got a little warped and didn’t trip the safe switch for the spin cycle to run anymore. He was all geared up to pull the washer out, take it apart, bend the lid back into proper shape, and reseat the sensor so it would run properly.
I told him to hold off; I put a load of laundry in, and popped a quarter inch shim under the lid. It ran perfectly.
74. Crash landing
I was tiling a bathroom floor. One young guy I was working with was cleaning up when we were done. I told him to take the leftover tile back downstairs to the truck, and then went back to cleaning what I was doing. Ten seconds later I hear this huge crash and then a soft “oh, right.” He had gone out onto the balcony and dropped them down to the truck, shattering over $100 worth of tile. He said he “thought it would be faster”. He wasn’t exactly wrong!
75. A better job
Got hired into a plant that just got a big new job building stuff for the military. My job was “materials associate” which basically meant I drove a fork lift and staged parts that were built. The “Engineers” came up with a floor plan for all of the parts and where they needed to be staged. They used fancy lasers and measuring devices and built it all in CAD. After telling them it wouldn’t work they said ” well let’s see you do a better job”.
I organized the entire 50,000 sq/ft warehouse so that each part was close to the machines that use them, it followed the first in first out method, and each department knew where their parts went when they were done making them (put up signs and what not). After that my job was basically pointless because the warehouse ran its self. I decided to teach myself how to use the welding robots in my downtime. Fast forward 3 years and now I’m an automation engineer at one of the largest parts supplier in the industry.