I'm busy. I've got my job. I've got a daughter in preschool and twins on the way. I'm running three fantasy football teams. I don't have time to do in-depth research to find winning stocks -- to analyze management teams, earnings statements, and competitive advantages.

Still, despite my analytical lethargy, my portfolio in the three or so years I've been buying individual stocks is about a double. My secret? I listen to smart people.

Learn to make money
Peter Lynch is fairly smart, and he also speaks to the lazy investor, making it clear that smart investing is not only for the hard-working types.

"Twenty years in this business convinces me that any normal person using the customary 3% of the brain can pick stocks just as well, if not better, than the average Wall Street expert," Lynch wrote in One Up on Wall Street. He adds, "All the math you need in the stock market ... you get in the fourth grade." Not exactly demanding. So listen to Lynch.

For me, I was a reader of Motley Fool Stock Advisor before I joined the Fool, and I came to trust and rely on David and Tom Gardner's picks. Did all of their recommendations move me? Nope. Back in 2003, TiVo (NASDAQ:TIVO) didn't have a strong moat around its technology and David referred to it as "speculative" in his write-up. Not for me.

But a couple months earlier, he convinced me that Pixar (NASDAQ:PIXR) would handsomely reward long-term owners. Its movies were poised to make millions and provide huge leverage in its negotiations with then-partner Disney (NYSE:DIS). It's up nearly 100% since his initial recommendation. In that same issue, Tom re-recommended Quality Systems (NASDAQ:QSII), arguing that doctors would eventually go paperless and that this company was the industry leader. That pick's up nearly 700%.

The bottom line
I'm not entirely hands-off, but I'm happy to let others do the initial legwork. That said, Stock Advisor is also teaching me how to do my own research. A recent issue detailed the various ways companies can make good use of their profits. They can:

  1. Repurchase shares
  2. Pay dividends
  3. Pay down debt
  4. Reinvest in the business

If a company is doing any one of these four things, that's usually good. But there are also pitfalls. A company can throw away money by repurchasing shares when they are overpriced. A company can also throw away money by paying too much out to shareholders when the money can earn a greater return by being reinvested in the business. Debt is usually great to pay down -- except when it is financed at a reasonable rate. And reinvesting in the business is usually a good idea for companies with strong growth prospects. But larger companies that can't earn a nice return on capital are probably better off paying dividends.

Profitable companies can reward shareholders in myriad ways, but when analyzing a stock, I've learned that it's best to make sure they're doing so intelligently.

That's one of the tips I've learned from Tom and Dave, and I can use it in the future to determine if the investing case they present with their recommendations makes sense. If it does, I act accordingly and enjoy the profits.

Together, the Gardners are up 56% on average since the newsletter's inception, compared with the S&P 500's 20%. Take a trial, read some issues, learn some tips, check the scorecard, and see if you trust them to do your legwork. If not, cancel. No obligation. No worries. Best of all, virtually no effort.

Or, at the very least, go get a copy of Lynch's masterpiece and put that 3% to work.

Roger Friedman is the managing editor of newsletters and the author of Nipple Confusion, Uncoordinated Pooping and Spittle: The Life of a Newborn's Father . He owns shares of Quality Systems. The Motley Fool has a full disclosure policy .