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When Being a “Slacker” is Positive


“Slacker,” “slacking off” – not something that most people appreciate or strive for as a descriptive adjective. But what if I could help you understand that one of the surest ways to increase bandwidth and true productivity is to become a slacker?

In their book “Scarcity,” authors Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir explain the importance of slack in relation to both time and money. A lack of slack in your schedule typically shows up as the following:

  • Back-to-back meetings
  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Constantly moving and on edge
  • Little or no time for exercising
  • Poor eating habits
  • Difficulty in staying present

A lack of slack in your budget causes:

  • Unproductive worry about money
  • Inability to meet short-term expenses
  • Difficulty in staying present

Building slack into your schedule leads to flow and flow leads to increased focus and ultimately better results.

Here are some examples of things that we can create slack with, using time – or more time – for:

  • Meals
  • Meditation or prayer
  • Relationship building
  • Setting intentions
  • Re-energizing
  • Exercising
  • Studying
  • Journaling
  • Sleeping

The biggest organizational rationalization that continues to boggle my mind is the number of people who still schedule back-to-back meetings, usually in different locations, and consequently not allowing for travel time. This contributes to what becomes an acceptable organization norm of tolerating lateness.

Now, some of you may be getting a little defensive, arguing or rationalizing that the only time you schedule back-to-back meetings is if they’re in your office. However, what you are failing to grasp is the importance of slack, because unless you consciously build in a transition time between meetings, it is difficult to be present to the task at hand.

Additionally, in most organizations – my own included – the utilization of administrative support is mediocre at best. The advances in technology have made it easier for people to perform administrative tasks that they are not trained for or proficient at. It takes them longer, it is usually not done as well, but many executives and employees continue to mismanage their time, losing valuable slack, simply because they can.

The seasoned senior or junior leader are skillful at utilizing administrative staff to help them create slack, be more present, and consequently more productive. In the television show “Blue Bloods,” Chief Frank Reagan, played by Tom Selleck, illustrates one of many ways to effectively manage slack. Chief Reagan utilizes Baker, a police officer, and his assistant to keep on schedule by announcing his next appointment and ushering out the person from the previous meeting. This enables the chief to be completely focused on the person and task at hand.

Consultants specializing in efficiency often successfully convince leaders to either eliminate positions or to load people up to the max – consequently eliminating slack and ultimately compromising productivity.

The next time someone refers to you as slacker, instead of being offended, perhaps you should thank him for the compliment.

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