Why You Need Slack in Your Life

You don’t have to squeeze maximum productivity from every minute of your work. In fact, it’s not striving for the greatest performance that gives you best results.

In an article on Farnam Street Blog, Efficiency is the Enemy, the author discusses why wiggle room is necessary for excellence.

Slack is defined in the article as “excess capacity allowing for responsiveness and flexibility.” Instead of being busy all the time, you always have some resources at hand—time, money, energy—that you can deploy to handle surprises or experiment with new ideas.

As a writer, I could spend my entire days writing. Squeezing every single minute to increase my word count would make me efficient. But it wouldn’t make me effective.

Filling my time with writing just to write something would steal the time and energy I could spend thinking what is worth writing (and then doing it). From this perspective, slack has nothing to do with laziness. In fact, it’s most essential work I can do, in the same way as a builder can’t begin without a house plan.

Quoted in the article Tom DeMarco says:

“Slack is the time when reinvention happens. It is time when you are not 100 percent busy doing the operational business of your firm. Slack is the time when you are 0 percent busy. Slack at all levels is necessary to make the organization work effectively and to grow. It is the lubricant of change.”

If you find yourself stuck, unable to innovate, lacking capacity to respond to events in your life or business, you need more slack. You don’t waste time when you give yourself some wiggle room. Quite the contrary—it may be the very thing you need to overcome plateaus and thrive again.

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