I’m looking forward to the day that my boss will say to me, “Good job slacking off today!” Don’t believe that day will come? Mark my words, it’s possible. Companies are starting to see an idleness as more than just wasting time. It helps solve problems, foster creativity and reduce stress, among other things.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s talk about how we’ve come to over glorify overworking.
The Primary Motivation to Work More
I won’t sugarcoat it: we work because we’re scared. The recent shake-up in the economy has rattled us up a bit. When you see people getting fired and downsized left and right, it puts the fear of God in you so you work more. After all, a hard worker won’t get fired, right?
Tech has also been an enabler of sorts towards our compulsion to work. It’s blurred the lines between personal time and work time. I used to think that all these new innovations would lead to more fooling around at work but to my surprise, it’s work that’s actually invaded our pleasure time. I guess it’s driven by another fear: the fear of missing out. You don’t want to miss out on promotions, on attention, on praise for a job well done.
A Case for Slacking Off
I’ll ask you one thing though: is doing more work equal to more success in your current line of work? If it is, then you’re welcome to skip all of this nonsense and get back to work. But I’m thinking it’s not. You’re not working right now because you’re on a clock, you’re working to produce results for the company. Slacking off produces results, believe it or not. How? Well, for starters:
1) Slacking off leads to creativity
The biggest ideas come from people who have the most free-time. Take our biggest thinker/slacker of them all: Albert Einstein. He got his big idea while slacking off in the patent office, the perfect occupation that let his mind wander (cushy government job often lets you do that). One thing led to another and bam! Theory of Special Relativity.
When you’re lazing around, your mind is not focused and so it jumps around from idea to idea. It’s less like a basketball being passed around and more like TP-ing an apartment, connecting each thought with a 2-ply neural network. With each connection is the possibility of a new idea, a new theory or a new painting. No wonder great slackers like Picasso and Dali were able to produce amazing art.
So we know slacking off makes you more creative, which also means that…
2) Slacking off helps solve big problems
Every business has problems and you’ll always feel that you need to be in the thick of things to squelch these problems to keep the business running. But all of these are small problems and while fixing them is great and all, it doesn’t move the needle much in terms of your career or your business.
What you need is to solve big problems which mean taking time to process the big picture. You’ll need to do some serious slacking off for that to happen. Suddenly, an executive retreat doesn’t seem such a waste of time, after all.
3) Slacking off reduces stress and depression
To paraphrase a great rapper: mo’ work, mo’ problems. The more problems you face, the more stressed you get. Stress leads to all sorts of other illnesses like high blood pressure, depression, and anxiety attacks.
One six-year study found that among 2,000 UK workers, those who worked more than 11 hours a day had double the risk of depression versus those who worked the normal 8 hours and less. A strong case as any to slack off more often.
4) Slacking makes you more a better performer
Nope, I didn’t get that backward. I have data to back it up. Ernst & Young did some research and they found that for every 10 hours people were away from the office, their employee reviews bumped up 8% the following year.
If I were to hazard a guess, it’s probably because, in the long run, slacking off makes you a more well-rounded worker. A career is like a marathon, you can’t win it by sprinting towards every short-term goal you see. It’s steady work that creates progress and you can only have that if you pace yourself and slack off once in a while.
How to Slack Off
It’s a bit weird that I need to write this part, but I guess some of us need to know how to slack off. Slacking off is an art. Too much and you drop off into the cliff of laziness, never to return. Too little and you end up being extremely productive, but in the wrong direction.
1) Take 1-2 days off and often
Some of us collect vacation days like Pokemon. Don’t do this! You’ll never have enough time to use all of those vacation days in one go. It’s not just that you’ll miss out a lot from work with a two-week vacation spree. The guilt of not working during that time will probably ruin your vacation as well.
Taking two days off seems about right. It’s probably why weekends are precisely that long. And like weekends, you also need to take your days off often, not just to prevent it from piling up but also to maximize you’re slacking off potential.
2) Don’t be a work miser during vacay
It’s okay to work a bit during your vacation but don’t overdo it. It’s a vacation primarily because you’re not working. Might as well just plop into your office chair if you’re going to spend 2 hours on your laptop anyway.
I know you’ll be anxious away from the office so you can check in twice a day. No more than that though. Don’t worry, it’s highly unlikely that anything company-shattering will happen when you’re gone. Of course, it goes without saying that you have to turn off work notifications too. Can’t have that constant buzzing ruining your slacker buzz.
3) Don’t do things that overwork your brain
The point of the vacation is to ponder about of your goals, dreams, and career. That can’t happen if you spend all your time off in brainy things like making business plans or reading training manuals.
Relax, take a stroll. Or take a literal hike. If you want to stay productive, fix some stuff in the house. Go to a bed and breakfast. Or maybe you should…
4) Do things with other people
When you’re on vacation, take this time to bond with people you love as well as share your ideas. The free flow of ideas is great for expanding your perspective, especially with people who aren’t in the same line of work as you.
Their ideas will be fresh and a bit contrarian but don’t discard them just yet. Think about their responses and who knows, it might lead to a new breakthrough.
5) Bring a notebook
Or whatever you are comfortable with for taking down notes. Ideas can spring up anywhere: at the beach, on the trail, during dinner. Don’t try to clog up your brain and remember it, jot it down.
That way, you make room for more thoughts. Don’t worry, your brain still has that idea at the back. You just need to have a backup just in case the front part forgets.
Slacking Off: the Ultimate Productivity Tool
At the end of the day, you do work not to fill time but to produce results. To produce results, your mind needs to be in the right mode to provide solutions. Slacking off gets you in the right mode and so yeah, slacking off does actually produce results.