Want to be more Productive? Cut Yourself Some Slack!

Productivity is a common theme to talk about. One Google search, and we will get hundreds and thousands of results about it. From books, to articles, to videos and reels, we shall find tips and tricks to be productive all the time. We are told that perspiration beats inspiration- ideas come to those who work towards them. But what if one of the ‘productivity hacks’ was to actually get yourself some slack time? Slack time is when, to put is plainly, one is zero percent productive, and one is actually not working. Slack time is the time between agendas, tasks when one just seems to be ‘sitting around’. 

The book Slack: Getting Past Burnout, Busywork, and the Myth of Total Efficiency, Tom DeMarco seems to say that!

Let us quickly take a look at how having some slack time might actually be useful and the need to be productive all the time might actually be proving counter-productive.

Less Slack, More Build-Up:

An article on the blog Farnam Street, while talking about the book, gives a hypothetical example of the workings of the office of a business tycoon named Tony. One look at his office, and it is everything opposite to what one expects in the office of a business tycoon- the office doesn’t look ‘busy’, buzzing with activity. Tony’s secretary Gloria seems to be just quietly sitting on her desk, and not really seems to be working…she seems to be slacking off!

But one phone call, and Gloria gets up on her feet, schedules the required appointment and Tony now knows what his next agenda is.

Here in this hypothetical office, the task is not look busy all the time, and not find work to do all the time. Of the agenda says so, the work shall be done quickly, but there won’t be a compulsion to have a long to-do list. If there’s work to do, great, finish it off; if there’s not much to do, great, take a little break! Slack time is not a bad time here.

Less slack time implies built-up work, and thus, here for example, if Gloria had already built-up work, she wouldn’t have been able to fix that quick appointment.

The Space to Respond:

Slack time gives one the much-needed space to breathe, which obviously gives one the rest and motivation to move on to the next task with more energy and enthusiasm to do the task well. But slack time also gives one the time and flexibility to respond in the face of unpredictable changes. Demarco gives the example of those puzzle-like tiles.

Think of a square with eight tiles, with one empty space that allows you to slide them into place. The empty space is the equivalent of the slack as the article points out. If you fill up that space,

‘…there is no further possibility of moving tiles at all. The layout is optimal as it is, but if time proves otherwise, there is no way to change it.

Slack time thus adds into the organisation, processes or tasks a much-needed dynamism.

Slack time is When Reinvention Happens:

Slack time actually gives one time to pause and look at the bigger perspective. It is when introspection and reinvention happen. It is when ideas take shape. As the article points out:

‘Only when we are 0 percent busy can we step back and look at the bigger picture of what we’re doing. Slack allows us to think ahead. To consider whether we’re on the right trajectory. To contemplate unseen problems. To mull over information. To decide if we’re making the right trade-offs. To do things that aren’t scalable or that might not have a chance to prove profitable for a while. To walk away from bad deals.

…..This is in contrast to grabbing the first task we see so no one thinks we’re lazy.’

The pressure to look constantly busy actually might also make us work slower. We want to look busy all the time, and hence we end up finishing the task ‘not on time’, so that we wouldn’t have to find a ‘buffer task’ to look busy. Kabir’s doha of ‘kal kare so aaj, aaj kare so ab..’ might actually have some relevance here. While on one hand the doha might look like it is talking about being productive, it actually can have a different perspective: we finished the work that had to be done, on time, “ab“, effectively without procrastinating and now we have some spare time at hand to take a step back and look at the big picture, set new agendas and recollect ideas.

Take A “Break”!


break time 2


Life is unpredictable. We never know when we may have to deal with leaving our jobs. Being newly unemployed gives many people a feeling of being in a limbo.

Whether you have been laid off, let go or just quit for your own personal reason, the sudden removal of structure and routine can be tough to deal with.

We bring you some tips which can be used as starting points to deal with the situation:


  • Now that You are Here, Take A Few Days “Off”:

Yes! This sounds counter-productive but taking a couple of days off from thinking about “what next” is a good idea. It will help you introspect, bring your emotions under control and rejuvenate to begin your search later.

Getting on with a good habit that relaxes you during the break can work wonders on your mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health. Some examples include:

  • Working out or catching up on a sport you like to play
  • Reading
  • Gardening
  • Going for walks
  • Meditation
  • Going for a short trip to a place nearby your town/city
  • Going to museums, art galleries, etc,.
  • Creating art

And the best thing about a good habit is that you can continue it well beyond the break without feeling guilty about it.

But make sure it is actually a good habit: watching TV for hours at end, or binge-watching some series are not part of the list. It is okay to indulge in it once in a while but don’t make it a habit. You should get a feeling of accomplishment through it, not a feeling that dips your spirits.

The purpose of the break is not only to rejuvenate you but also to make you realise your job is not the only thing that defines you.


Side note: It is also a good idea and time to contemplate (not dwell) on some decisions: do you think now is the opportunity to start that venture you had thought of? Is now the time to get back to a side activity and make it your main one? Is a change impending? Make a decision, either to stick to your current profile or taking a leap of faith, or the in-between and plan accordingly.


  • Begin the Plan:

After taking the required days off, get back to “work”, meaning, get to finding a new job. Update and post your resumes on various portals. Update your LinkedIn and Facebook.

Get in touch with people and let them know you are looking. The people could be former colleagues, college and school mates, friends, family, friendly neighbours etc,.

It is important to not lose a sense of structure from your routine.

Make sure: Even if you are at your house, dress well, and allocate a couple of hours to working on getting on with the job search just as you would do if this were a regular job.

Allocation of time is important. Working on the job search all day, in other words, being obsessed with it all day can drive you crazy.


  • Don’t Be Hasty:

Speaking of obsession and allocation, it is also important to apply wisely.

Apply only to places where minimum two or three of the requirements match your profile.

While it can be tempting to apply to all places where there’s a vacancy, we don’t want to land up in a situation where we need to quit the job shortly and begin this cycle all over again!

Getting in touch with a recruiter often helps in such situations.


  • Be Prepared:

We live in a competitive world. Depending on your profession, you may or may not face a lot of competition. It may not always be the case that your first interview will land you a job. You have to be prepared to face rejection at any point.

Being psychologically prepared to face multiple interviews is a good idea.

In such situations, it is important to keep in mind that any hindrance, rejection, has nothing to do with who you are and your qualities.

It could be that yours is not the profile they are looking for as of now. Comparison is truly the thief of joy here. Continue to believe in yourself.


While the search is on, and you wait for the happy news, it is important to live your life in other ways.

Meeting people is a good idea. Not only is it a good opportunity to network but also to socialise and get a sense of perspective. Catch up with old friends, visit the dear family members you haven’t seen in a while, volunteer for a good cause.

You can also use this time to learn a new skill, or brush up on an old skill. Maybe join a club. This will help you to meet new people, and perhaps even help you uncover new opportunities.

Do not forget to exchange emails/visiting cards with the ones you feel will help you find what you are looking for.

But more importantly, continuing to be social whenever you can and finding a purpose outside your professional life will help you remain patient and calm, keeping the self-esteem high.


Being unemployed, answering questions from friends, family and colleagues can be tough. It can be difficult to have patience while you search for new opportunities. A strong inner-life that finds purpose in more than one aspect of living is necessary. How you respond to situation is in your hands, and how you choose to see a situation depends on your perspective.