Note: This post is not about the messaging app. It’s about slack as in not tightening the rope too much, leaving a buffer or white-space, etc.
During late December and early January the number of posts in my Facebook feed about planning grew considerably. And then there were the inevitable cries of frustration that something had thrown off the tightly planned day that was the only hope of getting everything on the to-do list done.
I would occasionally comment briefly that the planning concepts I teach are Priorities, Boundaries, and Slack, in case that’s helpful. And I noticed something.
Most people are well aware of the importance of priorities and boundaries to successful plans. They may not be very good at setting priorities or creating strong boundaries, but they are mostly aware that doing so would make a big difference.
Slack surprises them. One of my friends replied with “Slack?” leading to an interesting discussion that also made it clear that this was new to others as well, even if it was a good kind of new.
Don’t give 100%
Seriously. Don’t book 100% of your time. Don’t give 100% of your energy. Leave slack.
This is not lazy. (You are not lazy.) This is efficient.
I don’t mean that you need to balance your work time, your family time, and time for self-care (though that is also important). I mean that in each of those categories, you need to only schedule/plan about 80% of your capacity in time, energy, and other resources.
Stuff comes up
You will get sick. Something will be more complicated than expected. The internet or the power will go down. You’ll get stuck in traffic. There will be last-minute requests that you cannot turn down. That manuscript will finally come back from review with a conditional accept and a very tight deadline for revisions. There will be opportunities that you can’t imagine now but would like to accept if only you had some spare capacity.
I can guarantee that you will never be at a loss for what to do with that slack time when it comes up.
Sometimes you’ll catch up on mundane things like email. Other times you’ll be pleasantly surprised to have extra time to read or write or meet with that colleague to talk about that idea you have.
You may even find that looking back you don’t feel like you had any slack at all. In which case, you probably need to leave more slack in your schedule next time.
Do you have any slack in your plans? How could you add some?
Introductory clarification added 31 May 2021.