Unexpected Slack

Slack (book cover)

Slack: getting past burnout, busywork, and the myth of total efficiency

I’m re-reading Tom DeMarco’s Slack again at the moment, this time with the purpose of providing a thorough review for the bookshelf. It’s such a good book, it might take me several entries to get it all covered. Right now, though, I’d like to write about the weather. And slack.

It’s snowing in northeast Ohio at the moment and although not much has hit the ground yet, plenty is predicted. Cancellations poured through. First it was my noon appointment, then it was the afternoon ones and finally, at the time of this writing, everything scheduled for today was cancelled or postponed. My nearly-full day suddenly became wide-open.

Slack.

Unexpected Slack

Unexpected slack in my schedule to do some things that weren’t on the list for today. Time to look at those features in QuickBooks that I’ve been meaning to investigate for business travel expenses. Time to look at that zoning map again. Time to dig into the Cr-48 device that Google sent me last week to review. Time to get ahead on that project. Time to sit down with a cup of tea and think inventively about the next new project.

You probably get the idea. Having slack in your schedule makes you flexible.

But Slack has some other weather-related applications, too.

Travel Slack

I work from my home office most of the time these days, and if I’d had to go anywhere today, I would have added some travel slack. It takes time to validate that the driveway has been shoveled, see that the car gets scraped and then drive extra-carefully on the slick and snow-covered roads.

It’s not just weather that requires travel slack, though.

  • during rush hour
  • with an extra bag
  • with small children
  • for sight-seeing
  • in unfamiliar cities or neighborhoods (or airports)

All of these circumstances require extra time in your schedule: slack. Knowing this in advance and building that into your schedule can make the difference between a relaxed and on-time arrival or a stressed and late arrival. Which do you think your client would rather experience from you the next time you meet?

So with the afternoon stretching out before me, I plan on catching up, getting ahead and letting my mind wander a bit in search of a few new inventive ideas.

Readers, what do you do with your unexpected slack?


The principal resource needed for invention is slack. When companies can’t invent, it’s usually because their people are too busy.

From Slack
by Tom DeMarco

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