This could also be titled, “Making the Case for why Slacking is Good”
Disclaimer: I have been a lifelong slacker.
I believe that “slacker” is often associated with lazy. At least it is in my mind. Automatically following from lazy is bad, which makes sense, since lazy is a hop, skip and a jump away from sloth and sins are widely acknowledged as bad. Yet, what is lazy? Someone who isn’t working. So, if we aren’t working, we are lazy. Or slackers. Proof of this is everywhere. In crossword puzzles, idle is regularly associated with leisure. When we take time out of our work day to chat with a colleague, we’re slacking. Or when we go home sick. Slacking is so much more widely defined than a weekend Netflix binge. It’s deciding not to take your work home with you. Sometimes it’s leaving the office for lunch. Essentially, we are automatically judging ourselves as lazy if we aren’t working all the time or we’re worried that others are judging our non-working activity as slacking. Crossfit, distance running training and Tough Mudder preparation are all acknowledged as exceptions to this rule. Cooking for your family could go either way, depending on whether or not it takes place before 7pm.
It sounds both crazy and painfully familiar, right? I have found that an acute awareness of it is just the beginning of addressing it, because it is so embedded in us individually and collectively. I understand some of the reasons why that might be: the continued effects of Puritan thought; fear of our instincts; the belief that self-criticism is the surest route to self-improvement; and maybe most of all, defining ourselves by our paid work – thus spending any time away from work related-activity is discounted somehow.
I also believe I understand the limits of the belief that slacking is lazy – we are robbing ourselves of feeling good about doing something that is essential for our well-being. Either way, we still slack. We take breaks and vacations. We don’t always take our work home. Sometimes we leave early. Or spend an hour in the morning comforting a co-worker who is struggling to find the energy to focus, so tired from taking care of a mother with dementia and a son who is scared to sleep alone. We do these things because they fill important needs for ourselves and for others. But we judge ourselves as slackers when we do. Or we worry that others are judging us. And sometimes we are.
How is slacker actually defined? Merriam Webster says, “a person who avoids work or obligation”. However, the same dictionary defines slack as a “cessation in movement…” or “…something that hangs loose without strain”. Slack sounds like rest to me. Or letting go. At the very least, pausing. It sounds functional and desirable. It sounds mindful. Definitely not bad. Particularly, when practiced in moderation.
So, ready to embrace being a slacker? As a lifelong slacker, let me provide you with three easy slacker guidelines:
- Make time each day to chat with people. Can be about something. Can be about nothing. We need the connection and it’s good to bring others into our slacker world.
- If you’re moving really quickly, ask yourself why. If the reason isn’t immediate or time-sensitive, slow down just a little (slacken up).
- Practice doing things that you think of as “indulgences” regularly. You’ll find other treats, I promise. In the meantime, you’ll bring something that you think of as a treat into your daily life.
Slacking is a goodness in itself and also recharges us so we can bring more to the activities that require holding on tighter. We all want to be slackers.