This is a guest post from Erika Andersen, author of the wonderful book Growing Great Employees (now in paperback!) and The Simplest Thing blog.
In honor of Phil, David and this delightful blog, I’d like to invite everyone reading this to spend some time this year learning to be a Productive Slacker.
Wait, isn’t that an oxymoron?
I don’t think so.
Here’s my rationale. To be productive is to be both effective and efficient: that is, to do those things well that best help you achieve your goals (effective) and to do them while making best use of time and resources (efficient). The definition of slacker is more ambiguous – the word started out meaning somebody who avoided work, especially in the military. It’s evolved over the past decade to mean something less negative and more interesting: someone who makes effort only when necessary, and would rather simply hang out than work for the sake of busyness. Someone who doesn’t believe in doing things for no good reason.
So, in my mind, Productive Slackers are those who keep their focus on those things that are most important to them, and yet don’t make unnecessary effort. That means they do things in the simplest possible way, and when they’ve achieved a goal, they’re not afraid to stop – go home, put their feet up, smell the roses.
In fact, some of the most effective leaders I know are productive slackers. They focus on having the right conversations, making the critical decisions, hiring the best people, sharing the key insights, requiring the right results….and then they stop. They don’t keep talking, asking, doing, interfering, breathing down necks, etc. They let people do their thing, and they reward them for it. One leader I’ve been working with for years – he’s now a group president of a huge US media company – gets great results and is much beloved by his folks…and he still makes time to go to his kids’ soccer games on a pretty regular basis, simply because he doesn’t do stuff he doesn’t need to do (that is, stuff others can be doing, or stuff that doesn’t really need to be done).
So, I raise a new year’s toast to productivity and to slacker-ness: may they co-exist within you happily as you stroll your way to a successful life.
You can read more from Erika Andersen at The Simplest Thing blog.