You know how you've always secretly wished that someone would one day come along and tell you that you could get thinner by eating more chocolate, or getting fitter by spending more time on the couch? (It's OK to admit it, we've all had this daydream at one time or another.) Well, finally someone has said essentially the same thing when it comes to work.

Who is this lovely person? Christine Carter, a fellow at UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center which studies positive psychology and the author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work. Carter might be an accomplished sociologist with a PhD, but according to a recent post on Greater Good's blog, she's also a confirmed slacker.

"I spend about five hours a day slacking off," she boldly writes. "Really: I spend that much time doing stuff I enjoy, that isn't on a task list anywhere. I walk through the beautiful university campus near my house--during the workday. I cook for pleasure. I lay around on my daughter's bed reading while she does her homework."

The lazy person's productivity secret

If that sounds lovely but lazy to you, Carter would beg to differ. Slacking, at least strategically isn't just enjoyable, she argues in the post, it can actually help you get more done.

"Here's the truth: I slack off not because I'm lazy or don't care about being productive. In fact, I've found that slacking off makes me more productive because I slack strategically--meaning that I take breaks at designated times, for regular intervals, in ways that sharpen my focus when I sit back down to work," she argues, asserting that "strategic slacking has enabled me to dramatically increase both the quality of my work and the amount I get done in a given day."

How is that possible? Think of your total output as the product of hours engaged times rate of work completed. It's no good if you increase the first but simultaneously radically reduce the second, which is just what you do when you exhaust your brain with long hours.

"How fast we work doesn't just depend on the difficulty of what we are working on; it also depends on how well our brain is functioning. Is it well-nourished? Free from stress? Rested and ready to go?" she points out. If slacking increases the quantity and quality of your output per hour enough, you can more than make up for those hours spent lolling in the park or pushing your kid on the swings (which, your kid would no doubt confirm, has plenty of other inherent benefits).

So how do you slack off right? Carter offers eight specific tips to help you achieve the near miraculous and get more done by working less in her complete post, including what work to do in the morning and what in the afternoon, the right intervals for taking breaks, and other details of how to be productively lazy.

Answer honestly: do you slack off enough?

Published on: May 14, 2015
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