Want to slack off? Permission granted.

Photo by: Michael Summers via Flickr

Even A+ professionals face times in their career where they just can’t stomach putting their all into work. It usually happens when something personal demands significant energy. And by “demands”, I mean, “jumps up and down and yells”- in order to break the trance of the hyper-focused over-achiever.

I’m reading a book called Earning It: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World after hearing the author, Joann Lublin, speak last week at the University of Toronto. I walked away from the event totally pumped, willing to be the Coach that launches her clients to their dreams. But I was reminded earlier this week that depending on your state of mind, Ms. Lublin’s message could be inspiring or exhausting. As a seasoned Wall Street Journal writer and editor, she spoke of persistence, innovative action and resilience as common characteristics of exceptionally successful women. I agree! Sometimes, though, we (men and women) just don’t have it in us.

The reminder came from a client, who told me a story about ending up in the hospital emergency room with her dear Mother, who was in the late stages of fighting cancer. After her Mother was admitted, this doting-daughter-ambitious-professional was undeniably distracted by the fact that she was a presenter in a Town Hall meeting the next day at work. Well prepared for it, she phoned a friend to get her thoughts on whether she should pop into the office to do her piece, and was met with “Are you crazy!?!” – a sentiment that matched her conscience exactly. It was sobering: she realized that her career was inconsequential in that moment. Caring for her Mother was her number one job.

We all appreciate that family, health and emotional wellbeing is paramount, but we sometimes forget. When faced with something that forces us to remember, be it illness, divorce, burnout, a new baby or an ultimatum from a neglected someone we love, it’s shocked into focus. Greedily, work has trouble sharing a top spot on a priority list. Some periods in our life, therefore, necessitate us demoting it. Not just for an evening, but more like a few months. The most dedicated of us would call this “slacking off”, while the majority would call it “more than good enough right now.”

Here’s an action plan for embarking on some short-term, justified slacking. (Because a go-getter always needs a plan!)

SLACK-SMART ACTION PLAN:

Start…

Putting [yourself/relevant loved one] first

Noticing feelings of guilt and consciously choosing a different way of thinking (Self-compassion? Responsibility? Pride?)

Breathing more deeply

Stop…

Giving away your recovery and recharging time

Worrying about where you’re getting to 

Continue…

Delivering good work

Relating to, and communicating with, your team

***

Sounds a little scary, I know. But not as scary as ignoring your instincts. Perhaps there’s a reason you came across this post today. 😉