how to become a slacker … with Laurie Ruettimann

I’ve long been an admirer of Laurie Ruettimann, since her days running Punk Rock HR, a hilarious blog where she called out the BS of HR. (The blog is no more, but she now has a podcast of the same name.) Laurie has always called it like she sees it without pulling any punches, and the way she sees it is (a) often different from the conventional wisdom and (b) right.

Laurie worked in corporate HR for big companies like Pfizer for years, grew to hate it, and now helps executives and HR leaders fix their companies and avoid toxic work environments … and she calls out a lot of bad behavior along the way.

Her book just came out this week and it’s great — Betting On You: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career. As I confessed to her after reading it, I find a lot of books about work dry or predictable or personality-free. But hers is the opposite of that: It’s personal and engaging and fun to read, on top of being smart, insightful, and genuinely useful. It’s packed with good advice that you don’t often hear — for example, why you can ignore advice like “always be looking for a job” — and she tells a ton of amusing stories along the way … from how she handled whole range of tricky situations during her years in corporate HR to the time her husband thought a therapist who asked him about self-care was asking about masturbation.

Laurie agreed to let me run a short excerpt from the book (it’s below), and she’s also given me a copy to give away to a reader here.

To enter to win a free copy: Read the excerpt below on professional detachment and leave a comment below with your thoughts. I’ll pick a winner at random (or rather, random selector software will). All entries must be posted in the comments on this post by Friday, January 15, at 11:59 p.m. ET. To win, you must fill out the email address section of the comment form so I have a way of contacting you if you’re the winner. Giveaway is open to U.S. entrants only.

And if you don’t win this giveaway, I hope you will buy yourself a copy!

Excerpted from
BETTING ON YOU: How to Put Yourself First and (Finally) Take Control of Your Career by Laurie Ruettimann.
Published by Henry Holt and Company, January 12, 2021. Copyright © 2021 by Albany Park Partners, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Work won’t make you happy. You make you happy. It’s time to deprioritize your career and instead prioritize the good stuff: relationships, community, sleeping, eating nutritious meals, and enjoying time away from the screen. What’s the secret? Where’s the hack to this magical, mystical life balance?

There is no quick fix, but here’s my advice: be a slacker.

How To Become A Slacker

There’s no universal definition for a slacker, but the word loosely describes a person who will do anything to avoid work.

Every family has one. Maybe it’s your cousin, uncle, or sister-in-law who always asks for money and never pays you back. Or maybe it’s a nephew who never has cash but always wears nice clothes and has the newest iPhone. (Not my nephews, though. They are terrific. One works as an IT professional, and the other is in elementary school.) Most families have one individual who fulfills the “kids these days” stereotype. Maybe it’s you.

Every team has a slacker, too. It can be someone who comes in late, leaves early, and doesn’t contribute much to a project. Sometimes it’s the person who isn’t overly concerned with professional relationships and does not care about the growth of a company. Work slackers are seen as opportunists who cheat the system and think they’ve got everybody fooled.

Slackerism was elevated to an art form in the late twentieth century with movies like Office Space and The Big Lebowski, characters like Ferris Bueller and Bart Simpson, and musicians like Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins who told us, “The world is a vampire.”

But being jaded and cynical hit a snag at the turn of the century with the onset of the global financial crisis. People couldn’t afford to do anything other than put chicken in the bucket for the man, as Stephen Fry once wrote. Western culture also retooled itself around the birth of the social Web, the growth of interconnected communication tools, and the mass adoption of commercialized surveillance systems. It’s hard to opt out of the rat race and speak your true mind when you’re on Facebook and hustling for work. Companies scan your work computer and watch for sexual harassment and corporate espionage in your Slack messages. Algorithms monitor where you browse online and predict whether you’re about to quit. There’s even a program out there that can read your keystrokes and predict if you’re at risk for suicide. Yes, really.

Speaking of the hustle, it’s hard to be a slacker when our #hustleporn culture pushes you to be productive twenty-four hours a day. If you are lucky, you work for a company that gives you a work-from-home stipend to cover the cost of printer ink and pays you to freeze your eggs — but doesn’t guarantee you equal pay for equal work or make your life easier when you finally unfreeze those embryos. If you are unlucky, you are a hustler who works on contract and struggles to make ends meet. And who wants to be a slacker under either of those circumstances?

Slackerism is not only frowned upon at the office, it’s weaponized — especially if you’re a person of color. Your well-intentioned attempt at work–life balance might be somebody else’s excuse to throw you under the bus.

Now that I’ve painted a bleak image of slackers, let me flip the script and say that while nobody wants to be seen as the jerk with a poor work ethic, slackerism might save your soul.


Deanna is the VP of communications for a digital media organization. She worked hard throughout high school and college as a student athlete and scholar, then she went back to school as a working mom to pursue her MBA. Deanna is known for being a creative and compassionate leader. She pushes people to be their best while also leading by example, and she doesn’t shy away from hard work.

Deanna is the antithesis of a slacker, but after fifteen years as a corporate executive, she felt burned out and came looking for career advice. She’s an “elder millennial” who feels a little too elderly. Could I help her get off the hamster wheel and into a job that wouldn’t kill her? Was it possible to keep her current level of income with a role that didn’t require so much time and energy?

Before working with me, Deanna was hunting for a new job but every opportunity sounded the same: endless hours on Slack and too much time spent managing corporate politics rather than doing the fun work of innovation.

“I’m exhausted. My team can see it. My family tells me I work too much. And I can’t keep taking Zoloft forever.”

When I asked Deanna about her sleeping and eating habits, she laughed out loud. With two kids under the age of six — and one following her lead by showing an interest in sports — she doesn’t eat or sleep well. This was Deanna’s life before COVID-19: early morning wake-ups, daycare, carpool, a long commute to and from work, little flexibility, lots of responsibility with her kids, a spouse with an executive leadership role who doesn’t do dishes, and hobbies and interests that go unexplored because there aren’t enough hours in the day.

“I used to do yoga and run 5ks. Now I just participate in meetings all day long and check other people’s PowerPoint decks for errors before they go to the board.”

Deanna was suffering from arrival fallacy, the feeling of disappointment you get when you reach your goals but the result isn’t what you expected. Instead of being happy with your salary and enjoying your work, you ask yourself, “Is this all there is? There must be more.”

There’s not.

It’s not uncommon to unlock the next level of your career and still feel unhappy. But it’s important to know that the feelings of contentment and personal accomplishment don’t come from working sixty hours and hearing “good job” from your boss. They come from confidence and maturity. You’re doing great work when you solve problems, learn something new, and then spend time away from the office to support the people and activities you love.

When I suggested being a slacker to Deanna — working less, leaving early, establishing boundaries, spending time with her family, exercising, reading, and redefining what it means to be happy — she tried not to laugh again in my face.

“No offense, but people are watching me. I can’t say no. They’ll think I’m lazy.”

I asked her to hear me out. “Since people are watching you, let’s teach them something. Pretend your company is a client instead of a family. If you didn’t have so much skin in the game, how would you do things differently?”

Deanna needed to learn the skill of professional detachment — staying committed to your job, doing great work, but redefining the role so it isn’t your sole identity.

She didn’t say no, but she didn’t like it.

“This sounds risky, and I don’t want to be seen as cold or disconnected.”

This is a legitimate concern. Women and people of color are held to a double standard at work. They must be buttoned up but warm, savvy but deferential to the team, and data-driven yet still compassionate. Deanna told me she was always available to her team, even after business hours, which meant she wasn’t present with her husband and children. It would confuse her colleagues, she argued, if she suddenly stopped answering texts in the evening without explanation.

We brainstormed ways to lock the phone up at night and discussed what it takes to create a work environment where it’s safe to establish boundaries.

How could she improve daily communications but limit after-hours texting? Is it possible to track and analyze “emergencies,” and work backward to create processes and behaviors that prevent them? And how could her team reach her if needed?

Deanna called a meeting and asked her team for input. Were they feeling stressed? Could they describe what it feels like to have an evening interrupted with a so-called work emergency? Deanna took the lead and shared her struggle with putting down the phone at night, and others chimed in with their stories. Soon, they all agreed that they needed common definitions for “emergency” and “work crisis.”

Deanna asked her team to create a rules-of-the-road template for communicating after hours. They decided that if something was an emergency, it required a physical call. If the phone rang, and it was from a colleague, they’d try to answer the call right away or call back as soon as possible.

How did it end up working?

Deanna told me emergencies dropped 90 percent. She now has extra time to focus on her top priorities: family and personal well-being. Her evenings are free for exercise, spending time with her kids, or sitting on the couch and binge-watching TV without worrying too much about what happened at the office earlier.

Now we just need her husband to do the dishes. But I’m not a miracle worker.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to checking my phone in the evening,” Deanna concluded. “But now I can really relax before I check my messages and get to bed.”

Not only does Deanna feel more balanced and connected, but she’s also taking this message to other parts of her organization. She’s partnered with her local HR manager to bring the work–life balance rules to other business units and teams within the company. Just recently, Deanna spoke on a panel at a leadership conference and sang the praises of professional detachment, honest communication, and personal accountability for well-being.

Professional detachment — the act of pausing, reflecting, and treating your job like a puzzle to solve instead of an extension of your identity — saved Deanna from leaving her company. She hasn’t labeled herself as a slacker, but I’ll do it for her. And you, too.

I’m thinking of making T-shirts.

* I make a commission if you use these links.

{ 486 comments… read them below }

  1. TheHotNerd*

    One person’s slacker is another person’s worker. I think this speaks more to standing up against the American culture of “always on” than to being a ‘slacker.’ In so many other world cultures they would be confused about this whole thing (is that why this is only open to US entrants?).

    1. Mid*

      (There are different laws about giveaways and gambling in other countries, and also significant shipping fees, and the book might not be published in a different country yet, leading to copyright issues or whatever. Sorry if I ruined the joke with a serious answer!)

    2. MeganR*

      Wow. I really needed to read this today. 12+ hour days and employer wants MORE. Plus extra projects on the side because “we are a small company “

  2. SweetestCin*

    My thoughts after a first go-through: HOLY BALLS, this just described the cultural difference between my previous employer (known for creating burnout amongst early 20 somethings – there is no work-life balance and they are proud of it.) and my current employer (where an emergency better good and well be a real emergency if you’re contacting someone on vacation).

    1. Jack Be Nimble*

      I had to take medical leave in a previous role, and I made a joke about how to get in touch with me if the office caught fire. My boss said, “what would you do? put it out yourself?” and told everyone else not to let me have the time off.

      She was a good boss.

      1. Jack Be Nimble*

        * told everyone else not to bother me and just let me have the time off. Phew, accidentally send some really mixed messages, there!

      2. Marie*

        Ha, I asked to take one day off, boss approved; then heard same boss complain about what had gone wrong when I was out. He realized mid complaint that I wasn’t in the “office” that day but soldiered on telling me what to do differently in the future. Yes sir, of course sir, how high, sir?

    2. Quiet Liberal*

      Yeah, I wondered if the case study worked for my former employer! Though she was able to involve her team in troubleshooting ways to solve the issue, my old employer would balk at managers doing anything of the sort. I am now working for a competitor in a non-management job (making more money, BTW) and am able to devote energy to ME again. The author is right about feeling like you have to work extra hard as a woman to prove yourself as a manager. At my old job, I realized when all the jobs at the top were occupied by men and that would never change, it was time to get out. This looks like a good book.

  3. Web Crawler*

    That sounds like my kind of work style. I feel like this is a lot easier as an individual contributer at a large company, though. I can put in my hours and go home (aka close my laptop) and I’m not important enough to need to be contacted outside of that.

      1. Merci Dee*

        I am on pretty good terms with the senior manager for the HR department, and have had several conversations with him about numerous things over the years. Early last year, before the world went sideways, he asked me at one point about what my plans were for staying with the company. I told him that I’m happy doing the work that I’m doing, and that I don’t have any clear path to management unless my own manager were to leave the company for whatever reason. I told him that my biggest concern was that I didn’t want to be punished for being satisfied as an individual contributor by having my pay stagnate because I eventually top out for raises and such. He assured me that shouldn’t be an issue, so I guess we’ll see how it goes.

        1. Jennifer*

          I hope things work out for you. I honestly have a lot of things I enjoy doing outside of work so getting a job that was much more demanding would be misery.

      2. Bazinga*

        This gives me a lot to think about. I’m a lower level manager. My boss reports to the system director. He may leave in a few years and has talked about me replacing him. Right now I have a good work/life balance. He does not. I don’t want to work the crazy hours he does but he also never says no.
        I’m torn between not wanting it and hoping I can set more boundaries than he does. There’s also the concern of who would replace him if not me, and how that would impact the team. He also doesn’t delegate well because he doesn’t want his team overwhelmed. I feel like maybe I could do that better and have a better work/life balance.

    1. Judy Johnsen*

      This should be read by everyone . Most jobs , maybe all, can be done this way, and we would be so much healthier , which is no small thing. We would not have the health problems we have. Also, without so much work and work stress, people might be nicer to each other, it’s easier to be easier to get along with when you feel physically and mentally better.

    2. Ground Sloth*

      Oh for sure. I’m looking at the slackers at my work now going… how do I be like you without everyone hating my guts??

      How can I leave work at work and still feel confident about getting what needs to be done, finished?

  4. Squeeble*

    “Treating your job like a puzzle to solve instead of an extension of your identity” — whoa. That hit me hard. I have decent work/life boundaries already, but the identity thing is really embedded in me, and it makes it that much harder when work isn’t going the way I want it to.

    1. GrumpyGnome*

      That part really hit me as well. I have historically not had good work/life boundaries and 2019 I had a breakdown because of it. I’ve been building healthy boundaries but have struggled so much with that identity piece. This book is definitely going on my ‘to read’ list!

  5. NYC Taxi*

    I don’t consider Deanna’s example as slacking off per se, and as a manager I wouldn’t hold it against a direct report for setting up boundaries for after hours contact, and in fact would see it as healthy. I’m hoping that one workplace norm that comes out of the pandemic IS people setting work/home boundaries. You come to the job fresh and ready to work with more creativity. I’ve managed teams for 15 years, and I have always been on the lookout for burnout with my people. I’m also of the school that the money from my job is to pay for my outside activities, and my identity isn’t tied into it.

    1. Stephanie*

      Oof, with the team I was on at the start of the pandemic, they just assumed you were available 24/7 because we were working remotely. I asked if we could just divide up tasks when I was still on the phone at 7p and my boss was like “I mean, my boss keeps me on the phone until 11p often, but fine…”

      1. NYC Taxi*

        Haha same at my company. I just stopped responding to emails, text, etc after 6 and told my people that if they’re getting contacted after hours to let me know and I’ll put a stop to it. I’m also senior enough to do something like that, but I find when it starts at a more senior level it can cascade out, which is what happened for the most part in my larger group.

        1. Stephanie*

          Yeah, I think it was coming from the top of that group, unfortunately. Was relieved to transfer groups — I actually don’t hate working from home anymore. :)

      2. Good Vibes Steve*

        This kind of doubling down is crazy.
        “I’m on fire!”
        “Well, I’m on fire too, and my fire is hotter!”
        OK? How about we work to put out the fire then, instead of pushing people down for legitimately calling out that they’re one fire?

    2. Aggretsuko*

      One of the benefits/reasons why I stick with my job: strict 8-5 schedule, nobody is expected to be working at 5:01 p.m. and we had people who were told they could NOT start working before 8 a.m.

    3. Jack Be Nimble*

      You hit the nail on the head — some workplace expectations are so out of what that “setting reasonable boundaries” FEELS like radical slackerism, when it should be the norm!

    4. Regular Reader*

      +1. Worst for me were those in my team who felt they had to check their email when on annual leave or worse when they were on sick leave and then contacted me. It was rarely urgent. Took to replying with a thank you and a reminder to them that they were on annual leave or on sick leave and to stop checking their emails.

      1. NYC Taxi*

        One of my coworkers has on their email signature: “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.”

        And they are one of the hardest working people I know.

      2. Who Works on Vacay?*

        Two in my team popped in for a chat while on their (separate) vacations! I was just flabbergasted. You love work that much???

    5. Kes*

      Yeah, I have to agree, this doesn’t actually seem like slacking to me, and while it’s trying to be fun, I think the wording isn’t super helpful because slackers don’t put in the effort required, whereas the example is talking about putting in too much effort and scaling back to a reasonable amount of effort, not to too little. I would frame this more about setting boundaries and setting a good example of work-life balance to your team.

      1. anon today*

        Her framing didn’t work for me either. I think she could’ve done better by saying “Don’t worry that people will think you’re a slacker if you don’t live for your job and you have reasonable boundaries. It’s possible to change the rules of the game so everything gets done but you still get to have work-life balance. Slackers are the people who don’t care about their job at work. You are the person who cares about your job at work but you can leave work at work.”

      2. Charamei*

        Yeah. For mental health reasons, I work 20 hours a week (and am incredibly lucky to be able to support myself on that, if only barely). However, when I am at work I do a job that is both physically and mentally demanding, and where things can go wrong unexpectedly and require rapid adaptation. My clients all love me, so I’m obviously doing something right! It really rankles to be called a ‘slacker’, and just brings back memories of all those coworkers who can’t get past the fact that I’m part time. The wording might be useful for people who have that mindset, but it’s still a loaded word and it’s unpleasant to be on the other end of it.

      3. Junior Dev*

        IMO the word is useful for people who beat themselves up over not being productive enough. Kind of like how sometimes women who have trouble being assertive will say stuff like “sometimes you have to be a bitch about it.” I don’t believe in calling women bitches at all, but if someone has been called that in the past for being assertive and wants to reclaim it as “actually yes, I am being this thing” in order to do what they need, more power to them.

        My personal version of this is I often feel like “a bad person” for not being perfect in various ways (for reasons I won’t go into here) and a mantra that helped me a lot was “you don’t have to be a good person.” None of the stuff I’m worried about would actually get me labeled “a bad person” by others, but it’s my internal monologue and it helps me to fight it to turn the language against itself.

        So if someone is feeling “lazy” for not wanting to work 60 hours and read work emails at 10pm, maybe self-labeling a “slacker” is what helps get them through that, more power to them. But it isn’t advice that ends up being useful to people with a different experience.

    6. myswtghst*

      Agreed. I’m fortunate to be senior enough that I can set those boundaries, and have shown that if something truly urgent comes up, I’ll be responsive to text after my normal hours (when I can). I also make it a point NOT to respond immediately to emails received at 9pm or on Saturday, because I don’t want to set the expectation that I will do so going forward in perpetuity.

  6. OrigCassandra*

    I have a friend who’s systematically collecting news stories and research articles about women and their workplaces during COVID, to use as a dataset for content-analysis research. It’s hair-raising stuff, and there’s a common thread: men not stepping up at home.

    That’s why the gag about the husband doing dishes didn’t land with me. Men in cishet relationships not doing their fair share of housework and childcare is a real-for-true problem that real-for-true damages cishet women’s careers.

    That miracle the author can’t do? It sure does need doing.

    1. Kaye*

      Yes! The unequal burden at home and the lower pay and danger of being seen as “aggressive/bossy” at work is maddening. Generally I agree with the “be a slacker premise,” though. We also need to give ourselves permission to slack on the home front sometimes, too.

    2. Roci*

      Agreed. We can talk all day about how women should “lean in” or “slack” or whatever but the fact of the matter is we are still talking about how can women “have it all” and not how men can step up.

    3. SS Express*

      Agree. The past year has really highlighted the extent to which women are still disadvantaged by doing (way) more than their share at home. If Deanna’s husband is exploiting her unpaid domestic labor and reaping professional and economic benefits while her wellbeing declines that’s a real problem, and in fact the author can contribute to the solution by not making jokes that minimise the harm this does and discourage people from believing that things can and should change.


      Thanks for this comment and feedback. I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic over the past 11 months. This chapter was written before COVID, and it’s something I wish that I could go back and revisit/rewrite/expand. I find myself having a “household duties” conversation with my husband regularly. Our personal workload isn’t evenly distributed — and while it’s getting better, it’s not perfect. I don’t have kids, but, if I did, this would kill me. And I’m lucky and have a life baked with privilege.

      There are so many good books and articles out/coming out about this topic. Research + stories + coaching will help women in cishet relationships, I hope. Certainly, I have zero answers or I’d be better at this in my own life. Here’s what I know: my husband is one of the best people I know. He’s not lazy in any aspect of his life. He’s also kind. I’ve had to move away from “why is this man like this?” to “how can we fix this?”

      Shit is hard. That’s the honest truth.

    5. Kiki*

      It’s been interesting as a woman in a male-dominated field to have the whole company shift to WFH during COVID and get a bit more visibility into people’s home environments. A lot of my male coworkers are being made lunch and dinner by their female partners… who also are WFH full-time during the pandemic. The insight has been enlightening because I’ve long wondered how some of my coworkers can work so much/ get so much done (their partner does most of the housework).

  7. Campfire Raccoon*

    Love it. It took me a long time to reconcile what I thought I was supposed to be with what I actually needed to be.

  8. Stephanie*

    Long-time commenters know I had a rocky few years of unemployment (mostly happily employed at a company now) that I basically ended by going back, getting an MS, and starting over at the bottom as a college hire. Not that I would ever want to go through through eight years of un(der)employment and job loss again or wish that on anyone, but I did find it was good at helping me get to the puzzle mindset mentioned in the article. Like just knowing that I could lose the job at any moment or that I was still a person with caring friends and family and hobbies and interests even without a job…just made it easier to check out.

    Also yeah…I agree on the job advice books. So many (not all, to be fair) are dry, obvious, or full of platitudes. I think I got hooked on this blog way back when just because the advice was so straightforward, helpful, and not salesy.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      omg. Has it been 8 years?! Where has the time gone? I am glad you are in a better spot now.

      1. Stephanie*

        Hmmm, I don’t remember exactly when I started reading this blog, but definitely has been at least 8. I think I found it when I was really unhappy at FirstJob, so that may have ben like 2009-10 time frame, even!

  9. Me (I think)*

    Good excerpt and story. The nature of my job requires a lot of after hours and weekend work — that’s when the events are. It took me years to figure out that I needed to slack off a bit at other times or go insane.

    1. Alison*

      Me too. I made it really clear when I took the job that I would have a flexible schedule because of other work duties in “off” hours but it was still really hard to actually follow through when everyone else is at work “normal” hours. I would often run an evening event and then come in later the next day but it is very awkward to roll in at 10:30 when everyone else is there at 9 and taking an hour an a half off when the event took 4 hours including set up and break down is not really doing it! It’s been so much easier being remote because there are fewer events, those events are virtual, and I don’t have to worry about any office stigma of coming in late.

      1. Dave*

        The office stigma is such a thing. My job is not that extreme with event planning but it is very much get your work done and in the old days I found myself wasting time on a Friday until is looked acceptable to leave the office. Meanwhile none of my co-workers really knew what I had gotten done in the past weeks and why I had the point where I was caught up and brain fried to leave early on a Friday.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, this is unfortunate, but it’s just the reverse of the stigma of leaving early when you’ve been at work since 6.30 to get something done before the chaos starts and everyone else starts at 8.

        I just feel so, so fortunate that I’m able to put my 7.5 hours in at any time between 6 AM and 11 PM. I’m expected to be available for meetings [i]that I’ve agreed to attend by accepting the invite[/i], but that’s it. Granted, I’m an experienced subject-matter specialist in a job that doesn’t require much synchronous collaboration and I only serve internal customers. I don’t have to think about my job when I’m not actually working.

        The people who work in customer service obviously need to be available during opening hours, but even our customer service is only open by appointment, because of COVID precautions. If at all possible, customers are asked to either use our online services or to call. Online requests can be handled WFH, but I’m not completely sure about the calls. Data protection can be an issue. Our registry also needs to be open during specific hours for statutory reasons. There’s still some physical mail that has to be processed by the end of the business day, but most jobs can be done WFH.

  10. Mid*

    I used to think that I was going to be That Person who was a rockstar, killing myself for my job, rocketing my way to senior leadership at a young age.

    Then I realized, I don’t want to live to work. I like my cat and my other pets and my friends and family. I like collecting weird plants and traveling and taking terrible photos. And I’ll work hard at my 9 to 5, but I won’t work much past that. I’ll be a team player, I’ll do the extra hours when it’s truly needed, but I won’t break my back to help The Company. I’m fortunate to work for a small law firm that is truly caring and kind, and treats me and everyone else well, without pulling the We’re A Faaaaaamilyyyy nonsense. But I also know that it’s a business and if it makes more business sense to fire me, I’ll be out the door. And so while I work hard for them, I won’t sacrifice other areas of my life for my work.

    Anyway, I’m very much pro slacker!

    1. Alison*

      “But I also know that it’s a business and if it makes more business sense to fire me, I’ll be out the door. ” Yesssssss! Even if nice, caring people are running your business it doesn’t mean they won’t have to make tough decisions at some point. I’ve seen it happen to others. Jobs are for money, don’t commit your entire life to something that won’t love you back!

    2. Esmeralda*

      Yes, that was me too.
      Then my son got a very very bad health problem. After about of year of trying to stay at rockstar level while caring for my child, I got off the hamster wheel (well, it took three years of requesting at every annual review to be allowed off).
      I still work hard. And it’s frustrating at times not to be in charge of the hamsters any more. But over all, I’m a lot healthier and happier.

  11. Elizabeth*

    This is concept is really intriguing, certainly interested in unpacking further. I’ve really struggled with balancing expectations for my career and parenthood. I can’t seem to shake the notion that if I’m going to be away from my children for 8+ hours a day, then my time and work must *matter* in a profound way and keep holding on to that as my bar. My husband gently but continually tries to remind me that there are tons of people who just clock in and clock out and the world keeps spinning, but I can’t seem to reconcile that thinking in my own head.

    1. No Regerts*

      My employer pays me to do my job, which is generally-not-always 40ish hours a week, unless we have a big deadline. The salary I agreed to when I took the job is predicated on that assumption. If you want me to be available/engaged in work 24/7, then you better pay me for that.

      With the exception of tossing thorny problems around in the back of my mind (I’m an analyst), when I’m not at work, I’m Not At Work. I’m not a first responder – our “emergencies” are not life or death. Drawing that line has been the best thing for my sanity, and when I do it, I am better at my job because I am fresher. Also because not thinking about the thing that’s not working often helps me solve the problem.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Totally this. My work matters, I want to do a good job, and I work 40ish hours a week. The end. Of course I can’t always leave it completely behind, but my job also does not have life or death emergencies and people can figure it out. I am very grateful to have a job where most people think like this.

    2. Nonprofit to corporate*

      I do think that for some people, at some times, it is very important for work to matter in a broader sense. I definitely felt the way you mention when my children were infants – that if I was going to be spending the time away from them, it was important to me that I felt that time was spent as valuably as time with them.

      As they got older and became more aware of the quality of time I spent with them, though, that changed for me. When I’m physically with them, I need to be mentally with them as well in a way they really didn’t need as babies. So I have a job that’s interesting and a team I care about supporting, but it doesn’t matter if I need to leave early for a parent-teacher conference, or if a problem gets solved on Monday instead of over the weekend.

      One other thing that helped me is realizing that making myself available 24/7 and treating everything as urgent wasn’t good for my employer! Part of my work responsibilities should be that if I got hit by a bus, it should be possible for someone else to take over urgent duties relatively seamlessly. If it’s impossible to separate the truly urgent from the “nice to have”, or if three people would need to be hired to replace me, I’m not doing my job right.

    3. Nope, not today*

      If you like your job and can enjoy it, and feel passionate about it, then there’s nothing wrong with wanting it to matter. At the same time, sometimes it just…. doesn’t feel as important as you want it to to balance out what you’re missing out on by being at work. Maybe you just need to reset the bar – the job matters in a profound way, by providing you with the income you need to provide for your family and allow you to do all the things that are important and fun for your family. There’s a trade off with working vs. being home, and maybe just recognizing that there are pros and cons to both – that neither solution is perfect or will be 100% satisfying – and learning to live with the imperfectness of that.

      I love working, and always expected to want to be a stay at home parent. I tried it briefly, and had to go back to work for financial reasons – and realized I preferred working to being home with my kids. I love my kids and part of me wishes I could do all the things I imagined doing as a parent when I was younger. But I didnt enjoy it when I had the chance, and I’m ready to escape the kids and get to work by Monday morning (Covid has been a true kick in the teeth in this area, and reinforced what I already knew about myself!). So I’m wistful for what I could have but also, working gives me more freedom from the kids, and FAR more financial freedom which allows me to do other things for them that are important. We don’t spend our days together doing crafts and going to the zoo because I’m at work; at the same time, I can afford to travel with them and give them experiences I always wished for as a kid.

    4. Generic Name*

      The thing that keeps me focused on my family is a book review I heard in NPR. It was a compendium of the thoughts of the dying, and the reviewer was struck by how over and over he heard people say they wished they had spent more time with their families. Not a single person regretted not spending more time at the office.

  12. K*

    I definitely relate to Deanna, although I have set that boundary of not answering work stuff after I’ve logged off for the day. However I feel tremendous guilt because my team works very hard and have struggled to set their own boundaries. This book sounds very helpful since I am considering moving on from my current role but 100% relate to not wanting the same stuff, different org but find it hard to muster up the energy and courage to look elsewhere.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m with you. I want to put in my 8 hours and be done, and there isn’t any reason I can’t do that. My work can easily be prioritized and scheduled out so a normal workday can handle emergencies. But my team lives for the extra hours. My meetings are just everyone talking about how much time they put in over the weekend and worked late, but there isn’t even any acknowledgement for the extra hours…it’s like they are all competing to work the most hours necessary to get recognition.
      So I backed out. They can play their game while I work my 8 hours.

  13. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

    I need to read this book. Work boundaries are necessary, but seem a bit scary. I’ve started setting some boundaries thanks to FLSA, like not checking email after hours, but I do have that fear of what if this is hurting me professionally.

  14. bunniferous*

    My job is the kind that can consume my entire life if I let it. Right now things are slack because of a certain pandemic but later this year is expected to roar to life with a vengeance. In the past I have let work consume me to the detriment of the rest of my life. With the “luxury” of the extra spare time I have now I have realized that I MUST figure out ways to carve out margin in my life once things get back to normal.

  15. KHB*

    Yes, yes, and yes. This is awesome.

    My employer informed me last year that they’ve performed some black-box calculation that I don’t understand and that they won’t tell me about, and they’ve concluded that I’m overpaid and no longer eligible for normal merit raises. So I told my boss that, seeing that I no longer have an incentive to do an excellent job rather than an adequate one, I’m no longer going to be devoting my evenings and weekends to extra projects for him. I’ll still do my core job duties to a high standard, just as I’ve always done, but I’ll need to be more selective about what else I can take on.

    Apparently this level of honesty is regarded as very bold and shocking. But I see it as just enforcing natural consequences. I do love my job, but it will never love me back, and I’m starting to internalize that.

    1. Colorado*

      “I do love my job, but it will never love me back, and I’m starting to internalize that.”
      Wow, that hit me hard. It reminds me of the child who spends their life trying to gain approval from their parent. My job doesn’t love me back, then why I am trying so hard to constantly gain it’s approval?

      I’d love to win this book :)

      1. KHB*

        I think I picked up that phrasing from the good folks in the comments here, so you have them to thank.

        I’m lucky that I do get a lot of self-satisfaction from my work, and I do feel that I have the respect and approval of my colleagues (at least my immediate ones, if not the higher-ups who come up with all these bat$h!t crazy policies). But I don’t want my work to be the sum total of who I am. I don’t want to reach the end of my life and look back and see nothing but how I pushed myself more and more and more at work.

        Sometime around the end of 2019 (i.e., pre-pandemic) I was looking at my partner’s Instagram page. I saw his photos from all kinds of fun-looking weekend adventures, and I wondered why I didn’t remember any of them. And the answer was that I’d spent all those weekends working. And I don’t want to do that anymore.

        1. Annie on a Mouse*

          This really resonates. How much is missed because of work, and at the end of the day, if you’re hit by a bus they’ll post your job the next day.

    2. Chilipepper*

      I am really curious what your boss’s reaction was and how this continues to play out at work.
      And I hope you get to be in more pictures of the weekend adventures!

      1. KHB*

        My boss agrees with me (or at least he says he does) that the new salary structure is unfair (and other people on our team are affected by it even worse than I am). So while I think he was surprised that I came right out and said it, he doesn’t seem to fault my logic, and I’ve encountered no repercussions so far.

        It doesn’t hurt that nobody ever gets fired here, and the one and only time my boss had to let someone go, it was a chronic low performer who’d caused several flaming disasters right in a row, and the boss still gave him many second (third, fourth, fifth…) chances. That employee was a man, and I am a woman, so.

        My partner and I actually did a ton of cool stuff (carefully and socially-distanced, of course) in 2020. Looking forward to more in 2021…

      1. allathian*

        That said, the really bold move would be to say no to all extra projects that take up time that you need for doing core stuff and to settle for not getting that promotion or not getting a raise, even if they were available. This would very much depend on the organization, though, but it’s usually pretty obvious if the org is the kind where you have to move up or you’re kicked out. There are lots of organizations that aren’t like that.

  16. Karen Hahn*

    One of my favorite quotes “Work smarter, not harder” Also, if you give the laziest person the hardest task, they will find a way to make it easier. Words to live by in my book.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Yes! One person who asserted she was lazy—and would forcefully argue the point—was top notch at what she did. She didn’t want to have to do anything twice, so she did it well once.

  17. Actuarial Octagon*

    This really perfectly describes something I’ve been working on with a former colleague who keeps over working and over commiting, burning out, and feeling resentful of the folks that aren’t “pulling their weight.”

    Often, and perhaps especially with women, the pressure and expectations we’re working under are self imposed, and it’s surprisingly refreshing to pull back and realize that everyone is ok with you and your work at 40 hours per week instead of 60.

    1. Alison*

      I work in the non-profit sector where this attitude is rampant and overwork is such a badge of honor, especially because we work for a “cause” rather than a “profit”. Also because we are a nonprofit we are always trying to do things on the slimmest of margins. I keep telling my overworked coworkers – if you keep doing the work of two people 60-80 hours a week then the org is going to assume they don’t need to hire someone else to help you. You have to fail at making it all happen to show them that more employees are needed or they will never get the picture. Of course no one listens to me and so they just kill themselves with stress and overwork.

    2. Kelaine*

      But actually, a lot of jobs are NOT ok with their employees setting boundaries. It is definitely a risk to your career.
      I decided to start setting boundaries in my intense job 5 years ago and focusing more on my health and family. I actually took lunch! took vacations! stopped doing so much! And yup, after 5 years fo this, my career has come to a standstill and I’m now on track to be “let go” soon. Looking for a new job and hoping something shows up.

      1. Actuarial Octagon*

        Oh I agree, there are absolutely jobs, and whole industries, where you can’t set these kinds of boundaries without creating issues. But I also think more employees, women especially, need to think carefully about the amount of time and effort they are putting in. If the office is full of folks who aren’t working as much but are still getting the same kind of opportunities, it is probably a sign you should reconsider where this pressure is coming from.

  18. cosmicgorilla*

    I love the idea of creating an emergency template. I also think folks need to ask themselves – will anyone die if I don’t answer this right now? Can someone else who is actually working right now handle this? Can it wait until 8 AM?

    There are professions where someone could literally die if you don’t respond, but there are also many cases where an “emergency” is no such thing and could easily wait. I don’t see this as being a slacker but prioritizing effectively.

    1. C in the Hood*

      Many years ago I worked in a Fortune 500 company. One of my coworkers said in a meeting, “This isn’t a hospital; no one is going to die.” He was wise!

    2. Bobina*

      Lol, this is me. And even though I have actually worked in industries where things could go very wrong in emergencies (aka things blowing up), even there – people were very good at saying that if you were off shift, you were off shift and it was somebody elses problem. If anything, it was actually a really good lesson in making sure that processes and procedures for “do X if Y” were really well defined, escalation paths were super clear, and you only called people if it really was an emergency (ie you did all the things you were meant to but something still wasnt working).

    3. Elsie*

      As a former BigLaw lawyer, this definitely resonates with me. Someone once joked about “at least they can’t make you work when you’re asleep” and several of my colleagues laughed, because we were all on cases where we’d check our email in the middle of the night for “emergencies” and, sometimes, “have to” start doing work right then, at 4 or 5am (after working until midnight the night before, on yet other “emergencies”). Learning to step back actually made my work better quality, and made me a much happier person. Also, those middle of the night “emergencies” never happened to me once I stopped responding to them, yet no balls got dropped. I still struggle with guilt when I don’t work 24/7, but I’m trying to figure out how to combat it.

      I will say, though, doing this can really eat up your capital, especially if you’re at a firm or other place where the ideal person is literally billing every hour to provide maximum profit …

    4. Tau*

      And if you’re an industry where after-hours emergencies – possibly not involving people dying, but involving a big loss of income or reputation or breaches of contract or the like – are a thing, you set up your structures to deal with that in a sustainable way!

      I’m a software engineer and we do have the issue that if our service goes down, that’s a problem and it’s a problem that may not be able to wait until normal business hours to be fixed without major damage to the company. So we have an on-call rota, coupled with monitoring so we get automatic alerts forwarded to us if something breaks. If I’m on call, all I need to do is have my phone on me and stay in an area with network where I can get back to my computer within 30 minutes or so if my pager app goes off. We also get paid for the on-call time (at a lower rate, but it does add up) and any time we actually spend working we can take off during work time later. And if you’re not on call, off work is off work. None of this “everyone checks their e-mails every hour of the day” nonsense!

  19. Liz B*

    This is really interesting. I wonder how this could look coming from someone with less capital at work. For example, if Deanna wasn’t the one to start this conversation, but rather one of her reports. The risk of looking “like a slacker” looms differently before you’ve unequivocally proven yourself as Not A Slacker. How would you see this playing out (ideally) with a bottom-up approach?

    1. Chilipepper*

      That’s a great question, how to do this bottom up. I’d like advice being happy with a job that does not offer me much at all in the way of “feelings of contentment and personal accomplishment.” Should none of my feelings of contentment and personal accomplishment come from work at all? I do focus on things outside work but I spend 8 hours a day here!

      1. Observer*

        In many cases, it’s a matter of reframing. And in some cases, it’s a sign to start figuring out what you need to do to find a place that gives you SOMETHING.

        As for how to set limits from the bottom up, Allison has addressed some of this in the past. But the first step is examining your assumptions. Now, you may look at this and come the the correct conclusion that your employer is not going to let you do this, but in many cases it’s more a matter of assumptions we make rather than actual expectations.


      I’ve been coaching workers with less capital to play the game for a bit, strive for that leadership role, and change the way people think from the inside. Play the game if you must, get promoted, blow up the system.

      Not a perfect answer. Wish I would’ve put that in the book!

  20. Mayor of Llamatown*

    I have struggled with this forever as a young(ish) female professional. Deanna could be me. When I started my current job, I had a great manager who has since moved on but taught me what work life balance meant. I would love to get a copy of this!

  21. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    Anyone else feeling like this is Brené Brown but with more actionable material and less self-analysis? (I do like Dr. Brown’s work, but sometimes I need to think less and make changes faster).

  22. Sis Boom Bah*

    Well, this is certainly speaking to me. I feel like I am at a crossroads right now, figuring out if I should keep trying for a new position of more authority, or if I should accept my life as it is now–which is just fine. And, if I accept things as they are now, do I always push myself to do more and more? What happens if I don’t? That’s pretty scary.

  23. Mallory Janis Ian*

    Ugh! I was depressed reading the excerpt about Deanna’s life before I even finished it. I want to ask, “Do people really live like this?” but I know that they do. It makes me glad I have a “boring” administrative job that is 40 hours a week with very little expectation of after-hours work. Maybe I answer a text or teams message here or there, but I’m not expected to be ON all the time. Can people have serious career ambition without falling into the “your whole entire life, energy, and soul belong to the company”? It seems like that should be possible and expected, but it makes it hard to understand why anyone would want to climb a ladder to total subjugation to the work? And anything less than that is “slacking”?

    1. Web Crawler*

      I’m with you- I have a nice boring 40 hour a week job and I’m fine at it, but I also don’t care if I advance or not.

      It would be nice if all work positions paid a living wage (not a surviving wage), so you could afford a family whether or not you have career ambitions. I think I’m lucky to be a programmer for this reason. I don’t have to advance to live comfortably.

    2. Bobina*

      I think you can have serious career ambition, the trick is having boundaries from the beginning. If you set the tone right from the start that you dont do evenings or weekends, that goes a long way. But you also need to be mindful about choosing the right companies, and also making sure that you do a lot of self-promotion when you are in the office to balance and idea that you arent working hard. The last one in particular seems to get forgotten about, but I’ve always been super mindful of the fact that at work, especially in big companies, half the battle is reputation.

    3. Ocean*

      This is definitely something I struggle with. I’m in university with full time working internships, and as I think about my career aspirations I’m conflicted about wanting to ‘climb to the top’ while not wanting to dedicate essentially my whole life and every waking hour to work. I agree that not working anywhere near 24/7 should be the norm, and as long as I take time to think I have certain strict boundaries about work/school/life balance, but it is very easy to lose sight of what is reasonable when in the middle of it (ex. not getting to the point that *no* I can not take on an additional club or other opportunity because I literally do not have enough time in my schedule). So far I have purposefully stayed away from the internships which are considered ideal for my field, but which involve working significantly more than 40 hours per week.

    4. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      In my experience, it’s totally possible to have serious career ambitions without falling into a total-subjugation trap if you not only set boundaries early, but also have a fulfilling and stable life outside work to begin with. People don’t talk about this a lot, but sometimes people become workaholics because, at a critical juncture, their life wasn’t really doing it for them and an increase in work responsibilities filled that vacuum. Once that happens, that’s very difficult to fix, because you don’t have *anything* beyond work to help you shape your identity or interactions.

      It’s different than what happens to the Deannas of the world who have fulfilling lives that fall by the wayside, but it’s not everyone.

  24. McMatt*

    I can identify a lot with Deanna. I took a step this year to re-arrange the calendar for my org because it was just consuming far too much of my time. It creates a little bit of detachment, but hopefully challenges the team to filter concerns a bit more.

    1. triplehiccup*

      Ideally, filtering concerns will be a win for your team too – they will get to take on more responsibility and build up their experience. This kind of “slacking” is good for everyone!

  25. Working Hypothesis*

    It’s fun. I think she’s pretty clear that, despite playing around with the word, she doesn’t actually mean for her readers to become *real* slackers — i.e. people who try to evade doing even the basics of the work they were hired for. She’s just advising not doing *more* than the basics you were hired for, which makes perfect sense.

    I’d like to see more of what she advises.

  26. ElizabethJane*

    I went from a job with 65 hour work weeks to a much more manageable 35ish. The pay isn’t as good and I’ll probably never make 7 figures here but I’ve realized I’m actually completely OK with that. Sometimes I want to just sign off at 3:30 and be done.

  27. Big Bird*

    My director-level ex-boss ferociously defended what she perceived to the the department’s best interests–even to the point of threatening people with firing who identified legally non-compliant activities that could have resulted in massive penalties and national bad publicity. She ended up “retiring” the instant her post-retirement benefits were vested, and in the two years she has been gone I have never heard anyone mention her name or point to anything she accomplished during her tenure. She had a law degree and I often wonder if she has ever regretted all the ethical compromises she made while she was a manager.

  28. Lauren M.*

    Love this passage – I struggle to separate from work for fear of being seen as a “slacker”, or not caring enough about the company. I’m going to think on this and see what I can do to separate myself more from my work. Excellent writing, definitely going to pick up this book!

  29. Middle Manager*

    Well, Laurie successfully sold her book to me with the line “But it’s important to know that the feelings of contentment and personal accomplishment don’t come from working sixty hours and hearing “good job” from your boss. They come from confidence and maturity.” Which is pretty much a mantra I need to say daily.

  30. Library Lady*

    I’ve reached a level in my career where I feel like I should be happy with my work and my salary, but I’m not done climbing and I feel like any attempt to detach or set boundaries might hinder my advancement when others aren’t creating the same space. Yet at the same time I want to model work/life balance for my team and make sure they have reasonable expectations of themselves, each other, and me. It’s a tricky tightrope.

    1. Observer*

      The thing is that actually drawing those boundaries should not hinder you if you are in functional companies. If you look at this vignette, you can see that Deanna is still leading a high performing team. But she’s also creating allies and good will, and developing talent. All of these are things that tend to propel a career forward.

  31. ragazza*

    I agree with what she says, but it’s depressing that putting your personal health and well-being first has to be defined as “slackerism.”

  32. Leslie*

    I’m fortunate that in my current job (state government), emergency phone calls are just that – emergency. I’m not in a critical position or agency, and after hours work is discouraged as it could trigger overtime for some staff. My previous job was one of those on-call almost all the time and it made my anxiety so much worse. I have two daughters entering STEM fields and this would be a good graduation present for them.

  33. More Coffee Please*

    Sounds like an interesting book. I think being a (high-achieving) “slacker” is my superpower. I studied a notoriously difficult major at an “elite” (aka pressure-cooker environment) university and never once pulled an all-nighter. I was okay with getting a B (and sometimes a C) if it meant not destroying my physical and mental health. In my first 5 years in the working world as well, I’ve held pretty respectable entry-level/early career roles and have only done work on a night or weekend a handful of times when absolutely necessary to meet a deadline. I used to think there must be something wrong with me for not scrambling to do everything like some of my friends/peers, but now I think I’ve just got strong boundaries.

    1. Web Crawler*

      As another high-achieving slacker, I think it’s half skill set and half strong boundaries. Because I had friends who also had strong boundaries, and just couldn’t get things done as quickly- their only way was to work twice as long to do the same thing. A few of them thrived after switching majors.

    2. Alison*

      When I was in grad school my mantra was basically an A+ and a B- look the same when all you include on your resume is that you got the ding dang degree (not that I got a lot of B- anyway but I also didn’t kill myself for those A+ either).

        1. inky*

          Someday I’m going to write a book called “The Slacker’s Guide to a PhD in Engineering”. There are three hurdles to a PhD at my school: the qualifier, the preliminary defense and the final defense. Someone told me I didn’t need to jump that final hurdle – just trip over it! I love that advice.

      1. meyer lemon*

        I avoided grad school because I wasn’t able to internalize those healthy boundaries in undergrad and didn’t think it would be great for my health. I made myself miserable for those A pluses, although they did indirectly lead to the job I have now.

        1. Ruth*

          It took my masters program for me to learn that lesson. I could not do all of the reading while working full time, and still eat an occasional vegetable and spend time with my friends and fiancé. I was forced to make those boundaries, and it’s stuck with me.

    3. Anonosaurus*

      Me too, and I think that a critical component of this is not just defining and holding boundaries, but being very clear on work outcomes. In other words, if you and your boss/client/whoever are all clear on what outcomes constitute high performance, it is harder to ding you for not having your butt in the seat continually. Of course the outcomes have to be the right ones and be achievable but if they’re fundamentally about quality rather than quantity of input then I think working a sensible amount of hours, and having a life outside work, enable improved performance.

  34. JohannaCabal*

    You don’t know how much I needed this excerpt.

    2020 decided it wasn’t done with me; got diagnosed with MS on Dec. 22 (Happy Holidays for me!).

    I’m in my late 30s and for eight years I had a position that burned me out and exposed me to all sorts of abuse and toxicity. I started a new job in July and I realized I was falling into my old patterns of working late, getting up at the crack of dawn to tackle work, and working on weekends.

    I’m putting a stop to all that. I’ve been working on writing fiction when I could, which was rare. But now time may no longer be on my side. I cannot longer sacrifice my dreams, hobbies, and family time for my job.

    Now, I’m putting in my eight hours and calling it a day (I’m open to exceptions here and there, I’ll say). If this makes me a “slacker,” so be it.

    1. Miss Muffet*

      it’s amazing to me ho here in the US, it often takes a major medical diagnosis or another “Big Event” to wake us up to a balance that most European workers would consider normal.

  35. ML McDavis*

    The importance of the person at the top (or just the middle-top) taking the lead on this can’t be understated. Great work can happen within reasonable boundaries, and the idolatry of trying to look busy is wrecking people. Sounds like an awesome book, and I can’t wait to read it!

  36. Cheerybanker*

    I’ve always felt it’s important to be kind of a slacker in service of work life balance. I tell my staff, be lazy, do it right so you only have to do it once. Love the info, looking forward to the book!

  37. TallTeapot*

    Interesting, but how does that work when the people defining emergencies are above you–not the people who work for you? For someone who doesn’t hold a leadership role, or has some leadership, but can’t define those terms on their own because of the interconnected nature of what they do–how can you do this? It takes a fair bit of risk and willingness to risk your own personal capital to go to the CEO/COO of a billion-dollar company and say “I think we need to have a common definition of emergency”!

    1. Chilipepper*

      Right, in that excerpt, the person had a lot of direct power to make changes. Most of us are not in that sweet spot and setting boundaries can be tough if you are not. And sometimes it is about your identity, not really the workplace. I think my workplace does not expect much and I was hoping the excerpt would tell me how to be the slacker they want me to be.

      1. Web Crawler*

        I think, if it’s more about your identity than your workplace, that it might help to look at what you value. Sample questions to think about or discuss:

        If you couldn’t work, what would you do? What positive qualities do your loved ones see in you? If you had to describe yourself to a stranger without mentioning your job, what would you mention? What kinds of activities give you fulfilment? Who are your role models? Who were you as a kid, and do you still have these qualities?

    2. Dave*

      This is where the dodge can be helpful. No phone calls as night, sorry I was doing X and didn’t have my phone. Vacation in places where wi-fi is spotty or the spouse blame of I promised my spouse not to bring my phone, etc.
      Once you keep doing it they start to retrain themselves to your availability. I have had this problem with a co-worker that would always call people outside of their work hours so when there was something that really did require attention after hours it was a problem.
      As someone in the middle, I do try to look at the clock and consider if they are still working (I give myself a 15 minute window) and I will schedule emails to be sent 10 minutes before they are supposed to start work. There managers can suck but I can try but I can try and do my part to minimize making it any worse.


      Don’t go to your CEO, go to your colleagues and people on your team. Start small and begin with the people who blow up your email at 8PM at night (or whenever). That’s what I think?

      We practice in the small moments and get good. That way, we can nail the big moments when we do have a platform with the CEO.

  38. louise*

    My boss and I (senior member of a small team) were both so swamped and just wanted to be able to disconnect from work at night. We brainstormed and decided to help the junior members of my team develop confidence in their own knowledge/quit asking us questions for Every. Little. Thing. by pointing out how much they had learned since being new and how very few things are actually an emergency. They seemed to really take it to heart and seemed empowered.

    The very night of that meeting, as they were closing and everyone else was gone for the day, our server went down. Like, absolutely no one in the building would be able to access anything or do any work the next morning. They didn’t want to tell us as they “weren’t sure it was really an emergency.” My boss and I realized one meeting would not quite get us to our goal and that this would be an ongoing professional development process for all of us.

  39. Kathleen*

    I love that in this example she involved the team in setting reasonable boundaries for everyone. It seems like it’s more common to set boundaries for yourself “as an example for everyone else” or for one individual’s boundaries to leave the work to fall to someone else. This is such a great solution.

  40. Ginger*

    Self identity being tied to work identity is something I struggle with as well.

    I loved this example – real person, real problems, not all magically solved but steps taken to address and reframe.

  41. Jasper the Cat*

    I’ve contemplated “slacking” by deleting my work email app from my phone so I stop obsessively checking it between work hours. This excerpt is motivational!

    1. motherofdragons*

      I had to do this! But I use the same email app for business and personal, so I just moved it off my “home” screen and it really helped curb that impulse to check it at all hours.

      1. Dave*

        I also turned off the notifications to further limit the impulse. Not having it on the home screen and it is accessible but a little buried really helped me not check it all the time. I am proud to say I no longer check it before I start work.

  42. motherofdragons*

    Ha, #hustleporn. So true. I spend quite a lot of time on Instagram, and this is such a real phenomenon that I admit has really sent me spiraling in the past (OK, in the present, too). I recently had to unfollow a lot of “motivational” accounts that marketed this hustle culture specifically to women, more specifically to moms, that was making me feel constantly “not enough.” I want to apply this slacker mindset to more than just work – it’s OK not to try to monetize your hobbies into side hustles. It’s OK not to make organic snacks from scratch for your kids every day. It’s OK not to volunteer for every non-profit in your community. Just thinking about that feels like a weight coming off my shoulders. Putting this book on my reading list for sure!

    1. Miss Muffet*

      it feels really good to own this, too – that I’m never gonna be “that mom” but damn, I have other strengths. I basically never volunteered in my kids’ classrooms, but my neighborhood is full full full of Stay at home parents (let’s be honest, moms) for whom that stuff was in their wheelhouse, while I focused my volunteering efforts elsewhere. Maybe it’s something about being in my 40s and just not really giving a damn what anyone thinks anymore!

      1. allathian*

        I hear you! I volunteered and even served on the board of the PTA at my son’s daycare. When I started, I was working part time and it seemed a good way to get to know some of the parents of the other kids. The board held a meeting about once a month. I was either an ordinary member or the vice-chair. The chair and especially the treasurer had much more demands on their time, and I hate keeping minutes, so even when I volunteered, there were some limits. I did enjoy it, for what it’s worth. And I think the kids enjoyed what our fundraising helped to pay for.

        I haven’t volunteered at my son’s school PTA, though. I’m also really happy that he isn’t into team sports, because there’s no way I’d be willing to be a hockey or soccer mom! (I’m also very fortunate in that college admissions here only care about academic achievement, so he doesn’t need to fill his schedule with extracurriculars in elementary school just to have a chance to gain admittance to a good college in the future.)

        My son’s in 5th grade. In 6th, they usually go on a class trip and the parents of kids in 5th are expected to raise money, especially by baking and selling coffee and brownies at school events. Most kids in elementary school are currently going to in-person school in my area, but I’m secretly relieved that all the school events have been canceled, because this means I don’t have to bake or clean up after an event at school. Selfish, maybe, but I’m not going to feel guilty about being happy about a minor thing in the midst of a global crisis. If this means that my son’s class will miss out on a school trip next year, that’s on the pandemic.

    2. Skeezix*

      As the kid of a widowed mom who fell into the hustle culture back in the 90’s, it can really have a negative impact on the kids. My mom did bookkeeping work and prepared taxes for about 10 different people. There was a specific card table that got set up in January, and I knew that card table meant ‘tax-time’, which meant ‘don’t bother mom’. I felt so unimportant.

      1. what's the point*

        ? She probably paid for things for YOU with that work. That is entirely different from volunteering or making organic snacks.

      2. Anonosaurus*

        Um, is that not what put food on the table rather than a side hustle? My mother was a single mom and worked from home when I was a young child. I understand it’s not ideal and I wanted more attention too but it was always made clear to me that this was how the rent got paid etc.

    3. Ashley*

      A dear friend taught me the importance of saying No years ago. Usually a basic no is fine, but occasionally a more in depth conversation happens. I recently did a Big NO for a volunteer gig. My stress level dropped so much once I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to devote the next year of my life towards and I actually told the organization No.
      I saw something recently about how it used to be about just keeping up with the Jones’s who were soci-economically like us but social media has exposed everyone to people in such different income brackets (where you can pay people to clean your house, afford organic everything, etc) and it is creating so much stress for people in feeling they aren’t keeping up. Most of us can’t and more importantly shouldn’t worry about trying to live like a millionaire.

  43. Sanity Lost*

    It was definitely an interesting viewpoint on building those healthy boundaries between work and home. I’m currently working on trying to define those myself. In my case is how do I balance home against work? My problem comes in that I’m a single mom with 2 of my 3 kids still doing online school and I work 2 jobs with no help outside of my kids (2 are teenagers). Don’t get me wrong, they try very hard and do a lot! But the buck stops with me, so how do you balance when there are only so many hours in the day and I need sleep. Though I will admit to lurking on AskAManager a lot :)

  44. BronzeFire*

    I like the emphasis on boundaries and collaborative problem solving. I don’t love the idea that someone with appropriate boundaries is a slacker, though. I guess it’s a handy lens for searching for opportunities to do less. I’d definitely be interested in reading more.

  45. MarketingQueen*

    This book looks great! Not dry and boring like so many in that category, thanks for sharing. I have always tried to set boundaries like not answering emails after work (except in emergencies), but it was harder at times than others. Glad to hear there are those out there finally realizing that the American way of “work until you drop” isn’t healthy.

  46. Andrea*

    I’m a teacher, and the fact that I work my contract hours makes me a slacker. I don’t check email on nights or weekends, and I don’t take work home. Part of it is the benefit of experience – I’ve taught for so long I know how to streamline my work. The other part is figuring out what to leave undone, because in teaching, there’s always more work to do, but nobody is paying me to grade tests after 4:00! If it can’t get done in contract hours, it’s probably not getting done.

  47. WellRed*

    I actually have a good work life balance, though there’s lots of room for overall improvement at my job. I may read the book anyway cause it sounds like a good read, but not sure if it will otherwise have any meaningful impact on my thinking. I’m 50. I’ve learned to say no, to log off emails, to not take my job so seriously (as someone said above, if there’s a work emergency, will someone actually die? No.) On the other hand, I’d love to recommend most of my coworkers read this.

    1. MissGirl*

      I’m with you. I gave clear boundaries and I there’s respect them. I just found out a former coworker thought it was expected that we work nights in our old department. I asked if our manager ever once said she had to work nights and she admitted, no. But she reiterated she had to work them. I asked if she ever told our manager that certain deadlines weren’t possible and she admitted, no. But the reiterated those deadlines couldn’t be moved.

      This manager once told me after I worked a few nights for a deadline that really couldn’t be moved that he appreciated that but to remember that was the exception and not the norm.

  48. The Lady of the House of Love*

    This opened my eyes to how my own work is going. I have been attending graduate school for library science while holding a library position and it has had me burn out a lot. A lot. To the point that I was scared that I would fall out of love with librarianship. It turns out you need breaks even from your passions.

    I have been spending my weeks not thinking about work or school and it has helped tremendously these last few weeks.

    1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

      I hear you. Working full-time and doing a graduate degree in [same field as day job] really did a number on me. One needs opportunities to feel like there is more to them than nerding out over their field, y’know?

  49. Emily*

    Definitely adding this to my to read list.

    and I find it hysterical that requiring a call for after hours emergencies caused such a drop. With email and other quick ways to send messages, it’s so easy to fire something off. A phone call seems so much more involved and sets that bar just a little higher.

  50. Yasmeen*

    I love this! It’s important to have healthy boundaries generally speaking, and even more so now during the pandemic. Thanks for sharing!

  51. elizelizeliz*

    I got a text from a colleague this weekend that said, “Do you have 10 minutes sometime today for a chat about a meeting i have early tomorrow? If not, it’s okay–i know you like to have work boundaries, especially on weekends!” And i felt so solid about how well i had communicated, and how much work i had done on secondary trauma and the idea that i am so essential that i need to be available to everyone for everything. I’d love to read more about it in this book (also, for those who, like me, work in human service/education/non-profit type jobs, i cannot recommend highly enough the book Trauma Stewardship by Laura Van Dernoot Lipsky).

    1. Web Crawler*

      I just picked up Trauma Stewardship from the library after reading this comment. I think it’s exactly what my partner needs, and maybe me too. (Neither of us work in those fields, but we’re activists outside of it.)

      So, thank you for the recommendation

      1. elizelizeliz*

        I’m so glad! It’s been really meaningful for me in my activism and organizing unpaid work too and hope it’s helpful for you.

  52. nonprofiteer*

    I can’t wait to read this book! For one thing, the term “elder millennial” really resonates – whatever happened to Gen Y? And I recently “retired,” leaving behind the insane hustle and a horrible job in NYC where I had achieved a major professional milestone. Working at a great university in a small town, it’s still a struggle to set limits on how much my team will commit to. And I guess to rethink how I define myself and my success.

    One of my work heroes is a colleague who is just amazing at setting boundaries on her time and level of caring. I should check in with her.

  53. SufjanFan*

    I work in ecommerce and have just come off a very busy and stressful holiday season. This post gave me a lot to think about! My team was all able to take off between Christmas & New Year’s, but I had to “hold down the fort” for the department that week. I’ve been feeling very burnt out since. I should start setting some of these boundaries! Thank you for sharing this excerpt, Alison!

  54. Thursdaysgeek*

    Her nephew that is in IT? He’s a slacker. We all are – use code that others wrote, find and use solutions used before – that’s why IT has advanced so much – we’re not re-inventing things over and over. We just build on what is already there. If a job is tedious, we find a way to automate it. We’re all slackers.

  55. Peace out*

    My company is closing due to the pandemic, and I have already lined up a job with a new firm. I’m wary, because during our conversations and negotiations the new firm often emailed me past 9 pm, asked if I could do a call on Saturday, etc. I have pretty good work-life balance now, and I don’t want to lose that. I look forward to reading this book!

  56. Laura*

    This is great! I’ve just switched jobs, and I’m taking the opportunity to try to reestablish work-life boundaries — especially as I have a 1-year-old to enjoy (and naps to take). I can also imagine how this would be received at my last job… yikes. Can’t wait to read!

  57. Julie Walker*

    It’s so hard to disconnect when being the problem-solver/savior is ingrained in your identity. This is a great lesson.

  58. Lemon, it's Wednesday*

    This is what I’ve been telling my brother to do for a couple years! His whole identity is wrapped up in his work and literally all he does is stress about work. He refuses to ever be “off” and is starting to have serious health problems because he isn’t taking care of himself.
    Maybe I will send him a copy of this book.

  59. Chilipepper*

    Arrival fallacy – “There must be more. There’s not.”
    That’s what hit me. But mostly because I started in this career in my 50s and I don’t think I am ever going to “arrive” and this tells me I should think differently about the concept of “arriving.”

  60. Spearmint*

    Reading stories like Deanna’s makes me so glad I work for the government. I only work overtime 3-4 weeks a year (and I know in advance which weeks) and even in those weeks working more than 45-50 hours a week is unthinkable. I also never receive after hour communications and can safety turn my laptop off after 5 and not think about it until 9am the next day.

    Of course, there are downsides to government work, such as slower career growth and less opportunity to innovate and, at times, monotonous work and/or too much downtime. My dream job would have interesting and dynamic work but also strong work/life balance, but I’m starting to suspect you can have one or the other but not both (in which case I’ll take the work life balance).

    1. Joielle*

      Same! Could I make more money in the private sector? Probably, if I worked a lot more hours. Would I be happier? Unequivocally, no. Totally agree that if the options are being a bit bored sometimes or working myself half to death, I’ll take the boredom, thanks. I have plenty of other things in my life that I’m happy to spend that time on!

    2. CheeryO*

      Agreed. Call me a slacker if you want, but I have very little work-related stress and a fantastic work/life balance (hello, 37.5 hour workweeks and five weeks of vacation), and I would never trade that away for a higher salary in the private sector.

    3. allathian*

      Agreed. Granted, I’m not in the US, so the baseline is different. There are people even here who work all hours of the week and literally have to be denied access to their employer’s systems to switch off (emergency medical leave for a friend of a friend who was literally temporarily laid off because they were burning out and refused to go on vacation). Most people here who enjoy a reasonable work-life balance feel rather sorry for those who don’t have any meaning in their lives outside of work, I know I do.

  61. De Minimis*

    Now I’m wondering if what I’m feeling at work these days is “arrival fallacy.” What a great term.

    I’ve felt very guilty and unfulfilled about this job that I’ve had for nine months, and have just chalked it up to just too many changes in the last year. I’ve felt like a slacker and beat myself up over it. But maybe I should just go with the feeling of being a slacker.

  62. Marilyn Wilson*

    I’d read the book and give it away solely from this exert discussion of ” arrival fallacy”.

  63. jenthebillionth*

    There’s slacking and then there’s “slacking.” I don’t consider NOT killing yourself through work to be really slacking off. The work is still getting done, but you don’t have to eat, sleep, and breathe it. That’s healthy, and it took me a long time to figure out. I knew I had a good job, I wanted to like my job, I didn’t – because it was All I Ever Did. Or thought about. Or talked about. And I became so unwell. So I had to figure out how to do the work, but not at the expense of me. It was a slow and sometimes painful process, but I did it.

  64. Ms. Stemba*

    Interesting ideas, and I’d like to read more. I would argue that using the term slacker is attention getting, but the example of actively reducing work emergencies at night is certainly not a slacker move. The example is in a very different category than a true slacker that comes in late and leaves the rest of the team to do his share of work. We all know that guy. :)

  65. Turtlewings*

    I think it’s sad that having healthy boundaries and refusing to let your job rule your life is considered “slacking”! Of course I’m sure the author is using the term in a tongue-in-cheek way to make exactly that point. I’ve never been a “career” person anyway, honestly; I just want a job that keeps the lights on, that I at least mildly enjoy and doesn’t take all my time and energy away from my actual interests. And, luckily, I have finally found it! I work in an environment where the idea of someone calling me after hours for anything short of the building burning down is pretty much unthinkable. Thank goodness!

  66. KatAlyst*

    I think this perfectly encapsulates why I frequesntly feel like I need a different employer even during full-salary WFH with decent benefits in the midst of a pandemic. …but maybe it also indicates that I need an internal & perspective change before I go and make the change, only to repeat patterns that end up in the same place

  67. Unfettered scientist*

    “Work won’t make you happy. You make you happy.” Wow from the first line I already can tell that I’m going to gel really well with this book. I also think it’s really telling that all the ‘fun slacker’ characters that she mentions from popular culture are white men (or boys). There really is a strong race/sex component to how slacking is viewed by others.

  68. Carlie*

    It’s tough – I tend to absorb the energy of people around me, and therefore what is an emergency for them becomes an emergency for me too. And I don’t have a specific number of hours to work per week, so it’s hard to ever say I’m off the clock.

    1. Nonprofit to corporate*

      One way to think about it might be, would you respond to a request if you were in the middle of a meeting with your boss? Most of the time, no, you probably wouldn’t pick up the phone in the middle of a meeting, although of course sometimes the answer is yes for a true emergency. So give your time the same consideration you’d give your boss’s time.

  69. Academic admin*

    Oh, I need this book. I am a burning out, not well paid admin and I am currently trying to figure out my balance while managing the expectations (that I gave them) of my department. Things will be changing!

  70. juliebulie*

    A little surprised that no one has mentioned Bob Dobbs. That’s who I think of when someone is talking about slack.

  71. PJS*

    I’ve totally turned into a slacker. I do sometimes still feel guilty about that, but it happens less and less. I had an opportunity to take a job in a niche area of my field that I always thought I wanted to work in. I left after six months because I couldn’t handle the lifestyle. Lots of hours at unpredictable times. Doing that type of work wasn’t worth giving up my hobbies and making my entire life revolve around my job. At my current job, I did work a lot at first because I had a lot to learn and we have had a lot of turnover in the department, but that has changed over the last few years. I used to take my laptop home every weekend; now it’s rare that I do that. I hardly ever stay late. I use all my available vacation. If I have to stay home for a repairman or something like that, I will use personal leave instead of working from home if I don’t have anything urgent going on. Part of me feels guilty, but I try to tell myself that I am setting a healthy example for my employees so that they don’t feel like they have to do that either.

  72. NW Mossy*

    The part I love about Deanna’s story is that the key action in it all is articulation – being really clear on what we mean when we say something, even if only to ourselves.. So often we operate on assumptions without ever pausing to really contemplate those assumptions and their implications, or even notice they exist! Are they true? What’s the evidence that they’re true? What would happen if they weren’t true? If the assumption vanished tomorrow, how we would make different choices?

    Most of the breakthroughs I’ve had in my working life have been tied to having the realization that an idea or concept only felt true but wasn’t actually supported by any evidence when I really looked at it. It felt true that I wanted to climb the leadership rungs for my personal satisfaction. After COVID-19 sideswiped those plans, I realized that I was pursuing externally visible success because of my competitive streak. That desire to “win working” was actually getting in the way of a broader enjoyment of life, and I’m glad that’s more visible to me now.

  73. 3recessionsbefore35*

    I’m also an “older millennial” and I agree completely with the stress of always having to hustle. The challenge is for those of us who haven’t reached the same level of seniority / achievement as Deanna; someone at her level who can make these changes while also helping her organization align with a better work/live balance philosophy will likely have more success than someone who is burned out but still near the bottom of the org chart. I think this really only works if you have enough capital to spend on changing the team with you – if Deanna had been one of her reports, rather than the supervisor; she probably wouldn’t have been able to call her team to a meeting and reevaluate “emergencies” without first getting manager buy in.

  74. Squiggly*

    This speaks to me so much–I put in my notice last week at a job that has burned me out like crazy. When deciding to leave it was very hard for me to separate my identity from my job and recognize that there is more to life than that job. Would love to read the rest of the book!

  75. youknowmestephieb*

    “Deanna was suffering from arrival fallacy, the feeling of disappointment you get when you reach your goals but the result isn’t what you expected. Instead of being happy with your salary and enjoying your work, you ask yourself, “Is this all there is? There must be more.”

    There’s not.”

    Whoa. I am on the precipice of leveling up and I found myself pulling back and wondering if it’s just gonna be the same BS. That feeling of “holding on until…” is getting old. I need to slack off more.

  76. RJ*

    The “hustleporn” culture is so rampant among people my age (20 somethings). I’m glad to see that there’s a way to have a balance between my career and my life without the extra guilt of “not working hard enough.”

  77. Clarissa*

    This is great! I needed this reminder for my work career. I was a slacker in college and I honestly think I learned more and got more out of it than my roommate who studied every waking moment and was constantly stressed about grades.

  78. Deb*

    I think I may be a partial slacker. I’ll sometimes check email at night and on weekends just in case, but will rarely reply. There’s rarely a phone call, but I agree that if I did get a work call, I would assume it was an emergency and answer it.

  79. GeorgiaB*

    I was explicitly told earlier this week that my inability to work late hours (think after 9pm after putting in a full 8+ hours starting before 9am) was a problem I needed to figure out a solution to. 90% of the time I really enjoy my job, but the promotion bar just keeps moving and I’m getting to the point where I need to figure out if it’s really worth it to me.


      The solution is to plan to get the hell out of there. Find me on LinkedIn. Maybe I can help?

  80. Deborah Schwartz*

    I think I may be a partial slacker. I’ll sometimes check email at night and on weekends just in case, but will rarely reply. There’s rarely a phone call, but I agree that if I did get a work call, I would assume it was an emergency and answer it.


  81. PolarVortex*

    My mom used to tell me, you could find a job you really enjoy but it may not pay well, or you can find a job you’re okay with but it’ll pay well enough to do the things you enjoy. Despite saying it myself to others, I had lost sight it of somewhere in the concept that I still need to be the best at work to make up for being able to pay for my enjoyments. That’s not true. I can be good, not perfect. I can take a day off and if things fail, well they shouldn’t, the team should be able to handle things if I’m hit by a bus tomorrow. I am more important than my career.

    Work is a paycheck, my life is my library and my lego collection and my never ending house project list and the outdoors and cooking/baking and skiing and family and fun.

  82. Valegro*

    I left a toxic environment that tried to wring as much out of us as possible by guilt tripping that animals would suffer if we didn’t jump to help every single person who neglected said animals for years and suddenly had an emergency and needed us. I didn’t go to vet school and spend $150k on JUST THAT part of my education to be an indentured servant working more than 70 hours a week in a dangerous job for under $70k.
    I jumped ship and found a job that let me be more of a “slacker” and didn’t severely punish me for setting boundaries. I make over $100k now for 38 hours a week on average. It was a huge chance I took on this job and it’s not perfect, but it worked out spectacularly for me. It’s a job that’s had potential for even more emotional wringing, but I have enough time and energy to put up mental spacers and disconnect from it when I’m not working. I wish everyone could do the same.

  83. Dorothy Lawyer*

    I’m not usually a reader of non-fiction but I’ll read this one. This “always on” thing is something I’m fighting right now – not so much with my day job, but with service on a nonprofit board. 2-3 hour meetings on evenings and weekends, eek!

  84. Picard*

    Its a very American thing I think this live to work culture vs my culture where its very much work to live. I’m glad I don’t go crazy with no boundaries (although my significant other would probably say I work too much)

  85. Monty and Millie's Mom*

    I love this! I’m not a non-fiction reader – I read to escape and I’m not sorry for that – but I’m so interested in this book I would make an exception to read it!
    If I don’t win, I’ll most likely find another way to read it – even if it means buying it! (I’m a big believer in and supporter of libraries!)

  86. knitcrazybooknut*

    As a long time Gold Star Girl, I struggle with separating my identity from my work. When I was young, the ONLY approval I got was in school, getting everything right. Working in payroll meant getting absolutely everything right, every time. I felt good about myself when that was achieved. Now I’m managing an academic department, and it’s really hard not to absorb that as my identity. I am limited to 40 hours per week, but it’s hard not to think about work on my down time, and drive myself pretty hard to get things done when I’m working. I set standards for myself that aren’t always possible, and no one else is holding me to that standard.

    All that to say, argh. I gotta work on this.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Oh, I love Gold Star Girl! It me.

      Nearly twenty years ago I got laid off, didn’t find work for a long while, and it was a real crisis. Partly because I worked in the kind of field that is an identity, and partly because I’m the type to find identity in work. What value do I bring to the world if I’m not measurably Good At Stuff? If I’m not the Spelling Bee champion or the medal winner or the rockstar employee, what am I? Frankly I’m still unpacking that. Achievement is what I was learned mattered.

      In the end, I went into business for myself as a consultant. Something I learned on my “sabbatical” is that I didn’t actually enjoy working like that and I was chronically sleep deprived. Being a high level individual consultant with low hours (no more than 25/week) is my sweet spot. I happen to do something I can charge a lot for, so that works out financially. I cringe when I tell people about my life and schedule, it makes me feel like a slacker to admit I work half time and sleep 9 hours a night. But once in a while someone reminds me that what I call a “lazy” life is really just one that’s optimized to my temperament and many people would love the freedom to have that.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Oh! I knew there was somewhere my story was meandering to. For life reasons, I’ve considered going back to a FTE. But I assume I won’t find a place that will allow me the extensive flexibility I have now and still keep to 40 hours. Maybe it could exist if more “slackers” assert themselves in the workforce?

  87. Bobina*

    My LPT (life pro tip) for many people when it comes to things like this is that part of being an effective “slacker” is expectation management (a very important counterpart to boundaries) and also perception management.

    The latter in particular probably gets a bad reputation, but honestly, I have found a really important part of my job is making sure my *boss* thinks I’m working really hard, even if…maybe I’m not. Do I make sure all the things I commit to get done to a high standard? Yes. Are they done as fast as they could be? Ehhh.

    See above re: expectation management. Learn to give yourself some breathing room and your quality of (work) life improves massively. As someone upthread said : is anyone going to die if that report isnt ready immediately? No? Then it can probably wait a day or two.

    1. Joielle*

      As they say – underpromise, overdeliver! Then the times when you can’t overdeliver, or don’t feel like it, you still meet your goal, and you’ve developed a great reputation.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, I pretty much always do this, together with my coworker. Some of our deadlines are statutory so they have to be met pretty much no matter what, but when there’s room to negotiate for more time, I’ll do so. It’s better to hand something in earlier than expected than to beg for more time at the last minute.

  88. Rocket Woman*

    Love the style of writing, and completely agree on setting boundaries. This is something my boss makes hard for his subordinates – he’s always bragging about getting so many emails a day, and working 60-80 hour weeks. I, personally, don’t find that impressive. To me it shows he needs to get better at delegating and managing his time, but it worries me that other young engineers may think this is the norm – when it is NOT for my company (thankfully). I strive to be good at my job, but I never work more than 40 hours a week and I turn off my work phone/laptop as soon as I log off for the day. So I guess I’m a slacker, but at least I’m happy :)

    1. allathian*

      I don’t find that impressive, either. I’m a firm believer in “work smarter, not harder.” But how does your boss see it, does he have a problem with it?

  89. RoseRead*

    Very intriguing ideas! As a typical Type A perfectionist this book calls to me. Finding balance is so easy to say, but much harder to put into practice so would be interested to hear more.

  90. Michael Valentine*

    I will definitely be reading this book–sounds funny and helpful! I’ve been “slacking” more at work and setting more boundaries, but I still overestimate the value of my presence (can it wait? it’s hard for me to say yes). Professional detachment is a stretch goal for me!

  91. Malarkey01*

    Earlier in my career I thought of myself as the rock start, go getting, rising star and was so proud of the long hours I worked, the dedication, the drop everything to help you reputation (the high/low point was plugging my dying laptop into a baggage carrousel at some airport at 11 pm so my coworkers and I could finish an email during a 4 city travel swing- yes it SPARKED and should not be used for laptops). I realize that what I saw as awesome commitment could also be viewed as the unhinged acts of a lunatic. Getting space, drawing boundaries has actually allowed me to improve- I’m more productive, I sift through the silly, I consciously evaluate whether something brings value, and now I’m more successful at work, set a better example, and no longer wonder if it’s normal to run around a grocery store looking for a cell phone signal while holding a banana in the air.

  92. SC*

    Wow, what a timely post! I’m struggling with this recently… I definitely need to learn how to take a step back and let go more. After beginning to experience physical symptoms of stress, and continuous 10-12 hour work days, something has to give. I’ll have to add this book to my (immediate) reading list so I can learn how to slack off!

  93. ZSD*

    I wonder if it’s easier to make this decision to detach once you’ve already given your employer a few years of 24-hour availability that’s enabled you to climb the ladder. Since the beginning of my career, I’ve always had this kind of detachment — never set up work alerts on my phone, never taken a work laptop along on vacation — and I’m not rising through the ranks. I can’t prove causality, but I think there might be a connection.
    But I’d love to win this book!

  94. Obelle02*

    Wow. This excerpt came right on time for me. I’ve been struggling this week when I didn’t get my “dream job” offer AGAIN and I feel like a failure because despite how well I did in school, how smart I am or ambitious I’m stuck as an administrative assistant. I will try to be grateful that my job is low stress and not let the title define me.

  95. Sunny*

    I get that the book is a lot longer than this excerpt but the dynamics of white guy slackerism in her examples at the start don’t really make sense plopped in like this with no context. That was a vision – and rebellion – that was really only accessible to a certain group of people. Whose complaints only applied from their privileged vantage.

    And to go from that to ‘well, I stopped answering emails after-hours’… viewing normal work-life boundaries as “slackerism” is deeply disturbing. This seems like a very unhealthy metaphor that actually just reinforces the existing norms. There’s a world of difference between keeping your work for 9-5 and being the family slacker-mooch.

    Sorry to rain on the parade.

  96. BeckaBeeBoo*

    I’m loving the ideas presented in the excerpt, but having trouble over the use of the word “Slacker”. I get she is trying to re-define the word, but why not redefine health relationships with work and a work life balance with a positive word?

  97. Syd*

    I cannot wait to read this book! After losing a job I loved during the pandemic (like so many others), it finally clicked that I never want work to be my whole life and reason for being. There are so many other things that are more important to me. Thanks for sharing!

  98. Eleanor Konik*

    This reminds me a bit of a recent union kerfuffle with my union when they proposed doing work-to-rule during COVID-related negotiations.

    I laughed a little because I almost always take a “work to rule” philosophy and I’m still considered a high-performer, because I don’t let myself burn out or get bogged down in the minutiae.

    1. Eleanor Konik*

      Oh, and I want to follow-up: the excerpts and some of the other comments remind me a lot of a Robert Heinlein short story about “the man who was too lazy to fail,” and anecdotes about “lazy” programmers who write code to automate their jobs and save time.

      The “slacker” mentality works well when it’s about creating efficiency. Less well when it’s about doing everything you can to “get out of doing real work.” I’m efficient and it works for me; I’ve known true “slackers” who would do things like quit jobs with no alternatives lined up in a recession because their boss couldn’t give them a raise from $30 to $35 /hr after a couple of months because the economy tanked and wound up mooching off their parents forever, and throwing a brick through the window of their own car out of frustration with a renovation that was more work than they expected.

      I agree: find a better word.

  99. Really Just a Cat*

    I see myself as a slacker, and I’ve always hidden it. Most people would say ‘you are so busy all the time’ or ‘you work very hard’. But I’m not and I don’t, not really. I just happen to be a very efficient worker. I do have a lot of work, and I do show up on time and get things done by deadlines. But most of my work tasks don’t take me nearly as long as people thing they will, or should, and I deliberately chose professions that are output-oriented rather than based solely on time (like shift work or billable hours). Since I’m output oriented, and I produce great output in a short amount of time, that leaves me with extra time to do other things during the day, particularly during work-from-home. But I wouldn’t want to admit this publicly!! I’m really interested to see if the book has strategies on how to more openly be a slacker without facing professional suspicion/consequences in a world that values time put in.

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I feel the exact same way. I will only admit in this anonymous forum that I probably put in 25 hours of true “WORK” every week, but my output is same or better than my colleagues who make a show of being crazy busy 24/7. I still feel guilty that I’m not working hard enough and wonder what I could achieve if I gave it my all, but the reality is this work isn’t “all” to me and I need to preserve my energy for things that matter.

      1. Really Just a Cat*

        I don’t feel guilty about at it this point, since I know I get my work done. But I do feel guilty about how it impacts my partner, who is more one of those ‘put in your hours’ kind of people. Since we both work from home now, they are much more aware of how I slack off during the day than previously. They don’t like their job, and its hard for them to work so hard at their job for so many hours and to see me, well, not, at a job I do like.

        I do wish it was more socially acceptable to work this way!

    2. Ginger Baker*

      There’s a really interesting article in Harvard Business Review about overwork struggles men have and some ways that some “pass” as “ideal [overworking] workers” while actually secretly maintaining a decent work-life balance. “Why Some Men Pretend to Work 80 Hour Weeks”; comes up easily in Google.

    3. Ivy*

      This is me exactly. I set boundaries, don’t overwork myself, don’t let other people’s emergencies stress me out, and do a really great job at my job (and love what I do). Output oriented for the win!

  100. CoCy*

    I read an obituary of someone who had worked for a company for 40+ years, retired, and died shortly thereafter. I’ve seen it in places I have worked as well. Someone gives their life to a company, and in the end, you leave, the wheels keep turning, and it’s almost like they were never there.

    I remember talking with a group of friends I hadn’t seen in awhile and catching up. I had changed jobs/careers fairly recently. Everyone was talking about work, and when questions started coming my way, I dreaded it. I told my husband later that I don’t want my work or job to define me. I have a million more interesting things going on in my life, as I’m sure everyone does, if they would just give them space and the same amount of social currency as your job does. That was a defining moment for me.

    It helps that I have a boss (in HR) that lives this slacker life daily. It was a hard adjustment for me initially, coming from Corporate America where I got wrapped up in attaining better KPIs and promotions every 6 months, but was miserable. Seeing someone in a successful leadership role who didn’t need to burn themselves out, worked about only 6 hours a day, but still achieves desirable results and provides growth opportunities was eye opening.

    I had to make a conscious decision to find a company that fit into my personal life and allowed that to be my main priority. It’s not always easy, and you don’t always know from the outset when you’re looking, but I am so much happier.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      My husband did 12 hours plus a day for years. He never lived to collect any retirement benefits. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

      I’d love a massive “You don’t own me”(a potential Lesley Gore remake song) movement in this country. The lack of respect from Corporate America is appalling. I’d be here all day listing off the many different ways this lack of respect manifests.

      I just have to wonder what the Big Wigs will do when most of us decide that their company is not the number one thing in our lives.

    2. Filosofickle*

      LOL I definitely do not have a million more interesting things in my life! Maybe one and I’m not sure what that is. And I actually really like my life…I have a partner I love, we go on hikes, I cook a lot and do crossword puzzles. A very homebody existence. Not a lot I’d call interesting! When we can travel again that will help.

      I make work small talk not because I think it’s the only thing that matters — and I’m thrilled to hear what matters to others that isn’t work — but it’s genuinely one of the few things I know how to make conversation about.

      1. Filosofickle*

        p.s. I am not a workaholic. I work about half time, by design. I just really love my work! It IS interesting!

  101. Lanie Webster*

    I think that we all need to learn better work/home balance. The article was funny and engaging while also being full of useful information. I liked that she gave us all of the negative connotations of being a slacker before finally explaining that she actually meant professional detachment. It’s like saying something to someone that they can take two ways and then adding “in a good way”.

  102. Burn it all down*

    This is me, I work hard from 8 – 5, after 5 I am done and do not think about it until 8 the next day. It’s a job not my life

  103. JustA___*

    THIS. At my current work, it is very “these are our hours, stick to them” and they look at outputs instead of inputs (e.g., hours worked).
    At my previous work, there was a very “what a slacker” vibe if you tried to keep 9-5 hours. To be fair, there were never enough people to meet our deadlines without putting in tons of hours–so if you left at 5, you were almost certainly shifting a burden onto one of your co-workers, or giving yourself more work to slog through the next day. I don’t miss that.

  104. Voodoo Priestess*

    Best work advice I received was from a professor after I finished my MS but before I started work. “Set boundaries early, before you’re busy. Then it’s just normal routine.”

    I’m glad to see someone pushing back against “hustle culture” and advocate for healthy boundaries. I’m looking forward to reading the whole thing!

  105. Officious Intermeddler*

    This is fascinating, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the book. I liked the reality check that Deanna’s story offered–as someone who’s pretty senior but Not The Boss, it can be hard to remember that your boss feels as subject to your expectations of her as you do to her expectations of you. I like that there was a collaborative solution there in that the whole team agreed to a new set of standards. So much of what’s good and bad about a job can live in the unsaid things. I’d love to hear more about setting boundaries during the work-from-home era we’re in now.

  106. Lives in a Shoe*

    Perfect. I came to the working world shellshocked from an awful divorce and 20 years of working from home part time. During this time, my family absorbed a good few terrible blows – like drive you to your knees blows. I got a great job at a great place, and have moved up to a level I couldn’t have imagined. However, my perspective can be very different from other folks’ there. Since I KNOW what a “real crisis” looks like, work ones fade in comparison. There just isn’t anything that’s going to happen at work that reaches true emergency level. This allows me to keep my cool and focus on what I do well – connecting with people at work, performing my duties to a high level of competence, and genuinely enjoying what I do. It’s a wonderful place to be, but until today I wouldn’t have connected it to slackerism. So thanks.

  107. CruiseShipDirector*

    Ooh, I feel seen: “it’s important to know that the feelings of contentment and personal accomplishment don’t come from working sixty hours and hearing “good job” from your boss. They come from confidence and maturity.” This book comes at such an important time in my career as I consider advancing in a work culture where busy-ness and blurred work/family boundaries are often an unchallenged norm. I would love to read this book!

  108. Zorak*

    Extremely good timing on this post! I’m coming out of a period of extended burnout and trying to figure out how to reset boundaries and reframe my approach to work. Because I do tend to go above and beyond in my efforts, sometimes I feel like I’m being a “slacker” when I’m actually just doing a normal and good job. It sounds like this book would offer a helpful perspective as I work towards a more balanced life.

  109. Rock Prof*

    As an academic with a K-12 teacher spouse, the work life boundaries get so blurred. While academia has a lot of its own issues, one common between both of us is that there’s definitely an expectation that things like grading should be done in the evenings and not during work hours!
    I love this example because it particularly plays into a pedagogical concept of self-ownership where, in the classroom students set some of the ground rules for various things (for example, discussion guidelines). As a program director, I definitely think having employees/co-workers work to set the emergency-level communication (and other policies) instead of it being forced down on them is such a simple, tractable thing..

  110. TeacherBot*

    This phenomenon is exactly why I’ve decided to quit teaching and go do something else. As a teacher, I always felt “on call” and required to work beyond contract hours because “it’s for the kiiiiiiiids”and how dare you not sacrifice yourself for the betterment of the next generation? I finally realized, a couple of months into the pandemic, that my career would literally bleed me dry AND kill me with a deadly virus to boot. Thanks for the validation.

  111. Purely Allegorical*

    “I used to do yoga and run 5ks. Now I just participate in meetings all day long and check other people’s PowerPoint decks for errors before they go to the board.”

    Deanna was suffering from arrival fallacy, the feeling of disappointment you get when you reach your goals but the result isn’t what you expected. Instead of being happy with your salary and enjoying your work, you ask yourself, “Is this all there is? There must be more.”

    I’ve really had an existential crisis over the last year (began before the pandemic, but the pandemic hasn’t helped) about what it means to find fulfillment in your job. I still desperately want that someday, but have come to accept that it’s ok if that doesn’t exist. And for jobs where that doesn’t exist (like my current one), I am trying harder to institute these types of boundaries so that I have enough energy to actually LIVE, and enjoy living, outside of the office.

    1. Chilipepper*

      I’ve really had an existential crisis over the last year (began before the pandemic, but the pandemic hasn’t helped) about what it means to find fulfillment in your job. I still desperately want that someday, but have come to accept that it’s ok if that doesn’t exist.

      What DOES it mean to find fulfillment in your job? For real, I don’t know and also desperately want that someday. Or HOW have you come to accept that it’s ok if that does not exist?

  112. Elizabeth W Kidd*

    I don’t think the example shown in the excerpt is slacking. It is a matter of setting boundaries. Along those lines though- it is important to set expectation boundaries at home as well as at work. Don’t expect me to do things that are outside of my comfort zone just because someone else did it!

  113. NicoleT*

    Nodding my head yes to all of this.

    It’s really easy to get wrapped up in your job being your identity. The plus side of all ::: this ::: [gestures broadly at COVID world] is that I’ve figured out what I actually do miss and what I don’t. I’ve put down a lot of activities, and I don’t plan to take them back up.

  114. Smilingswan*

    I’m definitely a slacker. I have mental health issues and some days I have to conserve my spoons.

  115. DrSalty*

    This is exactly why I just told my boss I want to stay an individual contributor at my company. I don’t want to be responsible for other people’s nonsense!

  116. Regina Phalange*

    Great anecdote and spot on. I figured out years ago that I didn’t want to be ‘that person’ who was consumed with work 24/7. After a layoff from a job where the hours were unpredictable and work/life balance was hard, I took a job that came with a smaller salary but (mostly) predictable hours and less stress, and have been thankful every day since.

  117. princessbuttercup*

    This reminds me of the letter writer with the fake Brene Brown a few weeks ago. I love these concepts, but as other commenters have noted, the less capital/power you have, the trickier and riskier these boundaries can be. I have started to be much firmer with my time at work and pushed back on deadlines for new projects but I can tell it’s being received begrudgingly, and I definitely think there will be long term implications for my reputation at this business (which I know I need to leave, for those reasons and more).

    The reason I think of the Brene Brown thing specifically is it really seems to me like A LOT of executive leader types are latching onto this language. At my company, I am getting assigned new work, setting boundaries that the deadlines aren’t realistic without taking other tasks off, and our leadership simply will not take tasks off or respect the boundaries.

    However….. they parrot exactly the kind of stuff Laurie has written here. No meetings before 9 policy, no emails after 6 policy, constantly bring up in meetings or send weekly reminder emails about the important of taking care of yourself, pacing yourself and having a good work life balance etc. It’s all kind of meaningless word salad though, because they’re not willing to go all the way and actually say no to new clients, demands and expectations from the board, etc. It makes me feel worse, because it constantly makes me feel like I’m losing my mind to hear these same “work life balance” statements again and again, and then be criticized for not being able to do 60 hours of work in a 35 hour work week. It starts to feel like the words become ANOTHER work expectation! You better have a good work life balance or else!

    I’m not saying this is always meaningless (I really do love what Laurie has written!), but I can guarantee if I shared this post with my colleagues, the senior leadership team would all respond with how true this is, how important boundaries and self care and detachment is, probably even consider buying the book for every staff men ever ….. and then would call me at 8pm for an absolutely non-emergency “emergency”.

  118. Andrea*

    This quote stood out, “ Women and people of color are held to a double standard at work. They must be buttoned up but warm, savvy but deferential to the team, and data-driven yet still compassionate.”

    I’m the Office Manager at a school and wear many hats. I don’t know how many times my boss (a woman who routinely belittles and yells at staff and parents) tells me I’m, “too cold”. And, that I’m, “too much like a man.” She describes me as not nurturing. ???? She sees my efficiency as cold and uncaring. Fortunately kids are a good barometer of ones ability to connect and care – they flock to me when I enter their classrooms with messages for their teachers.

    Like Deanna in this quote from the book, I’ve had to set boundaries regarding “emergencies” after hours. Since I’ve started asking, “Can this wait until Monday?”, and stating, “This can wait until the morning. I’ll let you know then”, the emergency calls and texts have dropped significantly. It felt very cold when I started doing it, but I’m glad I did.


      Great examples. Good for you. This is terrific, and I’m glad you did this for yourself.

  119. Not Too Short or Too Sweet*

    Professional detachment has been so hard for me as a millennial manager who has wrapped my identity up in how well I do my job and what people think of me. Especially during these COVID times, I want to always be on and there for my staff, but my mental health and relationships are definitely taking a beating. I have definitely been working on setting boundaries and protecting my time.

    I also relate to the Arrival Fallacy. I spent so many years just waiting for the day I would be in management, and it has turned out quite differently than I imagined (I thought I would get a lot of say in how things are run, but being in middle management means I don’t really).

    I am really looking forward to reading this book, whether I win the giveaway or not.

  120. Megan*

    I’d like to dive deeper into the term “work life balance”. I have erased this word from my memory and now choose to use “work life harmony.” I found that my home life and work life were never in complete balance, and quite frankly, it bothered me. Instead of stressing over the responsibilities, I re-framed my mind to look at it as a harmonization instead. If I can succeed in both worlds in harmony with one another, that seemed to ease that notion that I wasn’t putting my best foot forward at work. Since I’ve realigned my goals at work with my goals outside of work, I’m able to provide the most energy into thinks of most importance in both worlds.

    I can’t wait to read this book!

  121. Mary Richards*

    I think there’s a huge component that comes from technology. I was discussing this with a friend who works in property management. She and I are both millennials, and we’ve both always gotten work calls, emails, etc. at all hours. Her boss (a baby boomer) told her that, back in the day before cell phones were so widespread, there was basically a 10-hour window for tenants to contact them for troubleshooting, and past that, it had to wait until the next day. Now, with everyone running around with computers in their pockets, work is an all day activity. We, collectively, gradually adjusted our boundaries and now we have to reclaim our right to go off the clock!

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      That’s such a good point, that technology has really enabled the 24/7 grind. Not that long ago you would have to track down a home phone number to contact your colleague after the work day ended, and if they were out for the evening on or vacation you were SOL. That sounds like a dream these days compared to the (written or unwritten) expectation that every email ding or Slack buzz must immediately be attended to, no matter the time.

  122. 30 Years in the Biz*

    Fantastic! I’ve just bought a copy on Amazon. I couldn’t wait. Thank you for posting. I’m thinking if this book is as powerful and life-changing as it appears in this excerpt, readers should start posting on their LinkedIn and spread the word.

  123. StillNoName*

    I definitely learned the “slacker” attitude after my last layoff, which led to years of SAHM & under employment. In return for a work-life balance, decent salary & benefits, I am a loyal, conscientious employee who is willing to pitch in and be an excellent teammate during working hours. Nights and weekends, I’m my own person.

  124. NewToThis*

    Good excerpt. Like a lot of people, COVID has changed what I thought my career trajectory was going to be and now I am home with two young kids and trying to figure out what comes next. The thing is, I want a job that feels like it’s important enough to me to be a part of my identity. It seems like there is a pendulum of being too consumed with your job vs being a true slacker who just says ‘not my problem’ to anything challenging or outside the box at work. I don’t want to be at either end of the spectrum, but I think I’d rather be a little too invested in my job than a little too detached.

    1. Chilipepper*

      This, exactly this, NewToThis!
      I want a job that feels important enough to be part of my identity, that I would be happy being a little too invested in, and I don’t want to be a true slacker who says “not my problem.”
      My job is one with a lot of vocational awe (its a library) and I do feel it could be important enough to be part of my identity, but the way mine is managed (and the way a lot of libraries are managed) means that for my mental health, I need to be a true slacker. I find that hard!

  125. PunkRockPM*

    From one Punk to another (GenX here), I completely agree with making yourself the #1 priority. Western capitalist society encourages making work the #1.

    So who really benefits from this? (Hint: It’s not you. You are replaceable.)

  126. Office Grunt*

    The line “Sometimes it’s the person who isn’t overly concerned with professional relationships” spoke to me and my experience at my first degree-relevant job.

    Once I got settled in and into a groove, I loved coming to work every day, doing what needed done that day, and leaving everything at the door on my way out. That being said, I made it abundantly clear that my time away from the office was *mine*. I had three distinct hobbies/extracurriculars that I threw myself into, and would not be making time for socializing with co-workers unless there were extreme circumstances (i.e. you bet your ass I’m coming to pub-stomp trivia night).

    With new leadership at the top came a lot of re-shuffling, and a greater emphasis on after-hours team-building and social events. I had been a department of one for almost my entire tenure, and bristled at the changes both within the office and without.

    I ended up indirectly picking a fight with the biggest bitch in the yard, and was shown the door that day. Looking back, it was for the best for my mental health. I also enjoyed some delicious schadenfreude, as four people have been churned through my job in three years (I was there for four, my immediate predecessor held it for two).

  127. Anhaga*

    Yup, this pretty much spot-on described why I burned out on my old job and shifted into an entirely new field. We were expected to work 6 days a week and because of weekly deadlines, never even really got off paid holidays even though the administration “encouraged” us to just take the day off (while refusing to acknowledge that this only resulted in doubled work on the next work day). I looked around at others I knew, and even those in better and more prestigious positions were dealing with the same kinds of “always on” expectations (this, by the way, is academia, so don’t believe those popular conceptions of the cushy education job where you get summers off). So I just left. I got really lucky with my new job in that our boss really actually believes in work-life balance; he doesn’t want to be at work all the time, so why would we? Even though we’re a little start-up, he’s making sure that we take our weekends off and he’s been increasing the number of paid holidays we have. I clock out at the end of the day and completely check out, as well, until I get back to the office the next morning. It’s awesome. And being in a management position, I can make sure that my team does the same! No one’s identity should be so bound up in their job that they can’t conceive of themselves outside of it. We’re humans, not factory line widgets.

  128. MK*

    I want to read this book! I’ve spent the past few years trying to break the links I had made between my work and my self-worth, and to start creating professional boundaries. Some things have worked really well – like clearing my calendar and inbox from nonsense, but other things, like anxiety over performance and other people’s perceptions, are still very much a work in progress.

  129. Dan*

    What a refreshing read! I’ve been saying things like this for years and people have always looked at me like I have two heads!

    The part where she says there isn’t anything else than the daily grind made my day.

    You want to know what I’m passionate about? Doing anything but going to work. A dream job is a contradiction in terms if you ask me and the sooner we can remove it from our lexicon we’ll all be better off. It just sets you up to be disappointed when the great job turns out to be just OK.

    Thanks for sharing!

  130. Ashley*

    I definitely struggle with hitting the right level of attachment. Since getting promoted this past summer, I definitely swing between working a not-quite-sustainable number of hours and being a little too checked out even during business hours. Looks like this book had a lot of advice for hitting the balance right. Would love to read!

  131. Nicole*

    I love this. I totally embrace the idea of being a “slacker”. I spent the last year working with my therapist on this exact idea, and on how much I invest myself in work, with no added benefit to myself or my workplace. Literally, the amount of work I produce when I am being lazy is basically equal to the amount of work I produce when I am killing myself.

  132. Anonandanon*

    I think one is either born or nurtured to be a slacker, which to me is really a sociopath under a different name. Someone who cares for nothing or no one but themselves. I have worked now for some 37 years, in three different states. I always stood out as the one who got things done, and the buck stopped with me. I have become so disgusted with work because the slackers just keep slacking, and I just keep working. I care too much about the work and the people I support (I work in IT), and unfortunately had a really awful manager who would continue to give me projects because “You’re the only one I can trust to do this.” instead of managing the team and weeding out the slackers. I don’t think I’ll ever be a slacker, but you can bet I am now taking more shortcuts, redirecting work, and avoiding the never ending emails, texts, and calls from people who work around our processes to get to me because they know I can fix their problem. Can’t wait to retire and NOT do this any longer.

    1. allathian*

      Depends on the definition. I like the ideas presented in this book, and I definitely and absolutely will always work to live rather than live to work. It’s a matter of working smarter rather than working harder.

      Do I like my job? I do, at least most of the time. Do I try to do a good job without letting myself burn out? Absolutely. Doing a good job is important to me, but that isn’t the same thing as working 24/7. I value my reputation as a conscientious employee while working reasonable hours. That said, a good work/life balance is valued from the top down in my organization, so someone who says that they work long hours and don’t have any other interests in their life is pitied rather than envied. The importance of a good work/life balance is highlighted in one of our five core values.

      Would I quit tomorrow if I inherited 1 million bucks (about what I’m likely to earn in the 20 years before I’m due to retire unless something changes drastically)? Maybe not, but if I inherited 2 million, I’d seriously consider it.

  133. New Job So Much Better*

    Perfect commentary for life during a pandemic. Thanks for sharing, I need to remember there’s more to life than work.

  134. Annie Blue*

    I’m rather late in my career and am in an executive role. I haven’t quite set a retirement date but it will happen in the next 3-5 years. I’m sort-of a “slacker” but am not really comfortable with it! I always feel like I need to be doing more.

  135. Been there, done that!*

    Wow, I have been there before! I, too, have stepped into an individual contributor role so as to have more balance and control over my life. I also hope Deanna can get her husband to do the dishes and more, lol! Getting my hubby to pitch in more really helped me.

  136. Helena Bell*

    My first week of law school someone talked to the 1Ls about professionalism. I can’t remember *exactly* what he said (and so maybe I’m misremembering it horribly) but it was something to the effect of having to respond to every email within some absurdly tight time frame. As in, if a partner sent you an email at 2 AM you damn well better answer it within 2 hours (what?!). I mean, he was probably exaggerating… I think… I hope… but he wasn’t the only one at the school that tried to instill a “Pain is good, f*** your life” mentality (my contracts professor tried to make us feel better about the billable hourly requirements by comparing our schedules to those of surgeons capping off with “At least when you make a mistake, no one dies.”).

    …I’m better at detachment now. I don’t even have work email on my phone (also no longer in law).

  137. L.M. Campos*

    I really appreciated this re-framing of “slacker” to “professional detachment” since it’s the answer to the problem that I have about caring too much about doing a good job and making sure that my identify isn’t wrapped up in a job that might dispose of me when no longer needed. Thank you!

  138. Kaysong*

    Wow, I needed to read this today. I’ve only read one book in the last 6 months and that was only because I took a few days off after Christmas when we were slow. I used to read two books a week. I need to figure out how to get back to that.

  139. Meghan*

    Wow! I need this book. I’ve been thinking a lot about work-life balance lately, and it’s tough to find it.

  140. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

    This was so interesting for me to read. As a professional fundraiser, I’m currently the most individual of individual contributors – I manage my own workflow with little coordination or oversight until there’s a big problem. I’ve always dreamed of the kind of central role mentioned in the article, and I completely agree with the author that there’s a lot of glorification of working 24/7 and treating every work event as an emergency. I’ve had colleagues in my same role who act like the work we do is as important as saving lives (I once had a boss compare it to the work of the Innocence Project), yet their outcomes aren’t significantly different than mine. I’m glad I’ve been able to keep a work life balance; in fact, it probably skews too much toward the “life” end of the scale these days as I manage working from home in a pandemic with a seven month old.

    I really look forward to reading the book!

  141. ThoughtIWasTooYoungForThis*

    Wow, how timely. I even have what some would call a slacker job, but I run my life on caffeine and hustle in order to do it, and am now home for a week treating increasingly alarming chest pain. I’m having to unlearn the hustle and tool my conscientiousness with some ease built in.

  142. Littorally*

    Hm. I feel like this is really obfuscating slackerism with balance. It doesn’t sound like what is actually being advocated here is slackerism — doing anything to avoid work. It’s about getting workaholics to back off to a balanced approach where they still do good work, not pushing them all the way down to being shirkers.

    To some extent, I get the reason for using that term — to a workaholic, backing off to a balanced state will feel like slacking. But as someone who has struggled with laziness and slacker tendencies, it feels a little condescending from where I’m standing. “Oh, this inclination that has really hampered you through your career? That’s good actually — for all these people who are just helplessly motivated and overperforming!” I would love to have their problems. I would love to be able to have their problems, and not just shut down the moment I start to feel like maybe I will be overstretched in another few hours.

  143. Lavender Gooms*

    This got me:
    “Deanna was suffering from arrival fallacy, the feeling of disappointment you get when you reach your goals but the result isn’t what you expected. Instead of being happy with your salary and enjoying your work, you ask yourself, ‘Is this all there is? There must be more.’

    “There’s not.”

    I “arrived” in my career at my last job and while I appreciated the money, it and the office and title were not enough to balance out the stress. I left for government work and my anxiety has nearly disappeared after 3 months. I’m all for this kind of shift.

  144. Emotional Spock*

    As a public school teacher I wish I could get a copy of this for all the staff I know. So many of my colleagues work so many extra hours, and for what? I will implore them to plan a few days with minimal graded work, or self-graded work so that they can get caught up. I have learned to leave stuff at school and no longer take work home.
    We also deal with taking home emotional “stuff” as we deal with sad and frustrating kid/parent/family/society issues. While it’s not easy, I also urge my colleagues to realize that there are some things beyond our control and to focus on your own family.
    BTW – I do put in more hours than required, I do go home and worry about kids but I do my best to “work to live” and not the other way around.

  145. Kit C.*

    I recently read Michelle Obama’s Becoming and I think she gets to this point without calling it “slackerism.” To find the work-life balance she needed, she had to make the decision to do less at work and ask for flex time, regardless of optics. She felt able to do so for a host of reasons (like family support and some savings), including learning to articulate that she’s worth it to her employer. As someone who left a job that was starting to burn me out, I’m at a job now that pays me more to do less than my old job. That’s pretty awesome at the moment and I hope to learn enough that I can continue finding work-life balance in future jobs.

  146. Whiskey on the rocks*

    That line between being on and available 24/7 and being lazy and undedicated gets so blurry sometimes. I’m trying to be more direct in communicating boundaries as well as holding firm to them. In the last couple of months I’ve started to put my phone on do not disturb two nights a week so I get some solid sleep, and this has been a major accomplishment for me :/ I’ll get there one day.

  147. Harriet*

    Deanna is me. I also got to 40ish and thought, I’ve achieved all my goals, is this all? I am very lucky to be in a job where I can be a slacker. We are only expected to work 35h a week, and no out-of-hours emergencies. I need to reframe in my head from “I am slacking” to “I have work-life balance which helps me work smarter, not harder.”

  148. Vanilla Latte*

    I identify with Deanna’s situation so much. I’ve recently “arrived” and the author is right on. It’s a let down but a very good reminder that we as humans are so much more than our jobs.

  149. Ama*

    This is so incredibly timely — I just took a brief break to pop into my husband’s office (we’re both WFH for now) where we discussed my growing dissatisfaction with a job I used to love, in part because of the pressure to constantly be producing more and better without corresponding increases in staff.

    I have pretty firm work-life boundaries (I do not check emails after work hours ever except for emergency situations) but I think that where I am currently struggling professionally is in trying to hold on to these boundaries as I have moved up in management (especially as the de facto head of a department that is chronically understaffed and that does unique work that doesn’t lend itself to cross-training). My current employer is largely functional and really does try to encourage work-life boundaries but senior management often finds itself stuck between what our VIP donors/board/expert advisors want us to say about work-life balance and what they actually expect in terms of response to their own messages, amount of work that we commit to, etc.

    If I don’t win a free copy, I think I’ll probably be buying one!

  150. Lana Kane*

    This excerpt is speaking my language. Grind Culture is toxic and it’s all over social media, with ridiculous memes that equate constantly producing to your worth as a person. I’m seeing some pushback, though, and I’m glad this book amplifies that.

  151. Pghanalyst*

    I agree with Allison’s comment that the book seems easily readable and easily readable. Not sure if “Slacker” t-shirts will start trending, but the advice seems good so far!

  152. Observer*

    Excellent point. But I think it’s a mistake to call this slackerism. It just perpetuates the idea that doing anything less than being tied to your job to the exclusion of everything else is a problem. And as she clearly shows, that’s just not the case.

  153. Jennnnny*

    I liked this excerpt – to me there were a couple big takeaways:
    – Problems of overwork are usually about shared expectations among teams and harm everyone. In the story she was worried about dissapointing her co-workers and employees …. but was instead unwittingly creating a culture where they had the same woes.
    – The feeling that everything must be done or others will be upset is often a misperception. Sometimes letting some things go undone as an experiment lets us see that it will be ok if it happens. I need to work on this one!!

  154. Alice*

    Definitely resonates- I love my job, but I let it take over and neglect other important people and things in my life. Thanks for sharing!

  155. Datalie*

    This looks like a great read! I’ve been consciously “practicing” to become a slacker. Sometimes it’s a struggle because I’ve always worked for non-profits with a mission so it’s been easy for me to become more emotionally involved.

  156. anonymous 5*

    Another academic here who would happily put time toward reading this! I have the benefit of tenure and a union, so being able to stand up for myself and shut down unreasonable expectations *should* be much easier for me than it actually is. Sigh.

  157. Dana F.*

    I’m interested in reading this book because I’m thinking about if it’s really worth it for me to be completing the MLIS program I’m doing on top of full-time work.

  158. Jack Russell Terrier*

    I absolutely love how this illuminates and gives a solution to the US problem where ‘optics’ are all that count and people don’t even use all the pitiful leave they get. We all need to turn off. My European friends and family are always amazed at how much Americans are expected to work.

  159. Pam Beasley*

    Does she talk about how to be a slacker if you’re not the team lead and don’t get to be the one setting expectations? The expectation for my team is not that we answer email after hours, but that we regularly check it, just in case something urgent comes up.

  160. Khatul Madame*

    I have transitioned from striver to slacker in the past year and I am quite enjoying it, COVID notwithstanding. However, I had to make peace with the consequences: slow or no professional advancement, almost-flat earnings, limited impact of my work, and risks associated with being an older worker (I would have these risks regardless, but they became relevant in the same timeframe). Let’s face it, even if TPTB buy into the notion of work-life balance for themselves, they still favor high achievers when it comes to promotions and plum assignments.
    In my situation, I can make this work financially. Someone with a young family or a single person may have a more complicated calculus that would take into account job mobility prospects, location and cost of living, education expenses for self and/or kids, and savings goals. In other words, someone with a niche specialty, student loan debt, large mortgage and 3 kids will have a harder time transitioning into the “less is more” mindset.

  161. 3DogNight*

    Our culture has moved to where everything is urgent, and I fell into that trap, working while I was in the emergency room literally bleeding out. I had to step back and reassess. Now, when I’m off, I’m off. There are periods of time when there is more work, and I’ll have to work evenings or weekends. However, I no longer allow people to expect me to do this on the regular.
    Being a “Slacker” needs to be mandatory reading for everyone.

  162. Ann Porter*

    I am going to embrace the title. I think it fits. Great excerpt…Deanna needs to hire a cleaner, by the way.

  163. Anonymanageress*

    Absolutely. I think the pandemic has actually helped with this. When I got my current job (my first as a manager after being a lawyer for 15 years), some of the professional staff would call support staff all the time when they were on leave for reasons that could absolutely wait. New rule — if you want to contact someone on leave, you have to check with me first. It almost never happens now. I draw boundaries too and teach my staff to draw them and to manage expectations. Our big boss apparently never sleeps. I do. I sleep and I spend time with my young family. I love my job, but I love my family and my sanity more. Work is what I do so I can provide for and spend time with myself and my family. I look forward to reading this book.

  164. Escaped a Work Cult*

    Deanna’s situation feels like tale as old as time, and the solution blew me away. It’s so dang simple! And yet so incredibly effective that I might just take this to the next team meeting.

  165. LBAI*

    I clearly need this book. I’m taking a voluntary severance package due to burn out, and from the excerpt, it sounds like I need to read and live this book in my next job!

  166. Jennifer Eight Thousand and Seventeen*

    Professional detachment to me is a corollary of Ann Landers’s famous quote: “Nobody can take advantage of you without your permission.” Too many Americans give permission to their unfinished work, their bosses, and their colleagues to intrude on their free time, their sleep schedule, and their vacations. The work will never be done — never! It’ll be there in the morning. Go your ass to bed and sleep and you’ll be in better shape to face the day.

  167. Honor Harrington*

    I was the person who worked 10 million hours per week, always doing extra, because I was told that’s how I would advance my career. Lots of great reviews, lots of promises, but after 8 years of promises and no advancement, I realized it wasn’t going to happen. I took a look around and realized that where I work has better pay and benefits than anywhere else, so I’m staying. But learning to become a slacker is really hard. Not just emotionally, as in learning to be satisfied outside of work, but learning what is the level of work where I’m “safe.”

    I hadn’t realized I had internalized “if you aren’t rising, you are falling” and change the fear of falling is something I’m still figuring out.

  168. Deborah*

    I have good detachment for the most part, but I can’t really take credit for it. Something about my combination of skills, experience, intelligence and/or work style makes it so that I learn very quickly and accomplish tasks faster and more accurately than the average person in the same role. That leads to co-workers and managers who are (from my perspective) overly impressed. Like a lot of smart people, I’m actually a bit lazy in the sense that I don’t want to spend a lot of time and effort on tedious or repetitive things and so I find ways to make the work more efficient and make sure it’s accurate so I don’t have to repeat it. I also naturally gravitate towards work that is a series of puzzles I can solve, and I tend to try to find the larger puzzle I can solve long term rather than just do the same thing over and over (again because I’m frustrated by repetitive tasks).

    One downfall of the way I work is that I don’t have a “fast” work speed I can turn on when things get very busy. I always work at my fast work speed – I don’t really understand why you would have a slow setting (other than actually doing other things besides work, or the “fast” speed being that you cut out steps that ensure accuracy). So if things get suddenly much busier than they usually are, I don’t have a lot of capacity to do more in the same amount of time. I solve this by triaging priorities and communicating appropriate expectations with managers or whoever is expecting the results (and getting help when that’s relevant).

  169. myswtghst*

    My first thought (without reading other comments) is that this is great advice for specific white collar jobs, but sadly it isn’t universal, and it requires you to be a “good” employee as a baseline. It speaks to me because I’m 10+ years into my career in HR and valued by my leadership and peers, and I did my time going above and beyond to get where I am. Between COVID and some life events, I was forced to reevaluate my dedication to work. And it’s been interesting, because there are some parts of my job I fall headfirst into and could happily putter around doing until midnight, and other parts I’ve started to push back on, or at least learned to be okay with less-than-perfect versions of, so I can prioritize myself and my family more. Being clearer about my boundaries hasn’t hurt me, but I know that won’t be the case for everyone.

    1. Observer*

      No given piece of advice is going to be universally applicable, and it just doesn’t make sense to ding it for that reason.

      This advice IS very broadly applicable, enough so that if someone REALLY can’t apply any of it to their job it should cause some re-assessment.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        Yes, and FWIW very little of the advice out there about work-life balance is applicable to people who don’t have fairly high-autonomy jobs to begin with. Even a lot of the underlying assumptions are completely irrelevant outside of salaried jobs.

    2. Deborah*

      I don’t know about that. I remember working at Wal-Mart as a high school graduate, not making enough money to live on – over 15 years later I’m still paying off some of those debts, even though I worked up to 80 hours a week at two jobs – but I still kept a distance from the actual work that others didn’t. I remember so many coworkers who would become invested in making sure we could complete all of our work on time even though we were well short of fully staffed, and going so far as to report me and get me written up because I couldn’t get as much done in a 6.5 hour shift as they did in an 8 hour shift (they kept forgetting my shift was shorter and assumed I was slacking). I tried to remind them that if we slaved to make the short staffing work, Wal-Mart would reward us by deciding that was the appropriate staffing level permanently, but they didn’t listen.

      It’s true that non office jobs tend to have much less autonomy in many cases. But I think the principle of knowing even if it’s your career it’s still just a job and not your life, is applicable across most if not all situations. Don’t take it home, emotionally and mentally, and if you find you can’t do that, it’s time to change jobs, or even industries.


        I open the book with stories of working in non-salaried jobs. Turns out, with the long hours I worked early in my professional HR career with my $35,000/salary, I made about the same as working at Blockbuster.

        Nobody has autonomy unless you grab it.

  170. LP*

    Gen-Xers like me grew up being called slackers, and I guess I’ve taken that title to heart. I’ve never believed in the “live to work” idea of a career. I do try to keep boundaries between work and home, but I’m awash in the same hustle culture as everyone else. People who embrace Laurie Ruettimann’s idea about being a slacker can feel a lot of societal pressure to work themselves to death in the service of an employer. I wonder if COIVD will change that for more people? I know I’ve done a lot of thinking this past year about what I really want for my life, I’m guessing a lot of other folks are doing the same.

  171. DEJ*

    Oh boy, feeling so much of this. About six months ago I was laid off from a job/career that was both my lifestyle and a huge part of my identity, although a small part of me had just sort of begun to think that I needed a change. It doesn’t help that the profession as a whole is notoriously overworked and underpaid, but it’s in an industry that often has people lined up to work in it, although it also took a hard hit during all of this so I’m interested to see if we see more experienced professionals leaving the profession in the coming years due to burnout.

    Thankfully I landed another job quickly that is very much 9-5 so I am still mentally adjusting to not thinking about work all the time but it has been so refreshing. Someone else posted that maybe they think they need to move to a whole different job/environment and I think that was a huge help in my situation. I actually just had a conversation with my boss the other day where she stressed that oftentimes we put more pressure on ourselves than is really being put on us, and asked me if I was thinking about work outside of work and told me that I shouldn’t be doing that. I am probably doing a little too much of that now because I live alone and with the pandemic I am limited in some of the outlets available to me, but hopefully that will get better as things ease up.

  172. Wool Princess*

    Sometimes I write Allison emails (that I don’t send) as a way of processing my work stress and one of my drafts is “Can I learn to slack off”. So clearly I need this book!

  173. MasqueradingAsAManager*

    This is a great description of what I found myself doing without actually naming it. I still feel twinges of guilt that I do not access work files from home, but unless there is a true urgency to something, 9.5-10 hours is enough to give my job each day.

  174. YesIWouldLikeABook*

    This excerpt was very interesting. I’ve lucked into a similar setup with my evenings, because I’m the only west coast member of a team who are mostly on the east coast. They’re online after dinner, but after my dinner, I really can log off because they’re all in bed. It helps me unwind after work, but I’m not sure what I would have done if the time zones didn’t work in my favor. How can you build better habits if you’re not the team leader like Deanna?

  175. Persephone Mongoose*

    Just here to say the executive leadership husband who “doesn’t do the dishes” is giving me flames on the side of my face. Hopefully there’s been some more even distribution of housework since this was published.


      Honestly, wish I could rewrite/go deeper on this. Written before COVID. But still not something I should’ve written so casually.

  176. Lorraine*

    My biggest failure as a manager is getting one of my employees to stop checking email on vacation. I don’t do it, I’ve made my expectations clear and yet – it keeps coming up. Maybe I can gift her this book…

  177. Jess*

    Love this story! Learning professional detachment is tough for me personally. It’s part of why I decided to switch out of management. Even if I physically stopped checking emails, phone, etc in the evenings, I really struggled to turn off my brain and would often ruminate on personnel or other problems to the point I’d sometimes have nightmares about work. It definitely had to do with identity for me- less as identity in my role, but identifying as a “top performer” and someone who never did less than my best. I’d be curious to see what advice the author has for those who struggle to actually implement detachment.

  178. Bobbie Fults*

    I think this is definitely the book I need to read! With the onset of COVID and work from home, I find it harder than ever to detach and walk away.

  179. Nannerdooodle*

    This speaks to me. At my old job I was working 80 hours a week because I’d worked myself into a corner. By being good at what I did and over and over proving that I was the “go to” person with crises, more work kept being piled on me. I ended up in my late 20s fully burnt out. A new job fell in my lap (an old boss from before the crazy job had an opening and called me about it), and at the new job they really focus on work life balance. It’s amazing to have boundaries. Do I still have days with some crazy overtime? Yeah, but it’s once every few months when it’s absolutely necessary, rather than every day. I wish I’d learned to set boundaries like this so much earlier.

  180. should i apply?*

    By this definition I am already a slacker and pretty much always have been. Which I don’t regret. However, as I am trying to look for new roles, partially due to boredom and feeling stuck, this is one of my biggest fears that I will end up in a role where this is the expectation.

  181. Amaranth*

    My employer was incredibly enthusiastic about everyone having work email on our phones, even though we are rarely in the field, but it had the result of her emailing late at night (and she’s two time zones ahead!) and getting aggravated when she didn’t get quick replies. Something was wrong with the sync and some emails were getting lost, so I leaned on that as well as the fact that we all need an actual end to each workday. We agreed that if something is really urgent, we’d follow up an email with a text; otherwise, it can wait until the next day. Admittedly, some people still forget an email doesn’t get instant action, but baby steps…

  182. Leigh Ann*

    I cannot wait to read this book! Without realizing it, I have become a slacker recently. Looking forward to reading more about how to combat the guilt.

  183. Michelle*

    I really need to read this book. I always put work first and then end up resentful and unhappy about it.

  184. Cowgirlinhiding*

    I loved the title. I was wondering what was to follow and was pleasantly rewarded. I have been struggling this fall with COVID induced depression. I was going along, taking cues from my co-managers and then bam, one day, I was done. I turned in my two-week notice and told them I was leaving. Lucky for me, my corporate VP stepped in and told me to take a month off work, figure out what was going on and start communicating better. I took 3 weeks, disconnected, deleted my work email off my phone, went to the doctor, visited with family and friends and started healing. I am not 100% but I feel like I can handle things now. There are still a few triggers, but I don’t check my work email unless I want to, I don’t feel like I have to, and I spent my home time with my family, not working. I will continue to watch for ways to be a “Slacker” to keep my life balanced. Thank you for this.

  185. NailClipNoMore*

    I really relate to this statement, “arrival fallacy, the feeling of disappointment you get when you reach your goals but the result isn’t what you expected.” Thanks for articulating that feeling so well! I enjoyed this excerpt!

  186. AutoEngineer57*

    I really like this! I talk about work-life balance all the time and I think it is so important. Luckily, my fiance and I are on the same page and do a really great job of separating work and personal life. I also think a big portion of it had to do with trying to uphold a long-held persona of being the “after-hours person”… if you’re never that person and START your career with boundaries, its much easier!

  187. Tracy Flick*

    I’m fortunate to work for a place that values work-life balance better than most, so I’d really be applying this advice to the part of me that judges myself for not knocking every single project out of the park. Slacker Me needs to remind Straight-A-Student Me that done is just as good as amazing most of the time. Slacker Me needs to help me get out of my own way.

  188. BrightFire*


    This is such great advice for overachievers. I know that I definitely struggle with feeling guilty anytime I relax. I feel like somehow I should be hustling or doing something work related. It feels really freeing to see someone say the opposite of hustle culture. Such good advice

  189. Lauren McF*

    Just uploaded the Audible book. Ready for takeoff.
    I’m looking to retire in 5-7 years. This book could help me thrive rather than spending my time in “survive.”

  190. Ambelilar*

    This is great advice, but it really doesn’t sound like slacking to me! Switched to a job recently that lets me turn off my phone in the evenings and on weekends! It’s incredible!

  191. H.C.*

    Interested in reading this book too; the slackerism excerpt is tangential AAM’s longstanding advice of “It’s OK to work just for the paycheck, and pursue your passions / self-actualization elsewhere.”

  192. it_guy*

    I’m pretty lucky since I’m in IT in a field that I have control over.

    But, I prefer the term ‘Constructively Lazy’… I don’t work overtime, I get my work done and don’t worry too much if I can can’t get everything done in a business day. I put in my 40 hours a week, but they are best dang 40 I can do. If there was a crisis, I would jump in and help work the issue, but that is the outlier.

    I feel that if stuff gets delayed because I can’t get to, and I haven’t screwed up somewhere that’s on management. They’ve either under estimated the level of effort, the capacity available, or are just ambitious. If management needs to get stuff in a more timely manner, they should hire more folks and quietly doing my job working myself to death will not let management know there’s a problem.

    I used to get paged a lot in the middle of the night, and it drove my spouse crazy since they got woken up too. So I implemented rules / built tools that would prevent that.

    When I was interviewing in other companies, I would be very careful to stay away from the sweat shops where the mantra was “We have great flex time, pick whatever 60 hours a week you want to work!”. I’ve had to walk away from quite a few lucrative positions, but when you add in the required overtime, it was a wash.

    Have I been promoted? No, Do I get frequent atta-boys? No. Will I ever be management material? Nope!

    Bottom line: I’m happy where I’m at and do great stuff with cool folks. But my job is a means to an end, and no more than that.

  193. Fulla*

    Interesting. I’m lucky that I can’t work more than a certain amount of hours in a pay period, so it’s hard for me to get pulled into things. BUT I definitely have this feeling when started my current job that I had to say yes to everyone and everything and even jammed up my schedule at certain points of the year prioritizing work and letting the other things slide that keep me healthy.

  194. I Love Llamas*

    Love the excerpt. I have been learning to be a slacker. As another “elder Gen X”, I jumped out of the rat race over a year ago and took a role that I can do with one hand tied behind my back. It’s lovely. Very nice people, reasonable work hours. I also relocated to a smaller city from a crazy, intense one. I too am learning that my identity is not all about my job. Can’t wait to read the rest of the book.

  195. straws*

    This type of thinking definitely saved my sanity. Having kids pushed me over the edge and I had to make a lot of similar changes to those described to stay in my job without burning out. Now I only work outside of hours if it’s an absolute emergency, which is rare. Now, of course, I’m dealing with trying to keep up with my workload now that covid has reduced our workforce.

  196. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Wow – this really underscores the need to lead by example when it comes to work-life balance. We managers can say until we are blue in the face that we don’t expect our employees to necessarily put in the long hours that we do, but inevitably when they see a time stamp from a late evening, or text messages after hours, they feel like if they want their career to keep moving forward, they too need to be doing these things.

  197. Peacemaker*

    Sounds like how I’ve tried to handle my career for the last few years. It’s been healthier for me physical, and mostly intellectually and emotionally, but occasionally the guilt (imposed by social expectations) has been difficult to manage. Let’s start a revolution to change those cultural expectations!

  198. nani1978*

    Wow, I really wish I had read Laurie’s blog. Combined with AAM, that would have been a great treat for the downtimes!

    This excerpt is so engaging, funny, and hopeful . So much to chew on in this section alone; I would never call myself a workaholic, but I definitely awkwardly align my identity with my job standing, and that always causes issues! Laurie and Alison both make great points about helping the team help you make a change that affects all of you.

  199. GreenDoor*

    Huh. I’m a slacker and didn’t even know it. I’ve always vowed to never take a job that required me to be on even when I’m off. In my current workplace we have a clear understanding of what constitutes an after-hours emergency, who’s calls you should absolutely take and when it’s OK to use someone’s personal number as opposed to using thir work-issued phone. It really helps foster respect among all of us and a clear understanding of after hours expectatoins. I imagine, as with the manager in the sample storey, it’s very difficult to change a culture from “alwasy on” to “Ok to have and enforce boundaries.”

  200. Firecat*

    Wow this is so close to home.

    In my late 20s my mom died suddenly. I can’t tell you how many weeks and months I squandered not speaking with her because “work was busy”. Since then work has never been that important to me again.

    Some unexpected results:
    By reigning back my investment in work I actually got more compliments.
    It wasn’t that hard to ignore the “must be nice” and “wish I had that time” bombs from colleagues.
    The single best barrier is to not answer texts or emails and let them know you will answer calls. No amount of “is this really an emergency” will get through to people. But for some reason if they have to pick up the phone and dial that works and they do not call after hours hardly at all.
    Yes some folks won’t call and will try to make a BFG out of the fact that you didn’t answer their EMERGENCY!!! Email and 2am. A calm response of – if it was so vital why didn’t you call? Is almost always answered with – “I didn’t want to bother you.” I’ve never been punished for this, even at a company with a CFO who literally says he owns you and you owe him 24/7/365. I just didn’t do it and focused on the work.

    I’m much happier in my career and frankly making more then I did when I was grinding myself away.

  201. Pam Adams*

    One of my struggles with shutting down is dealing with need- I work with university students. It’s hard to say “Bye, gotta go,” when someone is crying in the office or now over Zoom.

    1. Observer*

      It’s hard to say “gotta go”. But, by and large, you’ll be doing them a huge favor by NOT picking up the phone / responding to the email / text / message.

  202. Oof*

    This sounds like a great book – I really appreciated a clear, easy to follow, example of how to work together as a team to create boundaries. I’d also suggest we ask the AAM audience to suggest this as a book for their library to purchase, in addition to their own copies.

  203. Crumbledore*

    The story from the excerpt could have been me 10-12 years ago. I was mothering an infant and a small child while adjusting to being a manager, feeling like all eyes were on me and I had better have a good reason for every minute I wasn’t working. I left at 5pm every day to get home in time for dinner with my family. I felt guilty about it every day. It didn’t help that I had some pretty toxic colleagues who liked to brag about all of their hours in the office or complain about colleagues who stayed home when sick AND colleagues who came into the office when sick (I guess getting sick was a professional failing?). One day, my peer manager, who was very smart and worked a lot, commented to me, “You know, you do work very hard.” I don’t even remember the context of this conversation, but just knowing that someone like her saw me that way healed some of the wounds I’d been inflicting on myself for not literally being everything to everybody all the time. I still struggle with that feeling, but I go back to that moment (and others like it) to remind myself that it’s not a healthy or realistic expectation. I’m a better colleague and leader when I can step away and refresh my body and mind – and the converse is also true: My performance suffers when I don’t have that chance.

  204. Inigo Montoya*

    Hmm, I was home sick yesterday. I monitored email and responded to Teams messages in between bathroom runs and naps. Maybe I need to read this book!

  205. Calm & Centered*

    My goodness, this resonates. My predecessor in this senior-level role seemed to come and go as they pleased and spend plenty of hours each week video chatting with friends and family. When I ascended to this role, I had no such free time. The pandemic only made the situation worse. One day recently, I had an epiphany. I needed to set boundaries and do better. I needed to start my workday at a reasonable hour when I am ready, not when the emails and texts start coming in. I need to take breaks during the day and not just to run to the restroom. I needed to end my day at a reasonable hour. It’s only been a few months, but I see the change in me. The quality of my work has not changed, just the daily quantity. And so far, there has been no pushback.

  206. Data Bear*

    Here’s something else important about “slacking” that is widely not understood:
    If you’re not slacking under normal circumstances, you have nothing extra to give when something goes wrong.
    In order to be resilient against disruptions, you need a buffer that can absorb sudden spikes in demand. Resilience IS excess capacity. The smaller your buffer is, the smaller the fluctuation that will take you outside of what you can handle and force you to drop something. If you have no buffer at all, then any change becomes an emergency, and every significant disruption becomes a disaster.
    “Slacking” is working sustainably, and you can’t be reliable and dependable if you’re not sustainable.

  207. becky*

    wow this is so me. it’s funny, because as the youngest in my family, i often was the slacker of the family – when it came to cleaning the dinner table, i’d sit on the stairs and slowly inch my way up until no one was looking and flee the kitchen, on thanksgiving i’d wave around tupperware containers until someone took them from me and actually put the food away, i’d complain that i was too little to vacuum.

    however, i was the all-star of my family when it came to school. i was straight A’s, multiple honors programs, full academic ride to college – typical overachiever nerd (proudly). i’ve brought that mentality to work now – always striving, always the one to volunteer for picking up the slack, never willing to step away in case someone needed something. it’s already burning me out and i’m only 3 years into this crazy hour job (“slow” weeks are around 55 hours, busy season is pushing 80). i really need to learn how to become a slacker.

  208. Not-So-Anon*

    I’m a young GenX and I’ve been wistful for the slacker culture for awhile now. Healthy work/life boundaries are important!

  209. SnowWhiteClaw*

    I’m disabled so it is really harmful and ableist to expect me to work as long or as hard as someone who is able-bodied.

    I have to take days and afternoons off to see doctors. My condition is worse when I am stressed, tired, and on my feet for too many hours per day. For my own physical health, I have to “lean out” and not do too much. This used to bother me, but I can’t let it any more.

    I am who I am, disabilities and all. I have to know my limitations.

  210. jef*

    This is something I have been trying to take to heart myself! One of the bigger issues is that the managers above me are so over-invested that it can be awkward to be more detached. And we get mixed signals (words that say work-life balance is important, but expectations are set at the work gets done no matter how long it takes). We’ll see how things play out over time. For me, I will keep working to carve out my life separate from my job and encourage others to do the same. (Also this book sounds amazing!)

    1. Bostonian*

      Ooooh this is so true! I also see the “we value work-life balance” statements in the same breath as “we will move at lightning speed and everything is a priority”.

  211. Melissa*

    It’s ME! I’m the slacker! And it puts me in awkward situations at work sometimes, but I’m okay with that. The quality of my work speaks for itself. The quality of my life does, as well.

    Since there’s always room for improvement, so I’m excite to read more!

  212. StlBlues*

    “It’s not uncommon to unlock the next level of your career and still feel unhappy.”

    This his me kinda hard — not so much because I’m unhappy in my current role, but rather that I catch myself thinking that in the NEXT role, these headaches will all go away. Ex. “I’m a director and have to deal with XYZ, but VPs don’t have to deal with XYZ and it’ll be so much better.” But really, VPs presumably have problems ABC that I don’t have right now — so it’s always just a trade off, not a way to “win.”

    Good perspective for me right now.

  213. Recovering? Workaholic*

    I’m in higher education and this idea is such anathema to the (highly unhealthy, work all the time) culture of most higher ed institutions. Sounds like I need this book!

  214. not that kind of Doctor*

    I’m a slacker. I don’t work evenings or weekends, I take time to breathe during the workday, I use my PTO. I’ve been promoted twice in 2 years with another one in the works.

    Now if only I could convince my team to do the same…

  215. Rachael Bronstein*

    Just discovered Laurie during #coffeewithkim and can’t wait to read her book. #slacker

  216. Anon This Time*

    This was very timely for me, having just received two pretty big shocks to my work self-image. First, my team pulled an innovative solution out of nowhere that bought the company some crucial time to fix a larger, more major problem involving a major client. Sales got the credit for not losing the client, and sales asked us why we were only able to do that much instead of fixing the entire thing all at once. Second, the company did some market research showing they’re significantly under-compensating most employees. I’ve been told that I’m awesome, but also that I should be making 40% more and that they “intended” to get me to that point “some day” (with no plan for when, or how). I was told I should be excited by an aspirational number rather than unhappy at my current one.

    So now I’m struggling to re-calibrate what I do. I’ve spent the last decade doing what it takes to get the job done, finding new ways of solving problems, and mastering thorny government regulations. I don’t want to actively lower my performance, but it also may be time to stop jumping at every new opportunity and burning the OT oil to solve every last-minute crisis that’s dumped into my lap. It’s hard, though, to honestly assess how much of this is setting boundaries and being reasonable, and how much is wounded pride and “if that’s what they think I’m worth, I’ll show them.”

    1. Observer*

      Maybe it would help if you started looking elsewhere. That’s the best way to “show them”. Your company doesn’t deserve to get top performance out of you, but letting your performance fall off a cliff is not going to do you a lot of good in the long term. Thinking about what would make sense in a reasonable company keeps your performance high enough and actually lets you get to a better place.

      I’m sure you’ll get a lot of pleasure in letting your employer know when you get to leave to a job with a significant pay bump.

  217. Jeremy Bearimy*

    Not only does spending extra hours working into the evening give you less time to pursue other interests, it makes you TOO TIRED to do it once you have the free time. Too often these days I find myself too depleted after work to do anything other than zone out.

  218. Erin*

    Yes to this!
    I found that I needed this professional detachment, but also that I needed to find a new job and begin with those expectations in order to be successful in detaching from work. Deleting email and calendars from your phone also helps.

  219. No Sleep Till Hippo*

    YES YES YES. This philosophy is something I’ve believed in for a LONG time and I’m so happy to see the message being amplified here.

    I managed a small team in one of my previous jobs, and one of the things I loved best about that job was being able to help my team set those limits. Our company culture was very much “always on,” but our team (customer service) had set hours for being available or being on-call. I was strict about holding them to that; my catch-phrase was “Don’t work when you’re not at work.” Second to that was “You are a human. Go do human things” (i.e. take a walk, eat food for lunch, try to sleep sometimes).

    Even at my current company, where the CEO talks genuinely about creating more work-life balance and encourages the team to do the same, I still see colleagues who drive themselves into the ground to get it all done – rather than telling their manager “Hey, my plate is full and something’s gotta give.” In a lot of cases I think we’re trapped by our own high expectations. We wouldn’t think twice about someone else taking an afternoon off or leaving an email until the next morning… but for whatever reason we can’t extend ourselves the same generosity.

    I think I’m going to have to consider sending this book out as a gift to a few folks :)

  220. Tired Bee*

    I am in a role where I find myself badly in need of professional detachment. I find myself often considering the saying “quit looking for milk in the hardware store” — I’m at the point where I think I’m spending too much time trying to make an unworkable situation fit my needs in a way that it simply never will. I am invested in my job because I care about my coworkers, broadly like the organizational mission, and have a perfect commute, but I’m realizing that is profoundly not enough if the time/pay/benefits aren’t meeting my broader needs. I need to reset my boundaries and expectations, and also find something better suited to my goals. This book looks like an exciting and empowering read!

  221. burnoutbob*

    Need to adopt the slacker mentality more. Many emergencies are not emergencies by definition. The other word I hate – priority. I had a manager who would state “this is a priority” in every email sent. After a while, you couldn’t tell what was a priority. It was the little boy who cried wolf syndrome.

  222. Bazinga*

    I commented above but like a doofus didn’t have my email. So here’s another with my email attached.

  223. HC*

    This really highlights how we put so many of these expectations on ourselves because of assumptions we’re making about what others expect or what we “should” be doing. When someone objected and stood up to the “always on” narrative, it empowered others who shared that objection to speak up, too. When they actually talked about the after hours “emergencies,” they realized the situation wasn’t working for anybody, and could then work out a good solution that improved life for everyone and still met key needs. Good reminder to reality check!

  224. Karlee*

    It took me a long time to figure this out in my career. I call it “putting on my consulting hat”. I worked as an independent consultant for years and in that role I was hired to do something specific and paid by the hour. That means I had to really focus on delivering value for the time I invoiced and that I never worked extra hours – it wasn’t an option. If the work they wanted me to do couldn’t be done in the hours they’d agreed to pay me for, I’d go back and explain and ask them to either reduce the scope of the project or expand the length of the contract. I didn’t like the financial insecurity that came with being a consultant but I sure did like the inherent boundaries.

    Now in my current job, I can lose sight of those boundaries and get too attached to my work, too immersed. I start to care too much. And that’s when I put my consulting hat on. It means stepping back emotionally, recognizing that a job is basically an agreement to rent your time/brain/self out for a specific purpose and amount of time, that I need to make sure that the time I spend at work is productive so I can point to that when I ask for less work or more time…. It’s such a huge psychological difference for me when I’m wearing my consulting hat. I’m happier, less stressed, more productive, and I feel so much more empowered. I wish I’d figured this out earlier in my career. It would have saved me so much stress and heartache!

  225. CoffeeorChaos*


    I’m so tired of all the aptly named “hustleporn”. My job, which I enjoy and am good at, is a part of my life but not my whole identity. It took some life experience to wake up to what she’s saying, but it’s so freeing to realize that I don’t need my career/academic achievements to validate me as a worthwhile human. Frankly, I realized I also don’t need most of the people who don’t get that. Looking forward to reading more of this book!

  226. Heffalump*

    I’d like to put my hat in the ring, if only for the term “arrival fallacy,” which is new on me, but I can see how it’s a thing.

  227. Information Goddess*

    One of the single best things that happened to me at my current job, was not knowing how to access my work email from home. It forced me to set the boundary of- I’ll read and respond to email when I’m in the office. This felt like such a slacker move. Even though now I can check email from home, I don’t feel tied to it and will only check it if I’m going in late so I’m not blindsided.

  228. Katherine*

    I work in communications and am interviewing for new jobs now and this def gave me food for thought! I think you have to set boundaries or your simply not going to live the life you want.

  229. Jesse*

    Before reading this excerpt: Being a slacker could only mean that I’m lazy and would do anything to get out of doing any work.
    After reading: Let’s destigmatize “slacker”!

    Can’t wait to read the book – I’ll definitely be picking up a copy if I don’t win the giveaway.

  230. PJ*

    Laurie is awesome and the real deal. Already have a copy on order (don’t pull me for the giveaway!) but just wanted to cosign Alison’s comments.

  231. Melissa*

    I love this sentiment. At the end of the day, we work to live, not the other way around, but putting our own lives first seems like it’s…no longer in style or something.

  232. Leems*

    This is a really thoughtful take that unifies some key lessons I’ve learned over the years and connects them in ways I hadn’t considered. I’ve done a decent job of setting boundaries for myself after burning myself out really well once or twice, but considering my approach to work as a time-bound, interesting puzzle is another good way to go about it.

  233. AllieMiles*

    I’d like to know more about careers that you never knew about that enable you to have an output-based focus, where butts-in-seat and billable hours weren’t what counted, but actual output was. I feel like those jobs have the easier time setting those boundaries, in addition to any of the manager-level and above jobs.

  234. Melissa*

    One area I’m really working on is figuring out how to be able to take time off when I need it on a shorter-notice basis; even before Covid hit and we went from busy to crazy-busy, I had lots of vacation days that I wanted to use up but somehow never could. Part of that is on me but part on our team’s culture, I wonder how this kind of thinking would translate and I’m going to have to try it out!

  235. Lacubriousone*

    This is so timely for me…I’ve done a better job of disconnecting but still feel like a slacker.

  236. Woah*

    This is an amazing point re: the gender disparities in slacking/working. Thanks for giving me something to consider as I reevaluate my position.

  237. TeaGirl*

    As I move up the chain at my company (been here 15 years, no intention of leaving any time soon) this has been something that I have really consciously done. We are in non-profit/government work and there is always that risk of being so dedicated to the mission that you burnout. One lovely side-effect of COVID has been upper leadership getting VERY EXPLICT with everyone that time off is good and that it should be done.

  238. Morning reader*

    A couple of side comments on this, re similarities in parenting , and retirement. First, the philosophy of the book reminds me of “the Good Enough Parent,” which I read some years ago. there’s a more recent book, “the Good Enough Mother,” which I haven’t read but appears to be in the same vein, promoting the benefits of a “just enough is plenty “ style of parenting. The age of internet scrutiny is upon us making the pressure on parents worse than ever so I recommend these books.

    In a thread some time back about retirement, I noted some of the same energy in post-work activities. All the “I’m retired but I’m busier than ever” type reports. All that can be good, but it can suck you in and dominate your life like a job. I want to advocate for taking time to sit, just sit, with a book and a cat, and nothing on my to-do list. Some of us retirees might benefit from reading this book too.

  239. a*

    As someone who works where there’s a distinct track for individual contributors who do essentially the same job until they hit retirement age (or possibly die) and for people who want to move up the ranks, I definitely fit in the slacker category. Sure, I could hustle and publish stuff and put my name out in the wider community – seek recognition and get my own headlines! Or I can go to work, enjoy my copious amounts of accrued vacation, sick, holiday, and personal time, have a fairly flexible work environment, leave work at work 99.9% of the time and still enjoy the fringe benefits of having what is considered to be a really cool job. Or I could be a middle manager, but those people are just crazy. :)

    I’ll take that slacker lifestyle, thank you very much!

  240. Otter B. Slackin*

    I love what I do and relish that I’m considered the ‘slacker’ in some ways (I am overqualified for my role, but didn’t finish the degree I’d need to move into a higher role where I am now). They pay me less than the degree-holding folks, but I possess all the skills and training to make those higher-level decisions. The trade-off is that I get to do the actual teapot making- and I’m a fantastic teapot maker- and have fewer meetings, less time writing grants to fund teapot materials and papers about teapots, and less urgent requests on my time for “work emergencies” than the degree holders do.
    I really like the idea of framing one’s work as a continuous puzzle to solve during your workday, that you can put down and pick up again. I’m lucky to have a job that I can turn off during nights and weekends >95% of the time. I worry that to move forward in my career- to keep solving the puzzles that intrigue me and that I’m skilled at solving- I’ll need to loosen my grip on the balance that makes my happiness possible.

  241. Old Millenial*

    The author makes some very good points! The American work culture has some very skewed values when it comes to being “on” or “available” at all times. Everyone needs a break from their work and they will be more productive for it. A burned out employee that works constantly will not get more work done that someone that shuts down at 5pm to spend time doing hobbies/with their families/relaxing etc. When you separate your personal life from work, you come back to work refreshed and ready to get the work done as opposed to dreading another long day. I would love it to see more businesses shift to encourage that balance for ALL employees.

  242. PivotPivot*

    Professional detachment, personal boundaries, work-life balance. They all equate that with the notion that I want deserve more. How do I get it?

    Crossed fingers to winning the book!

  243. Christina*

    Learn the skill of “professional detachment.” Sounds like something we could all benefit from!

  244. Des*

    This is sad to read. There’s such a huge difference between work-life balance and doing meaningful work vs “always on” busy work vs “checking out”.

  245. Emily*

    As someone in my late twenties in the final stages of a PhD program, I struggle with this sometimes – I see peers working (or at least appearing to work) long, hard hours and feel guilty about how little I do in comparison. I don’t think that I can healthily or happily sustain that level of focus, and doubt that I’ll ever have a job that I enjoy doing more than I enjoy than the hobbies and activities that I do when I’m not working. I feel self-conscious about admitting this to other people for fear that they’ll think I’m lazy, but maybe it would be good if we normalized “slacking” a little more!

  246. Beckysuz*

    I love the Deanna story. Such a great example of management setting boundaries and establishing a positive culture so that employees can feel free to follow their lead. Love it !

  247. TPS reporter*

    I would like to have a new term between slacker and workaholic. Someone who is committed and focused while on the clock, knows the clock is not all day and night, and really powers off and focuses on personal goals, relaxation, etc when not on the clock. That is who I think most of us want to be! I always say that I don’t trust someone who labels themselves a workaholic. Unless someone is very extraordinary, I don’t believe that constantly being on actually produces more. They might pump out more volume but with lower quality that ends up having to be re-done and they often distract from real work by their dramatic behavior.

    Keeping with the 90s theme (i.e. Slacker) my new term for my ideal self and coworker is- Chill Pill

  248. Melissa*

    This is just the post I needed to read today, literally just before opening Ask A Manager I was looking up careers for my Myers-Briggs type because I’m so burnt out on what I’m doing. More than a career change I definitely need to shift my thinking about work and finding fulfillment from it.

    I used to read Laurie’s blog and remember one post in particular where she talked about taking an Ambien and emailing a male colleague in the middle of the night to tell him she was tracking his menses, lol!

  249. Caligirl*

    Thankfully I was able to get off the “work is my whole me” train a few years ago. A couple of weeks ago, we had an important task that I wanted to go smoothly so I worked later than usual (7pm). My team was surprised to see me online so late – and I want to keep it that way! (The task went well too!)

  250. Anna*

    One of the reasons I read Ask A Manager so much, is that I spent so long in toxic workplaces (mostly marketing for non-profits) that I have almost no sense of what’s normal at work anymore. During the pandemic I was made redundant, and have been working at a large supermarket chain to make ends meet. This company are well known for good employee care, and it’s been an eye opener to see how I should be treated at work. I think the company understands that most people don’t really want to work in that sector so they focus on culture to make it more appealing. I have been told I take it to heart too much (I’m a delivery driver and picker, very lowly, but I still have the mindset of the more “career” roles I was in before). I don’t want to do this forever, and I’m a bit lost in my career right now (not helped by a lack of options everywhere) but being more of a slacker is something I can do with learning. My favourite colleague is a slacker to a T, and I need to learn to be a bit more like him.

  251. Katie Lau*

    This is a great reminder and something I had to learn the hard way. Now if I could get my coworker on board so they don’t compare the 2 of us and label me as the “slacker”.

  252. Lisa*

    Arrival fallacy?!! Oh my stars, there’s a word for what’s been plaguing me for five years!
    I feel so SEEN right now.

  253. Please keep your monkeys from my circus*

    Huh. I didn’t realize that most of my team and I were all named Deanna…

  254. PABJ*

    I think we need to have more realistic definitions of what a slacker is. It’s really messed up that someone who works hard and then wants to leave work behind after putting in 8 (or slightly more) hours is labeled that way, when they’re getting everything they need to get done done.

  255. KC*

    One of the reasons I am still at my current job, despite drawbacks that include low/stagnant wages and a micromanaging boss, is because it is a union job. My work phone is turned off the minute I end my work day and will not be turned on until the beginning of the next work day, and no-one can make me do otherwise.

  256. Secret Squirrel*

    I used to take work home but then realized that my company doesn’t appreciate the extra effort. Hoping it’s not too late in my career to move on to something else. Thank you for the advice!

  257. Mia*

    I’m also adding this to my to-read list. the first sentence alone made me think “oh god, she’s right!” not working as hard where I’m not so stressed both appeals and is scary. I’m excited to learn more about what she has to say!

  258. Isabella*

    So many thoughts! First – I love Ferris Bueller and Office Space. Next – I appreciate that the author acknowledges that we can’t have this conversation without talking about privilege. When I think about professional detachment, the first thing that comes to mind is safety; specifically, feeling safe that the professional detachment won’t cost you the job or future jobs/promotions. (Or not caring if it does, which I would argue is its own kind of privilege.) It’s hard to parse, in real life, which anxieties (like if-I’m-not-at-the-office-late-everyone-will-judge-me-AND-that-will-lead-to-professional-ramifications) are real, and which ones are just anxieties. I would love to read the rest of this book!

  259. Team 9-5*

    It feels quite sad to see good friends who are hard workers but don’t have the skills to advocate for themselves and say, “it’s 9 pm, I’ve been on since 9 this morning, I have to go now” without not feeling like a team player. I like framing one’s career as a puzzle to be solved instead of an identity– might bring it up next time my friend tells me her work woes!

  260. Lorelei Johnson*

    I cannot believe how much this speaks to me. I love the idea of re-defining and creating boundaries. Definitely going to have to dig deeper.

  261. Reluctant Rockstar*

    Good lord, yes. On the way home from yet another seven to five, no breaks, working through lunch day, I’ve been mentally composing the letter to Alison in which I beg her to tell me how to stop being the “rock star” that I’ve always been at my job. It’s getting to be too much, and it’s killing me (mentally and physically), but at the same time, I feel like I can’t just…suddenly not be as good. There are expectations! There are Things That Must Be Done, no matter how long it takes!

    I’m going to have to get this book even if I don’t win this contest, but I had to speak up in appreciation for this popping up at this time, when I so needed to hear it.

  262. Kelsikel~~~*

    I’m so grateful that the company I work for stresses to us that they do ~not~ expect us to be tied to our computers & phones for the full eight hours. As the ED says even when we’re in the office, we visit in the break room pop into each other’s offices and grab a coffee and we should continue to take that kind of time even now, working from home. So, we’re told to grab our work cells and go for a walk or take a half hour and read a book. And she actually means it, its not just lip service.

    Work life balance with us a really easy to maintain.

  263. Generic Name*

    This book is really intriguing. I just had a conversation with my mentor about how to position myself for a raise, but it doesn’t involve working more hours. I’m so glad my company values work life balance. I’ve made the joke in the past that I’m obsessed with efficiency because I’m actually inherently lazy. I actually mentioned this to the ceo/owner some years back and she laughed and said that she’s made the same joke about herself in the past. I’m interested in reading more about this somewhat radical viewpoint.

    1. Al*

      Somehow this posted halfway through my sentence. I meant to say: although I don’t think I’m too devoted to my work now, I can definitely see myself going down that road in the future, so maybe I should start using the advice in this book NOW!

  264. Laura*

    I’m about to undertake a true management position for the first time and this was a great reminder that I need to take care of me so I can be an effective manager while actually at the office.

  265. DFB*

    Interested to read more! I don’t love that not being available24/7 is considered being a slacker…

  266. RAB*

    This hits home! I’m not perfect at setting these boundaries, but even doing it a little bit over time has made me feel so much better. It’s hard to let go of the guilt of not doing “enough”, but so worth it. Excited to read this book! You’re right – it doesn’t seem dry at all.

  267. Not My Money*

    12-14 hour days is the norm for my job and I just can’t anymore. I put in 10 hours and call it done but I’m still guilty of working on the weekend for a few hours to make the rest of the week bearable. Something has to change.

  268. Ready to Retire Too Early*

    It was very freeing to realize that my job is not my life – it funds my life. It was also weird to let people do my job because they couldn’t bear to know that routine paperwork had been undone for Thirty Minutes. (These are also folks that seem to think email is the same as instant messaging and should be responded to immediately.) Gradually, they’re figuring out that I will get everything done, it’ll be done right, and no deadlines will be missed but it took being a bit of a slacker to get that point across. I’d love to read the book for more ideas!

  269. Antoinette Sullivan*

    My 2021 mantra is “My work is not my identity.” I can’t say I’ve fully gotten there yet but I’m going to fake it until I make it.

  270. *Marie**

    I love this! The fact that she recognizes a double standard was so refreshing. I enjoyed reading the conversation, and how she brought the whole team into the solution. Brilliant.

  271. NoCoupNoThanks*

    I’m interested in reading the book. As a brown woman I wonder how much will not be applicable though. Many many STEM workplaces are all-white and what is seen as healthy for a white man or white woman to do is completely going to be interpreted as “bad slacker, no raise” for non-white people. Commenting here to get the book for the funny anecdotes.

  272. Idril Celebrindal*

    Kind of says a lot about US work culture that the idea of setting reasonable boundaries and prioritizing what’s really important in life feels like such a revelation….

  273. Zara*

    Being surrounded people who are in an endless rats race, it is so hard to shift focus on yourself. After my spouse had a burnout, it affected the whole family. During therapy, we learned to apply the “safety message” from the airplane: put your oxygen mask first before helping others. You have to be a bit selfish and push for that balance, push for time with your family, push for what matters to you. If you don’t care about yourself, your well being, your family, why would anyone else, especially a multi billion dollar company?
    If this pandemic brought any good, I hope it is for US workers to realize that life is to be enjoyed, not spent in a rats race.

  274. Blessed*

    Thank you for sharing. I definitely need to read this. Had my employer call after hours, on weekends, when I was sick, and when I was on vacation, so basically, there are no boundaries. The problem is when your boss can’t say no and promises deliverables that can’t be done. It’s just stressful and extremely hard for conscientious individuals to just walk away.

  275. Boundaries*

    This is a realization I came to a few years ago when I had a long stint working replenishment (and had been reading lots of this blog).

    I reframed ‘You aren’t working hard enough so the work is never done’ to ‘the job is understaffed, overworked and unsupported by other teams and that’s why the work isn’t getting done on time’.
    It really helped me not feel guilty, communicate more honestly with my managers and feel a lot of empathy for my managers. I still worked hard, but I wasn’t burning myself out (it was a very physical job too so the exhaustion was real) trying to do the job of a dozen people.

    It’s something that’s actually been causing some tension with my current contract. The COO has no work/life boundaries (and that got worse in our first Lockdown in the UK) and a lot of the staff are mirroring that. So my taking my full lunch break, not checking messages outside of work hours etc. rubbed a few people the wrong way. And to be clear, this doesn’t negatively impact my work in any way nor does the delay in my response the following morning impact them.

    It’s another workplace where there is a significant understaffing issue and a firm unwillingness to hire more. And why would they want to when everyone is working all hours to make sure things are done?

  276. misspiggy*

    I am confused about this whole thing. I work in a fairly high pressure field in the UK, not too different from the US, but Deanna’s story was baffling to me. Why was everyone so afraid of other people thinking they might not be working themselves to death?

    1. Media Monkey*

      i think the culture has changed a lot in the past few years in the UK (although it is still there in some industries and i still see a lot of presenteeism). i mean you would never call someone on holiday here or expect them to dial into meetings (and we get a lot more holiday time!). you might work late but people generally make and respect time to exercise and for family stuff. i also think the mental health/ wellness stuff might be more of a priority here, perhaps due to a lot of the work charities have been doing and linking with industry bodies for industries where people are particularly susceptible to over (I work in advertising which is probably one of those!)

    2. Helena Bell*

      This doesn’t really answer your question, but maybe helps further illustrate that it’s a culture difference. When I was in an undergrad accounting class the professor told this “hilarious” story about visiting a company in France. He was talking to one of the executives (or someone fairly senior) and suddenly the man stopped talking, turned, and walked away. Because it was 5 PM and in France, everyone left work immediately at 5 PM. I have no idea if his story is true (it feels like it was exaggerated for effect) but he was telling it because he thought it was hilarious (and sad) that in France, people stopped working at 5 PM. It was so much better to be an American with a “work until the work gets done/you drop dead” attitude.

      1. Good Vibes Steve*

        I doubt he actually just walked away without so much as a good-bye, but I could see someone doing that in France – like “oh, look at the time, I need to go!” I really wish it was more normalized – plenty of people have to leave at a specific time to pick up children at school, meet a friend for dinner or watch a TV series… Non-work time also has a schedule, and it’s so odd that many employers act as if it doesn’t…

  277. Starchy*

    I think a lot of peoples problems stem from the inability to say “No”. My clients work 24/7 but I said no to having my company emails on my phone (apparently I’m the only person to refuse) and yet my clients are happy and know I will answer when back in the office. I do not take any work texts or calls when I’m on vacation. My criteria for an emergency is the building has burnt down. I have told my company many times “if I should die tomorrow, the company will continue and you would find ways to answer the questions you had without me, so function like I’m not available”. I leave on time every day and in the rare occurrence I do OT I will take that time back later. These things allow me to have hobbies, spend time with family or do absolutely nothing and in the long run haven’t hurt my career because when I’m at work I am working at full capacity and don’t use it as social time.

  278. o_gal*

    Wow, am I ahead of my time? What is being recommended is how I’ve approached my work life for a little more than a decade. I’m in IT and there is always constant pressure for us to work 50, 60 70, 80+ hour weeks. Especially if we want to be “promoted” (re: still doing the same amount of technical work but now with extra project management or people management headaches too!) I “leaned in” before the book was published – and effectively got pushed out. After interviewing for a management position that I was well qualified for, not only did I not get the position, I was re-orged into a different group, had any tech leadership role eliminated, and basically treated as a leftover. At that point, I adopted the slacker philosophy. I’m good at my job, and I bring value to any team I’m on, but my work life is my work life and my personal life is my personal life. I am willing to put in extra hours when I believe they are truly needed (such as an important bug fixing surge), but when I’ve done my 8-ish hours for the day, I’m done. I don’t check work email after that, or on the weekends. I will attend social work functions but I don’t hang out with coworkers, other than a couple who have become personal friends. I would hate with a passion working for a place like Google, which provides so many amenities at work (free food, game rooms, on-site services) that they expect you to always be at work. Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope.

  279. notaconsultant*

    I was so happy to read this. I’ve been feeling like a slacker for a couple years now after having so much more ambition earlier in my career. I still get good reviews and am seen as a leader on my team, but I’ve stopped caring so much about climbing the ladder. I’ve learned that things that people say are urgent sometimes get completely forgotten if you let them sit – or the client will change the request and I’d have had to do it over if I had reacted IMMEDIATELY. Now I can work on not berating myself for not always giving 110%. I will definitely add this to my reading list.


    I’ve read all the comments so far. Thanks, everybody. Hope you enjoy the book. – Laurie

  281. ElderMillennial*

    After 7 years getting a PhD that I mainly use for my “side gig,” and then 2 years in a job where promotions and even performance readings higher than satisfactory weren’t allowed, I struggle with feeling behind in my career. Objectively, I know that doing my job is good enough, but I vacillate between despair that I’m not impressive enough, feeling like I need to demonstrate that I can get to the next level (nevermind I don’t know if I want that), and occasionally being able to feel content with a job where I actually can have good work-life balance.

    From this comments section, it seems I’m not alone.

  282. Lifetime Slacker*

    Yes! I’m so happy this message is getting out there more and more!!! I’ve never considered my work style as being a slacker and I’d NEVER dream of calling my dad a slacker, but this is how he handled his career and the model I got to see growing up. What made it stick even more for me is that my dad was in senior leadership at his company and for many years, was the final decision maker on all things. His example has been invaluable as I’ve stood my ground as a slacker in my own career.

  283. Joan Holloway*

    “You’re doing great work when you solve problems, learn something new, and then spend time away from the office to support the people and activities you love.”

    I feel like I need to tape this above my desk. I love my job, but I often get caught up in feeling guilty if I end my day a bit early or take time off. It’s not that anyone in my organization is making me feel that way; in my case, it’s a pressure I put on myself. This is a great reminder for me to check that impulse and reexamine it.

  284. Elizabeth*

    So, I bought this yesterday as soon as I finished reading the excerpt, and it’s really, really good.

    I’m Canadian, so some of the cultural advice doesn’t apply here – different labour laws and correspondingly different culture, such as thank you cards after an interview. In both technical and trades fields, a thank you card will get you noticed, but not in a good way, especially in primary and secondary industries.

    That being said, it’s funny and still does have a lot of relevant, useful advice. I thoroughly enjoyed it and just made reading it a 2021 goal for my team.

  285. Justin*

    I was hoping for permission to work 20 hours per week and keep my full-time salary, but this was probably healthier and more practical.

  286. Domino*

    As a lifelong slacker, I’m mystified by people who voluntarily sacrifice that much of their free time to their employers. When were you radicalized?

  287. BRMLOU*

    I believe that being “busy as a badge of honor” is finally getting busted and Laurie actually gave someone the tools to figure out how to do it. Without appearing like a slacker. This is what we all need to hear, especially with more people working from home – it’s been hard to step away from work when it’s only 10 feet away… and leadership knows you don’t have anything going on because of quarantines. This was a refreshing read.

  288. WiscoGirl*

    This is now on my to read list. Working from home has made it possible to somehow work even more than before, but I’m also finding I’m better at disconnecting in my off time. My teams know I’m available if they need me, but I’ve worked hard to make it clear they’re trusted to make decisions and move work forward on their own. It’s not perfect, and I know I need better balance, but I’m working on it.

  289. Nathan Baker*

    I love this.

    I have found that for me, the biggest impediment to a good work-life balance is a desire to not make more work for someone else. I don’t give a hoot about the company — I mean, of course I want them to succeed and my paychecks to not bounce, but I don’t owe them anything more than my contractually-obligated workday — and if a project slips its due date because I’m not willing to kill myself working nights and weekends…well, the due date was set wrong. Don’t blame me for the slip, blame the person who set the due date to begin with! But I hate feeling like my pushing back just means somebody else is going to be working that night.

    However, I had an epiphany a couple of years ago. I was asked to do something that would require me to work beyond my normal working hours. I really wanted to push back, but I didn’t want to screw my team over. So I called an informal team meeting while our manager was in a conference room somewhere and laid out my conundrum. I told them I was going to say no, but I also told them I didn’t want to just pile more work on their plates.

    The response was, “we admire how good you are at setting boundaries, and definitely go ahead and push back. Every time you set a boundary, it makes it easier for us to do so too if we need to”.

    In other words, by being a “slacker”, as Laurie calls it, I’m normalizing a positive work / life balance and making it easier for my co-workers to push back too. It reminds me of that saying, “what if we had a war and nobody came?” If we all choose to set healthy boundaries, the company will have no choice but to respect those boundaries (or fire all of us, I guess, but that’s the power of groups…we’d find new jobs, but the company would flounder).

    After that conversation, I push back with glee whenever I feel like too much is being asked of me. And the company respects that! It’s amazing how many of the barriers are really just in my own head!

  290. BRP*

    Texting seems to make things so much easier – but easier really means blurred lines! I love the suggestion to limit emergencies to only things that warrant a call.

  291. AliciaB*

    You’re right, this sounds like a much more entertaining book than a typical book about work! It’s amazing how easy of a fix it was to restore some balance to Diana’s life. It lines up so well with a lot of your advice…just communicate with your colleagues! I’m definitely interested to read more!

  292. uggghhhh*

    really enjoyed and resonated with this excerpt. i achieved/bought in to this slacker mentality without fully intending to. i’ve been working at a biotech startup for the last three years and we have that classic startup culture of “everyone needs to wear a lot of different hats” and “passion for the mission!!!” after many cycles of burnout, i have now been worked into a state of apathy and had resolved to invest in and enrich my personal life. 2020 was meant to be the year i set out to do all these personal goals which lmao. i’ve since adjusted my goals and expectations

  293. Lady Hardcastle*

    I really relate to this, especially right now. It feels like too much of my identity is wrapped up in work, when it’s really just something I do not who I am. But it’s very challenging because with being stuck at home working without being able to all my favorite activities it feels like there is nothing to do but work.

  294. inoffensive nickname*

    I consider myself a slacker. When I was an assistant, I always found ways to make my job easier and faster without sacrificing accuracy or quality. I have written macros, and memorized key combos for data entry. Sometimes the best slacking is in the setup. My second hire as a manager was someone who stepped down from a tech position where he was working 80 hours a week and was completely burned out. I had worked as the department assistant in the same department he had come from. Now with him as the department assistant (we’re both in the company for a pension), he writes apps for us to simplify our data entry. Slacking is good.

  295. RT*

    I kept waiting for the slacker part of this story… Boundaries are healthy and they should be the norm in every workplace! I’ve found myself really doubling down on my family-time boundaries during the pandemic since we’re all doing work and school from home, otherwise everything gets so blurred and it feels like work could just be any time, all day.

  296. Patrick*

    My last month at work has had me reflecting a lot on what work/life balance looks like, especially since I still haven’t found it despite working from my bedroom 24/7. Really appreciated this read at the end of the week. :)

  297. HR Chickie*

    I love this! I try hard to prioritize a “work-life balance” and one way I also see this being co-opted (especially as it relates to women and people of color, as Laurie notes) is with regards to what people call “ambition”. I’m ambitious and I want to learn and grow at my job – but not at the expense of the rest of my life. Leaving work right at 5 one day a week to make it to an exercise class doesn’t mean I’m not committed to my work or that I don’t have what it takes to move up. We have to get out of the mindset of thinking that “ambition” means working the hardest/longest/whatever to prove our loyalty and dedication to our jobs, and that an endless pursuit of the next thing (the next project, the next promotion) is the only way of being ambitious.

  298. LTL*

    This book seems really well-written, but I find the example here a bit off-putting. Deanna is still an incredibly hard-working person at the end. The only thing that’s changed is that she put systems in place at work to ensure that she wouldn’t be interrupted very often after hours. If this is a slacker, I worry about what we’d call someone who works 9-5 and leaves everything behind after hours. Let alone someone who tries to work less than the 40 hour work week (which IMO should be a feasible thing to do). This excerpt inadvertently espouses American hustle culture more than speaking against it.

  299. Rachel Eldridge*

    The last part of treating work as a puzzle rather than extension of your identity really resonated with me. I have always worked for non-profits, so often you are committing to a cause. Plus I manage volunteers so there’s a big focus on building relationships and a lot of emotional labor. I think I really need this book to coach me on that professional detachment.

  300. Nynaeve*

    Lots to unpack here! I like the “arrival fallacy,” professional detachment, and interconnection of economic anxiety and privilege in determining who feels like they can push back. I’m less sold on “slacker” as a rallying flag, for the reasons many people mentioned above.

    It reminds me of How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell, at least in terms of using a provocative title to question economic and social structures and try to reclaim time and space to be human.

  301. Kay Ficken*

    I went into reading the excerpt not thinking ti would have anything for me. I’m not in the corporate environment but a CSR at a small town service/trades office. And yet I did find it related to my situation 100%. As the dispatcher/CRS, I am in charge of the after-hours calls Every.Single.Evening/Weekend. I have to take the calls from customers and find one of the techs to take the call, book it into the dispatching program and follow up later online.
    There is so much more that I won’t relate to keep it anonymous but I have been burnt out with no escape. Yet after reading this, I found it’s ok to not take the company phone with me every time I leave the house. I can call people back in an hour. There are constraints on what I can offer for service now anyway.
    This was a huge weight lifted off of me. Thank you for sharing it. I am going to buy the book.

  302. AM*

    This this this
    I’m grateful for the overworked, Deanna-like boss I once had who showed me that I really DON’T want that kind of career. I’m happy to coast in things that let me have a balanced life than to keep climbing some ladder to nowhere but stress.
    (Entering the draw right at the line!)

  303. Ask a Manager* Post author

    The randomly selected winner (selected by random selector software) is … WellRed!

    If you didn’t win and are interested in the book, I encourage you to buy a copy!

  304. omega*

    I’m always surprised that most of the books on the subject target CEOs, board members and the similar well-paid individuals.

    Most people, even successful professionals, aren’t that successful…

    The higher you are the more depends on you also in terms of the culture. You can change how things are done and how you live. E.g. it’s easier to introduce a “slacker” culture.

    But if you’re one of the 200 senior developers or 1 of 50 team leaders in a 500+ person company, it’s much more difficult to impact the ways things are done. But that’s much more relevant to most people.

  305. Rachel*

    I love the term “professional detachment”! It’s something I’ve tried to practice as a young millennial who takes work issues personally. Still learning though :)

  306. Francocaro*

    I don’t call myself a slacker but I do this. I love my job but I want my evenings and weekends to myself and for my family. If it’s urgent, sure, I’ll do something exceptionally but I don’t make a habit of it. When I first joined my new department, it seemed like everyone was working on the weekends and I asked my boss if it was required. It wasn’t so I don’t. There haven’t been any issues – I’ve consistently gotten praise about the work I’m doing. I wish this for everyone. We all need a break from work!

  307. Good Vibes Steve*

    I reset that boundary while changing jobs years ago. I tried to set it at ex-job, but people were so used to being to hear from me after hours, and I was still so junior that is felt impossible. When I started a new job with completely new faces, I just started leaving my laptop at work and never checked my email after hours. I defined what was an emergency for myself, and figured that if my definition differed from my employer’s, then I would look for another job.
    It worked! But I also noticed that people in my team doing the exact same job who did not have this boundary would be sending emails at 11pm, while actually not delivering more or better work than I did. The exhaustion of working at all hours diminishes the quality of the work. No one thinks I’m a slacker; except for me sometimes! It’s difficult to see colleagues working all hours while you don’t and not feel a bit of an impostor syndrom.
    The main issue, I think, is how to set the boundary when you’re not in charge of the team, but the rhythm is set by your manager.

Comments are closed.