Pedro Arantes

Slack and Efficiency

"Slack is the natural enemy of efficiency and efficiency is the natural enemy of slack."
Zettelkasten, May 10, 2021


  • Slack is the degree of freedom (free time, for instance) required to effect change.

    • If you have to do something new, you can only do it effectively if you have some degree of freedom.
    • If you don't have free time and must do something, you'll have to stop what you're doing, thus being ineffective because of context switching.
  • "Slack is the natural enemy of efficiency and efficiency is the natural enemy of slack." Defined by Tom DeMarco.

    • Efficiency, in this case, means you have all resources allocated, for example, all people working 100% of their time.
    • If you want to keep everyone busy, you must allow some buffering.
  • Slack can be perceived as negative in an environment of manic efficiency. It can be seen as laziness or lack of initiative.

  • Slack can reduce efficiency, but it can increase effectiveness. If you have an excess of time, for instance, you have time to think about the long-term priorities and check if you're on the right trajectory instead of just doing operational tasks.

  • It allows us to respond to changing circumstances and experiment more.

  • Too much slack is bad because resources get wasted and people get bored.

    • But the absence of slack is a bigger problem than an excess of it.


  • Do lack of slack for a long period of time cause burnout?


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