slack: getting past burnout, busywork, and the myth of total efficiency by tom demarco is a book that evan williams, one of the founders of blogger, recommended recently. to briefly and perhaps badly reformulate it, the main lesson of the book is that there is an efficiency vs. efficacy trade-off that needs to be acknowledged, and something that can increase efficacy (even if it decreases short-term efficiency) is to leave some slack. that’s not to say you should work 20% less, but that you may want to spend some percentage of time not working directly towards your main goal.

you can see this reflected, obviously, in google’s 20% time, where employees are free to spend 20% of their time working on whatever they want. but there’s a lot more to the book, and i don’t want you to get the idea that it is just a validation of the idea of google’s 20% time or anything like that.

like most good business books, it is a fairly quick read and at the end of it you’re left with the vague feeling that you knew, or should have known, all of what you just read.

here’s a quote that struck me as noteworthy: “it is success in the absence of sufficient power that defines leadership.”

i sometimes feel a little silly about reading management books like this since i’m not management, and don’t particularly aspire to be. but that quote puts in perspective why i read them anyway. and although i don’t aspire to management, it is still a subject that fascinates me. i guess the role i aspire to is consigliere. at least when sinecure isn’t available.

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