Living with Slack

The Sandlot

My homage to The Sandlot, a lost ball, and a whole lot of slobber

Last week I was driving across town with a friend when we spied a forlorn little boy standing in his yard while a lone soccer ball rested in the gutter on the far side of a chain-link fence. My friend immediately turned to me and asked, “can we flip around and go get his ball for him?” Are you kidding me? Heck yes, let’s get that ball! After a couple of quick u-turns and a dash into the street, we drove off and left one very happy kid reunited with his soccer ball. Probably the best three minutes I spent that whole week.

As I drove away from this encounter, two things were implanted in my mind. First, thank goodness for people like my friend who spoke up and took action when he saw the opportunity to help someone out. I’m trying to turn more thoughts into deeds, but I need the example of good-hearted people around me to remind me to make a u-turn and go get that kid’s ball. Dan, this is for you, thanks.

The second thing is something that I’ve been mulling over for awhile, and was reinforced with this event. I have recently been trying to incorporate more “slack” into my life. Instead of letting everything run right up to the wire – time, energy, finances, groceries – and then being thrown off when one little kink gets thrown in, I’m trying to build in buffers so I have space to maneuver without disrupting my entire day.

I realized the need for more slack in my time management a few weeks ago when I was finishing up some homework at around 2 am – working at the last possible minute after six full days off of school. See, I had planned  to do my homework on Monday and turn it in on Tuesday. But then on Monday my sister needed my help with a whole list of things that she had to get done, so I ended up starting my homework sometime around 11 pm, instead of 11 am as I had planned. The problem was that I had no slack built in to my time, so I couldn’t accommodate any variation without massive repercussions. Since then I’ve been trying to be more proactive in managing my time, getting things done and out of the way so I have room for last minute “surprises.”

Having slack in your time allows you to not only stay on schedule for unexpected events, it also gives you the freedom to make choices in the moment. If I had been running late for an appointment as I drove across town that day, I would not have had time to pull over and grab that kid’s ball. If my homework was due Monday night instead of Tuesday morning, I would not have been able to help my sister with her needs.

So this is my goal: don’t pack my day so full that I have no time to stop and help a friend. Don’t put things off to the last minute so my time is constrained and I can’t choose where to spend those precious moments of the day. In essence, manage the slack.

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4 responses to “Living with Slack

    • Thanks Jack. I’m working on a whole TED-style talk the incorporates slack as a life-management perspective. So many of us are living at the very limits of our capacity.

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