Lean in? No. Lean Back.

lean back

Excerpts From The EconomistIn Praise of Laziness:

“THERE is a never-ending supply of business gurus telling us how we can, and must, do more. Sheryl Sandberg urges women to “Lean In” if they want to get ahead. John Bernard offers breathless advice on conducting “Business at the Speed of Now”. Michael Port tells salesmen how to “Book Yourself Solid”…

Yet the biggest problem in the business world is not too little but too much—too many distractions and interruptions, too many things done for the sake of form, and altogether too much busy-ness. The Dutch seem to believe that an excess of meetings is the biggest devourer of time: they talk of vergaderziekte, “meeting sickness”. However, a study last year…suggests that it is e-mails: it found that highly skilled office workers spend more than a quarter of each working day writing and responding to them.

Which of these banes of modern business life is worse remains open to debate. But what is clear is that office workers are on a treadmill of pointless activity. Managers allow meetings to drag on for hours. Workers generate e-mails because it requires little effort and no thought. An entire management industry exists to spin the treadmill ever faster.

All this “leaning in” is producing an epidemic of overwork, particularly in the United States. Americans now toil for eight-and-a-half hours a week more than they did in 1979. A survey…estimated that almost a third of working adults get six hours or less of sleep a night. Another survey…found that more than 80% of respondents continue to work after leaving the office, 69% cannot go to bed without checking their inbox and 38% routinely check their work e-mails at the dinner table.

This activity is making it harder to focus on real work as opposed to make-work…(Research has) found that people without it concentrated on tasks for longer and experienced less stress.

It is high time that we tried a different strategy—not “leaning in” but “leaning back”…Leaning in has been producing negative returns for some time now. It is time to try the far more radical strategy of leaning back.”

Read entire article @ The Economist – In Praise of Laziness

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  1. I read this while saying ‘yes’ ‘yes’ yes’ under my breath…I also swore I wouldn’t start a rant. Whether it’s leaning back or taking the time to figure out what the smart strategy should be when it comes to working v. doing busy work – all I know is that the current paradigm isn’t working.


  2. Completely with you guys on this one. It seems like we’re seeing more of these types of articles and observations these days…”Maybe we’ve reached the tipping point and the pendulum will begin to swing back towards some sort of sane middle ground?” says Pollyanna….. 😉


  3. So much of “business” is bullshit. During the 1990’s there were many fake companies, some made people rich. A fake company is one with no distinguishing product or service, none of any real value add but with lots of activity to make things look like they are real and leading edge. And of course they use buzz words and cliches to attract investors. Some were real companies but with humble offerings wrapped up in marketing BS and grand theories of paradigm shifts etc so that they could seem to be worth 100 times their real worth. Cambridge Technology Partners was a great example of this. Their theories were based on the screw ball lectures of a nutty professor who eventually went completely off he deep end. But the activities of the employees created the impression that CTP was a innovative thought leader capable of great things. In reality they were a staff augmentation company that provided contract programmers. For ten years or so CTP was hugely successful in the stock market making millionaires out of lots of folks, particularly the marketing types who spun the tall tales that Wall Street ate up. So activity and false “paradigm shifts” etc within fake companies has been successful for many. Who was the fast talking guy who took over for Steve Jobs? — John Sculley — right? A marketing expert, brilliant talker and a prime example of what I’m writing about. Activity (and style) plus bs has made him famous and rich. He almost bankrupted Apple — but hey — he was great at selling sugar water to children.


  4. In an economy such as ours, based largely on service and not production, where electronic devices allow (?) us to be available 24/7 and ensure immediate response, is it surprising to read advice from the successful? My husband is always telling me to answer my phone every time it rings (no matter the day or time) or the caller will go with the next lawyer who answers the phone. I say BS on that! Let them choose the lawyer who answers the phone on Saturday at 3:00 p.m.; if I don’t set my own boundaries, who will? Of course, I’m not a multimillionaire…..:)


  5. YES!!! We are all trying to move at warp speed when we are most definitely not built for warp speed. The personal costs, the business costs related to absenteeism and the social costs due to stress are enormous. Busy does not necessarily equal productive. Success is too often equated with titles, paycheques and the size of one’s home and too often ignores the depth and breadth of relationships, the opportunities to breath, relax and turn inward.


  6. The stress of it. I just could not embrace the concept of constant leaning-in, which probably makes me unemployable. Better to be short of money than a slave of electronics. I swear a large number of people are becoming less efficient, and lack of sleep would explain much. They’re also losing the art of face-to-face communication. Depressing, isn’t it?


  7. This is very interesting David! 🙂 I think there are far too many emails being sent and sometimes unnecessary texts too! I only connected to the internet in March last year, and I had heard about this email stack that people have to wade through at the end of the day and then feel obliged to reply, so I asked all my friends and relatives only to send emails if it was necessary or just on a few occasions. It’s seems to have worked, I get hardly any!!! But that’s the way I like it, and they don’t seem to mind!

    Reading all the up to date posts on WordPress can get a little stressful at times, and I find I’ve had to limit my comments sometimes, because there just isn’t enough time to comment too much – oh an replying to everyone who’s left me comments too! The thought of having a great list of emails to go through after all of that, would make me feel quite panicked – not the best way to go to bed! 😦

    There’s only so much one human can do in a day, and I really feel we should be simplifying our lives for the sake of our sanity, the internet is great fun and so useful, but when it takes over – something has gone terribly wrong!


    • Hi Suzy. I’m with you. Esp on “there’s only so much one human can do in a day.” Simplify. Do what makes you happy. Less the rest wash off…Thanks for sharing your thoughts.


  8. Thanks for the reminder of a new challenge I’m going to add to HabitForge.com: limit my social networking/online dithering to 10 minutes per hour.


  9. Good thoughts. My corporate culture is such that I’m sure I spend in excess of half of my day either in meetings or “doing email”. Crazy. What have we done to ourselves?!


    • Linda, thanks for sharing your thoughts. Most of us are in similar environments…some are energized in his environment (I count myself among them) and others not. But there is no doubt that the treadmill is spinning faster…


  10. Ahhh, I see all this happening with my Seniors and Sales agents all the time and at times I feel sorry for them.


  11. I am a firm believer of ‘Leaning in’, HOWEVER, you must ‘Lean in’ and Listen. Leaning into activities like meetings and emails in the absence of listening simply creates the need for further emails and meetings! Listen to yourself, your co-workers, your boss and you may be surprised what you see and hear. To me, leaning in means bringing it all. If you choose to be in your profession and it is your intent to fully engage, then do not waste effort. Stop forming your words to respond the entire time you are listening to others. Start REALLY listening. The emails and meetings will no longer be required.


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