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How embracing “slow productivity” could transform your life

Category: News
A woman with her feet up on a balcony working on a laptop

Famous actor Mark Wahlberg made the news in 2018 when he published his controversial morning routine online. He revealed that he wakes up at 2.30am every morning and after prayer time and breakfast, starts his first workout at 3.15am.

He carefully plans the rest of the day with activities including a session in a cryo-chamber (a freezing cold tank designed to heal the muscles), work meetings, a second exercise session, and family time before going to sleep at 7.30pm.

These kinds of extreme productivity routines are becoming more common as some believe they are the key to success. There is also a strong “hustle” culture with many people taking on side jobs and finding alternative income sources alongside full-time work.

Unfortunately, there’s a negative side to this quest for productivity, as overexerting yourself can lead to excess stress and burnout.

Additionally, long hours don’t necessarily increase productivity. In fact, according to CNBC, a study from Stanford University found that output significantly drops when somebody works more than 50 hours in a week. The results also demonstrated that somebody working 70 hours a week typically has the same total output as somebody who works 55 hours a week.

That’s why some people are embracing “slow productivity” – a more balanced way of working that focuses on doing less, working at a natural pace, and prioritising quality.

Read on to learn how to introduce the principles of slow productivity to your day.

Focus on a smaller number of tasks each day

Every time you take on a new task, it comes with an “administrative overhead”. This overhead is any additional admin such as emails or meetings that relate to the task itself.

The more items you have on your to-do list, the bigger your administrative overhead becomes, and this adds to the mental space taken up by the original tasks. Eventually, this can lead to overwhelm and harm your productivity.

That’s why it may be beneficial to focus on a smaller number of tasks each day to reduce your administrative overhead and free up more mental space. Ultimately, this means that you may find it easier to concentrate and complete tasks quicker and to a higher standard.

So, although you may assume that doing less would lead to a drop in productivity, the opposite might be true.

When creating to-do lists, prioritise your tasks and only focus on a few at a time. Once you’ve completed those tasks, you can add more to your list.

You may find that you complete certain jobs faster than normal because your focus is improved, so you end up adding more tasks and working more productively than you normally would if you had a lengthy to-do list.

Work at a natural pace

Underestimating how long tasks will take may cause you to rush to meet deadlines. This could affect the quality of your work, often meaning you need to spend more time fixing mistakes. Additionally, the stress of working to a tight deadline could affect your concentration and make you less productive.

When planning your day, estimate how long you think a task will take and then add 50% to it. This means you can work at a natural pace without the pressure of an unrealistic deadline. You may find that you finish much quicker than you expected, but if certain tasks take longer, it doesn’t ruin your schedule.

It’s also important to take regular breaks when working. According to Cornell Health, taking a break of 5-60 minutes improves your energy levels, productivity, and ability to focus. You may want to factor these regular breaks in when estimating how many tasks you can complete each day.

Prioritise quality over everything else

Typically, we define productivity by the number of tasks completed in a certain amount of time. However, this definition isn’t particularly useful as, while it encourages you to do as much as possible every day, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you produce high-quality work.

That’s why it may be beneficial to reconsider how you quantify a successful day at work and measure your productivity by the quality of the work that you do each day, rather than the quantity.

When you focus on doing something well rather than quickly, you’ll find that you naturally slow down and take a more measured approach to your work.

Embracing slow productivity in this way and focusing on high-quality work, no matter how long it takes, could leave you feeling more satisfied at the end of the day. This is because you take more pride in your work and complete tasks to a realistic timescale.

Consequently, you can remain productive and meet your targets without working long hours and burning yourself out.

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