What People are talking about slowing down at work?
“I am worried about the speed at which I work. Maybe it’s a habit from my previous job but I really focussed to deliver before the deadline. In fact my workload is manageable and largely free of interruptions and yet I am focussed on finishing my work faster than expected. In doing so I am constantly making silly mistakes and losing accuracy.”
“I am working in a culture that glorifies “the grind,” clocking insanely long hours. I find myself eating lunch at my desk often and have no time to do anything outside of my job.”
“From the moment I enter the office, I am preoccupied with text pings, Slack dings and email notifications. I know I appear busy all the time but honestly, I don’t end up achieving anything meaningful at the end of the day.”
So what happened?
We grow up with the words “time is money” and we feel time is slipping away from us every second. Therefore in the limited time that’s given to us we try to respond to every notification on our phone, dabble with as many tasks as we can, cram our to-do list with numerous goals to achieve. We talk faster, we eat and walk faster; we believe if we move fast enough we can achieve it all. But numerous studies have shown that speeding up not only hampers productivity but also leads to serious health complications. How can we look away from those influencers who tell us that the future belongs to the “go getters” and “sleep is for the week”? How can we work less when the business executives brag about working 100 hours a week?
What can we do about it?
Slow down…everything; become unrushed and unhurried. Slowing down isn’t an antithesis of success, it doesn’t even mean putting on the breaks and being lethargic. It means pacing, and harnessing your energies. It helps you concentrate better, stimulates creativity, prevents burnout and makes the time you spend on meeting and tasks more productive. In the whirl of speed you can whizz through tasks and life without knowing that you’re running in the wrong direction. You could start with consciously slowing down your everyday activities. You can slow down when you talk, walk, respond, enter a room, shake hands, or leave a room. Here’s more on how you could practice it:
1. One Task at a Time: Instead of multitasking, focus on one task at a time. By channeling your energy and concentration on a single task, you'll likely do it more effectively and with greater attention to detail.
2. Scheduled Breaks: Every hour, take a 5-minute break to stretch, take a few deep breaths, or simply step away from your desk. This not only gives your mind a short rest but also helps in preventing burnout.
3. Digital Time-outs: Set specific times during the day when you'll check your emails or messages. By not reacting to every notification instantly, you can maintain your focus on your work and reduce the feeling of being constantly 'on.'
4. Mindful Moments: Practice mini-mindfulness sessions throughout the day. It could be as simple as pausing for a minute to observe your breath or being fully present in the task at hand. This can center you and help in reducing the rush.
5. Physical Boundaries: Keep a notebook or a physical 'to-do' list. Writing tasks down can be therapeutic and offers a clear visual of what needs to be done. Every time you complete a task, physically cross it off the list. This act can be satisfying and reminds you that it's about the quality of work, not just the quantity.
Slowing down in a fast-paced work environment might feel counterintuitive, but it often leads to better quality work, reduced stress, and a more balanced life.
Can I read more about it somewhere?
'Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World' by Cal Newport.
Newport emphasizes the value of deep, concentrated work and offers strategies to cultivate it in a world full of distractions. While it focuses on productivity, the underlying principle is about finding depth and meaning in one's work, effectively slowing down to produce better results.
- Definition and Value of Deep Work: Newport describes 'deep work' as focused, undistracted, and cognitively demanding tasks that produce high-quality outcomes in less time. In today's easily distracted digital age, the ability to engage in deep work is a rare and invaluable skill that sets individuals apart.
- The Rarity and Impact of Deep Work: Despite its value, deep work is uncommon in modern workplaces due to continual digital interruptions. Yet, those who can regularly engage in it not only boost their productivity but also find a deeper sense of satisfaction and meaning in their tasks.
- Rituals and Routines Foster Depth: Establishing structured rituals and routines helps in transitioning into a deep work state. This can include setting specific start times, choosing a regular location for deep work, or even having particular tools and settings that signal the brain to focus.
- Guard Your Time and Mind: Newport emphasizes the importance of actively protecting time allocated for deep tasks. This can mean minimizing or quitting social media, setting strict boundaries on meetings and emails, and training the brain to embrace boredom instead of seeking constant stimulation.
I don't get it.. Tell me more
Here’s a perspective for many of us who are victims of the rapid pace of modern work culture, exacerbated by instant digital communication.
The Paradox of the 'Always-On' Era
While the digital age has blessed us with the ability to communicate instantly, access information in the blink of an eye, and juggle multiple tasks simultaneously, it's also created an illusion. The illusion that 'more' and 'faster' automatically equals 'better'. But what if, in our relentless quest for efficiency, we're missing out on depth?
The Depth Over Breadth Approach
Consider the art of deep conversation. When we skim through conversations, just like when we skim through articles online, we might get the gist, but we miss the nuance, the emotion, the deeper understanding. Similarly, when we rush through tasks just to tick them off our list, we might miss the deeper insights, the opportunity for innovation, and the satisfaction of truly mastering our craft.
The Overlooked Cost of High Speed
One crucial aspect that hasn't been addressed directly in the text is the emotional and social cost of this sped-up culture. Relationships, both personal and professional, need time to blossom. In a work environment where everyone is always rushing, there's little room to build those connections, to have those impromptu coffee chats, or to simply ask a colleague how their day is going. Over time, this lack of connection can lead to feelings of isolation, decreased team cohesion, and even increased turnover in organizations.
The Slow Movement: An Alternative Path
Originating in Italy with the 'Slow Food' movement, the concept of 'slowness' has gained traction in various sectors, from slow travel to slow living. The idea isn't about being sluggish or lazy; it's about intentionality. It's choosing depth over superficiality. In a work context, this could translate to:
- Deep Collaboration: Instead of having numerous brief touch-points throughout the day, schedule longer, more intentional brainstorming sessions with your team where everyone's truly present.
- Learning Periods: Dedicate blocks of time in your week solely for upskilling or deepening your knowledge in a specific area. This not only enhances your expertise but also breaks the monotony of routine tasks.
- Social Interactions: Make it a point to have non-work-related interactions with your colleagues. It could be a simple coffee break or a short walk. It's these seemingly 'unproductive' moments that often lead to stronger bonds and unexpected ideas.
Remember, speed might help you win a sprint, but life – including your career – is a marathon. Adjusting your pace not only ensures you see the journey but also ensures you have the stamina to reach the finish line with your well-being intact.
Here’s what an ideal slow work life looks like:
Imagine this: Instead of speed-reading through your emails, you're taking a moment to savor each correspondence. It's like you're choosing to enjoy a gourmet meal instead of hurriedly munching on fast food. The effect? Your responses have become more thoughtful, impactful, and clear.
Now, the projects on your table? They're demanding, sure, but instead of being caught up in the whirlwind, you're navigating through them with a sense of purpose. Each report, proposal, or task you undertake is not just done; it's crafted. By slowing down, you're allowing yourself room to think, giving space for those ideas to marinate and evolve.
Those quick hallway chats? You're transforming them. Instead of a rushed 'Everything good?', you're genuinely engaging. 'How are you finding the project?' or 'What challenges did you face this week?'. By doing this, you're turning fleeting moments into deeper connections.
Digital distractions still exist, but you've found your rhythm. It's not about reacting to every ping instantly; it's about engaging meaningfully. You've set boundaries, ensuring technology serves you, not the other way around.
And when the workday wraps up, you're leaving the office with a sense of accomplishment, feeling energized rather than drained. There's still zest for what awaits outside of work. You've truly tapped into the magic of slowing down, proving that sometimes less really is more. So, take a deep breath, and remember: it's okay to pace yourself. The world won't leave you behind; in fact, you might just find that you're leading the way.