Slow productivity

To achieve slow productivity: 1. Do fewer things. 2. Work at a natural pace. 3. Obsess over quality.

Modern society has an interesting relationship with productivity. Lockdowns and other 2020 Pandemic pressures highlighted not only a need but widespread desire to consider how we might be able to live a more fulfilling existence than one built around an unhealthy approach to work.

Cal Newport is currently working on his theory of "slow productivity". In a YouTube video, he describes the core idea, distinguishing it from the narrative that we only strive for productivity because we're trapped by the capitalist superstructure, or that we've developed a culture of overproduction based on America's Protestant foundations.

His argument is that although this is good discourse, doing nothing is boring and humans still enjoy doing things. The problem isn't that we're doing all this stuff, but that we're trying to cram too much of it into an unmanageable chunk of time without giving ourselves a break.

Newport compared the modern pattern (or shall we call it an anti-pattern?) of work to that of hunter-gatherer communities, and found that they performed highly skilled work at a natural pace with breaks throughout the day.

He's summed up his position on slow productivity as a possible solution to burnout.

To achieve slow productivity:

  1. Do fewer things
  2. Work at a natural pace
  3. Obsess over quality

Related reading

  • How to Do Nothing by Jenny Odell
  • Do Nothing by Celeste Headly
  • Laziness Does Not Exist by Devon Price
  • Can't Even by Helen M Petersen
  • Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

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