Do you ever feel like you’re rushing through life, continually checking things off your to-do list? Between keeping up with the demands of work and maintaining healthy relationships outside the office, it’s easy to feel stressed even when we’re just trying to do our *best.*
There’s no denying workplace burnout and exhaustion have become more and more common, which might help explain why the slow work movement has also grown increasingly popular over the last few years, as well.
What is slow work?
The principles of slow work are rooted in mindfulness, balance, and creativity. With those foundations in place, slow work teaches us to value the present moment, and to do things as well as possible (not as fast as possible). Slow work is all about using your time in a meaningful and productive way, by operating at an intentional pace and focusing on individual tasks.
Benefits of slow work
Achieve a greater work-life balance
Slow work (and slow living, in general) encourages us to embrace quiet moments, to be absorbed by our conversations, and to form genuine connections among our community. But operating in slow work mode doesn’t mean moving like molasses; instead, it’s about doing things at a more appropriate speed, without barreling through our various responsibilities.
In other words, slow work is an attempt to deliver quality over quantity, and to engage with our work in a significant way — all of which allows for greater work-life balance, and can have a tremendous effect on our overall wellbeing.
Chance to explore our creative side
When we make a point to slow down and quiet our minds, it’s amazing how much mental space we can open up for something other than our hectic schedules. Not only does slow work leave room to consider new perspectives and healthy habits, but it can also provide a chance to explore our creative side.
By navigating life at a slower pace, we have more time and energy to devote to our creative pursuits. That’s because when we’re not consumed by our calendars or notifications, we can prioritize a new skill, hobby, or passion project we’d previously let fall by the wayside.
Cultivate a more mindful lifestyle
Mindfulness is so much more than a buzzword — it’s an opportunity for us to thrive in the midst of the stressors and challenges we encounter every day. If we make a deliberate effort to slow down and adopt a mindful approach to our work, we can get out of our negative headspace and really start to decompress.
At its core, practicing mindfulness avoids fixating on the past or worrying about the future, and inspires us to be fully aware of the here and now. With a mindful lifestyle, we can accept whatever’s going on in our workday without growing anxious or needlessly overwhelmed.
How to create a slow work routine
Don’t immediately start your day by checking email
Let’s be honest: very few of the emails we receive can be considered urgent, or require our immediate response. For that reason, there’s no sense in stressing ourselves out by checking our email as soon as we wake up; this practice typically serves up more chaos than calm, so you’re wise to avoid jumping into your email first thing in the morning.
To create a slow work routine, you should ease into the day with your preferred rituals — an invigorating shower, a warm cup of coffee, or a few minutes spent in meditation. Then, once you start working, give yourself at least an hour before you write back to any lingering messages.
Use time blocking for breaks
Time blocking is an alternative to a to-do list, where you schedule all of your work into ‘blocks’ of time. You might allot one hour to meeting preparation, two hours to drafting new content, and so on. With a time blocking system, you’re sure to feel a sense of ease and accomplishment — but don’t forget to assign a few breaks throughout the day!
The majority of us work best in intervals of about 90 minutes, followed by a 20 minute break. The beauty of these built-in breaks is that you’ll likely be more productive after you return, and you’ll have more enjoyment (rather than resentment) when it comes to your work.
Avoid multitasking whenever possible
The pressure to multitask is mounting, as many people regard this as an enviable (or admirable) skill. But the truth is, multitasking all day everyday is almost guaranteed to deplete our energy and lead to some major mental fatigue. That’s why a slow work mentality avoids multitasking whenever possible, and places emphasis on finishing one thing at a time.
While multitasking makes us more prone to mistakes, focusing on a single assignment can actually improve the speed and quality of our work. Whenever you’re tempted to compose an email while you’re on the phone, or work on three different deadlines simultaneously, try instead to give your full attention to just one objective before moving on to the next.
Shift from daily to-dos to weekly goals
Although to-do lists remain a prime way for people to track their progress at work, this method may not always be in your best interest. Daily to-dos can sometimes do more harm than good, especially when it’s the end of the day and you realize you only completed half of what you set out to do (...and then you start to beat yourself up about it).
A slow work approach rejects quantity in favor of quality, meaning you don’t have to get 15 different things done in a day — five tasks done really well is huge! To help with this shift, try replacing your daily to-dos with weekly goals; what you don’t get done one day can likely wait until tomorrow, and then you can marvel at all you’ve achieved by the end of the week.
Slow Work FAQs
How do I set myself up for success using a ‘slow work’ strategy?
To be successful using a slow work strategy, there’s a few key components to keep in mind, like waiting to check your email in the morning, avoiding multitasking where you can, and leveraging weekly goals rather than daily to-do lists. The idea with slow work is to create calm and focus within your workday, and to take a step back from the crazy pace you’ve been keeping up.
How do I get my team to buy into ‘slow work’?
To help your team buy into the slow work movement, you can share about all the benefits this style of work has to offer. Over time, a company who utilizes slow work will achieve greater work-life balance, cultivate a more mindful lifestyle, and have room to explore their creativity, all of which contributes to healthier team members who feel more satisfied in their role.
What does ‘slow work’ look like in real life?
If you’re trying to picture what slow work looks like in real life, it can be pretty simple! The principles of slow work lend themselves to focusing on just one task at a time, creating designated breaks during your workday, and establishing healthy boundaries with technology or social media platforms. Each of these small steps can result in some big changes, like how much we enjoy our work or how good we feel once we leave the office.