January 23, 2015

The Problem With the “Work Faster” Mentality.

slow road

I came across an article the other day that was themed like so many other articles that I have seen over the last few years.

It had to do with productivity. It had to do with minimizing effort and maximizing output. The headline was something obnoxious like 22 Ways You Can Work Faster.

I was surprised they hadn’t added in And Also Turn Into a Sexbomb!

We live in a culture of hyper-productivity. A culture where if you’re not producing, you’re not working, and if you’re not working—well then, quite frankly, you’re not worth anything.

That’s especially true in the creative fields. I know so many writers that get into the nasty habit of “if I am not in front of the computer than I am not working.”

Experience is as important to a writer as words, because without experience, you have nothing to write about, no stories to tell. That makes an hour-long walk exponentially more worthwhile than sitting in front of a computer screen.

The problem with the “work faster” mentality is that it tells our subconscious that there is no cap to our abilities. If only we could type faster, draw faster, read faster—hell, even think faster—then we could be truly productive. That’s why we’re obsessed with these articles that gives us tips or hacks to go faster, to do more with less time. Because we want to produce more; if we do, we’ll have more value.

Or at least that’s the cultural expectation that we tend to come back to.

But good works take time. It doesn’t just happen because you give it a tight schedule. In fact creativity can be fueled by a little down time. As David Shultz wrote in a great piece recently titled “How ‘Meaning Withdrawal,’ aka Boredom, Can Boost Creativity“: “Boredom allows our thoughts to wander. This is bad if you’re presenting the quarterly earnings report to your boss, operating a chainsaw, or disarming a bomb. But it turns out that a little mind-wandering is often good for creativity.”

Trying to go faster means we cram our brain full of things, leaving little room for wandering.

There’s one thing we definitely need to do though.

Slow. Down.

Don’t scroll frantically between tabs. Keep one thing open, not ten. Don’t answer your phone. Don’t text.

Close Tweetdeck.



Take a walk.

Just exist.

Focus on being, not advancing.

The higher we pile our plate of tasks, the more unable we will make ourselves to accomplish all that’s placed in front of us. We need to take the time it takes to do work and to do it well.

The illusion is that if we work faster, we will finish sooner, leaving us more free time. But the reality is that we just do more work. We continue of the nasty cycle of production, failing to give ourselves the breaks that we need physically and emotionally.

Slow down. You don’t just personally need it, we all do.


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Author: Anna Brones

Editor: Renée Picard

Image: garghe at Flickr 

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