We often find ourselves in the relentless pursuit of success—always striving to work faster and achieve more. In our quest to achieve better productivity, participating in hustle culture seems like the only viable path.
But what if this approach is actually hindering your productivity and well-being? The truth is, slowing down might be the secret weapon we've been searching for. The phrase “slow down to speed up” might appear counterintuitive initially, but sometimes speed is the actual obstacle in our path toward productivity.
In this article, we’ll talk about what it means to "slow down to speed up," explore how embracing a steady pace can lead to increased productivity, and share tips to slow down.
What does “slow down to speed up” mean?
The phrase “slow down to speed up” encapsulates the powerful concept that working at a steadier pace and taking deliberate pauses is better for clarity. This approach is more efficient in the long run and helps you become more productive.
Tech giants like Google—known for their demanding work environments—actively promote mindfulness techniques in their workspace to encourage their employees to take breaks in order to alleviate stress. In addition to offering guided meditations during working hours, Google hosts silent lunches and silent rooms to give a break to their employees and a breather in between demanding work schedules.
Google's approach seems well-founded. Research from the Harvard Business Review encompassing 343 businesses found that firms that adopted the philosophy of “slow down to speed up” experienced a significant improvement in their top and bottom lines. Over a three-year period, these companies boasted an average of 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits.
The concept of “slow down to speed up” has been around for centuries. For example, the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
Socrates, the prominent Greek philosopher, also valued the importance of thoughtful contemplation, believing that it allowed for deeper understanding and clarity.
Why is working fast disadvantageous?
At first, it may seem like the faster you work, the more you’ll get done, but research shows otherwise. Uninterrupted work can take a toll on your mental and physical health, which will directly have an impact on your productivity.
Here are some major disadvantages of working fast.
It leads to stress and burnout
The Industrial Revolution saw the rise of factory work, emphasizing speed and efficiency. However, it also brought attention to the detrimental effects of overworking, sparking labor movements advocating for reasonable working hours.
Rapid work pace often leads to heightened stress levels and increases the risk of burnout.
Chronic stress, in turn, can result in various health issues, including cardiovascular issues and mental health challenges.
Quality of work takes a hit
Faster work often means getting things done in haste, leading to errors and oversights. Imagine rushing to get an important assignment done and overlooking grammatical errors. Situations like these can be embarrassing.
In fact, software development has a concept of “technical debt” that warns of the consequences of hurried work. The concept suggests how delivering a code in haste may result in shortcuts and suboptimal code, accumulating metaphorical debt that can have dire consequences in the long run.
Doesn’t leave room for creativity and innovation
As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” When the main motive is to finish work as soon as possible, it leaves little room for reflection and innovation.
Studies on creativity emphasize the importance of incubation periods, where the mind has time to process information subconsciously. Working too fast or not focusing on one task at a time may curtail these incubation phases, limiting the potential for creative breakthroughs.
Pro tip: Sunsama’s focus mode comes in handy if you want to focus on only one important task. It provides a focused and minimal view of that task, paving the way for undivided focus and innovative thinking.
Sunsama’s focus mode for undivided attention on the current task (Source)
Negative impact on well-being
According to a survey by the World Health Organization (WHO), long working hours contribute to around 745,000 deaths per year globally, highlighting the adverse impact of excessive workload on health.
An incessantly fast work pace contributes to poor work-life balance. When you’re all about your work and taking little time to slow down and focus on yourself, you may find it difficult to disengage from work, eventually leading to stress and dissatisfaction.
What are the benefits of slowing down?
While working fast can negatively impact your well-being and quality of work, slowing down does precisely the opposite. It encourages creative fervor and has a positive effect on other aspects of your life, including mental health and productivity.
Here are some of the major benefits of slowing down.
Reduced stress and improved sleep
Taking deliberate pauses and slowing down can significantly reduce stress levels. Chronic stress results in various health issues, making it essential to get off the hamster wheel and incorporate moments of calmness into your overall routine.
Hectic schedules can also dismantle your sleep routine. Overworking often leads to increased stress and anxiety, which can disrupt the body's natural sleep patterns and reduce the quality of sleep. Slowing down, on the other hand, allows for better sleep quality, contributing to better mental and physical health.
Our brains perform optimally when we slow down our working pace and allow moments of rest, which naturally results in improved productivity.
Taking regular breaks during cognitive tasks also helps you feel rejuvenated, leading to sustained attention and better overall performance. The ability to focus can decline over time due to fatigue, boredom, or distraction. Regular breaks can help prevent or reduce these factors by allowing your brain to rest and switch to a different mode of thinking.
When a life-altering offer lands in your inbox, the urge to jump for joy and sign on the dotted line might be overwhelming. But, as the age-old wisdom of "sleeping on it" suggests, taking a pause before diving headfirst into any decision helps you unlock better choices.
Consider the findings of a study in the Journal of Consumer Research. Researchers discovered that when individuals took time to reflect on a purchase decision, it improved the quality of the decision.
The reason? A little space lets your brain do its magic. Stepping back allows you to process information, weigh options, and consider long-term consequences much more effectively than in the throes of sudden excitement.
Improved work-life balance
Avoiding constant high-speed work allows us to maintain a better work-life balance and sustain long-term productivity. And maintaining a more sustainable pace helps prevent burnout.
When we slow down, it means we carve out space for the things that truly matter—hobbies, loved ones, and personal growth.
4 tips on how to slow down
Our always-on culture often blurs the lines between work and personal time.
Here are some helpful tips to slow down that will help you improve your productivity and form a deeper connection with the present moments.
1. Take short breaks
The modern-day hustle culture often feels like an unrelenting race. Apparently, every business owner on Instagram wakes up before sunrise and has a jam-packed schedule throughout the week. But how feasible and sustainable is such a relentless routine? Probably not very.
According to a recent survey from Aflac, as many as 59% of employees report feeling at least a moderate level of burnout.
The solution lies in the power of taking small breaks.
Enter the Pomodoro technique, a friendly time management method that entails working for focused intervals (usually 25 minutes) before rewarding yourself with a short break. Your short break can include anything, from a stroll to a quick chat.
You might want to consider Sunsama to integrate the Pomodoro technique fully into your routine. The digital daily planner allows you to set reminders that prompt a 5-minute break after each 25-minute work session.
The best part? Sunsama’s Pomodoro-style timer isn’t limited to the 25-minute work and 5-minute break routine. You can adjust the duration of work as well as break periods to suit your preference.
Think of it as giving yourself a breather after mini workouts.
This strategy capitalizes on the concept of slowing down within a defined timeframe to heighten concentration and productivity.
Why does this work so well? Our brains are like sprinters, not marathon runners. We thrive in short, focused bursts, and the Pomodoro Technique taps into this natural rhythm.
And it’s backed by science. In fact, 2022 research published in the American Psychological Association found that taking short pauses throughout your workday can boost your well-being, focus, and productivity.
2. Immerse yourself in nature
Forget the “go touch grass” memes. Immersing yourself is historically and scientifically proven to have a remarkable effect on your productivity and mental health.
You need not rush to the Swiss Alps or a secluded beach to connect with nature. Simply dedicate some part of your day to a touch of greenery—it can be taking a mindful walk at your local park, listening to the rustling leaves in your neighborhood trees, or sitting by a tranquil waterfront.
3. Practice slow-down rituals
Slow-down rituals are all about shifting the gears of your mind and rejuvenating it to enhance focus and productivity.
Let’s take a trip around the world to discover some slow-down rituals from different cultures to help you boost your productivity in the long run.
- Tea Ceremony (Chanoyu/Chado): Deeply rooted in Japanese culture, the tea ceremony involves preparing and serving tea—Japan’s famous Matcha, powdered green tea. The Japanese culture encourages focusing on each step of the tea preparation, promoting relaxation.
- Hygge Lifestyle: Hailing from Denmark, Hygge emphasizes coziness, comfort, and simple pleasures. It involves creating a warm atmosphere to promote relaxation and well-being. Denmark also consistently tops the list of happiest countries in the world, and the reason behind this might also lie with their Hygge lifestyle.
- Siesta (Afternoon Nap): Common in Mediterranean cultures like Spain, the siesta is a midday break for rest and rejuvenation, allowing you to slow down and recharge.
- Forest Bathing (Shinrin-Yoku): Japan’s forest bathing involves taking a slow and mindful walk through the forest, promoting relaxation and a short break from the real world.
By incorporating these practices into your life, you'll unlock the ultimate paradox: by slowing down, you can actually speed up your productivity while also maintaining a work-life balance.
4. Establish boundaries for technology use
When we’re not working, we often find ourselves mindlessly scrolling on social media, checking LinkedIn notifications and emails nonstop, and texting even at the dinner table.
But the constant digital tether can’t be good for our health and productivity.
Take email, for example. A study conducted over two weeks restricted participants to checking their emails only thrice a day during one week—while allowing them unrestricted access during another week.
The result? Participants with restricted access showed lower stress levels and better productivity, emphasizing the positive psychological impact of less limited activity.
Take these initiatives to establish boundaries for technology use to enhance your productivity and work-life balance:
- Digital detox days: Set aside a few hours or some days of the month to detach yourself from technology use. Use that time to do something creative, spend time with your loved ones, or simply read something you like.
- Phone-free zones: Designate specific areas in your home, like the bedroom or the dining table, as “phone-free zones.” This will help you be fully present during meals and have better communication with your family.
- Turn off notifications: Don't let the constant bings and buzzes dictate your day. Turn off unnecessary notifications, schedule specific times to check email and social media, and resist the urge to respond instantly.
Slow down to speed up: redefining productivity in a fast-paced world.
In a world where everyone seems to be sprinting towards the finish line, the most revolutionary step you can take is to slow down. By prioritizing deliberate pauses, mindful work sessions, and moments of connection with nature, you unlock a powerful paradox: slowing down actually speeds up your journey to a more fulfilling, productive life.
Start with one Pomodoro session, one forest walk, and one phone-free dinner. If you’re having a hard time initiating the process, Sunsama's focus mode and built-in Pomodoro timer can be valuable on your journey to mindful productivity. They're great tools to help you on your path to mindful productivity. Start your free Sunsama trial now to experience the benefits yourself.