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Workplace Productivity: How to Optimize Your Own Productivity and Look Great Doing It

In her recent Wall Street Journal article, Rachel Feintzeig discusses the concept of "Slow Productivity" championed by Cal Newport, an author and Georgetown University computer science professor. Newport argues that the traditional approaches to productivity, those characterized by relentless busyness and a multitude of distractions, are not only ineffective but also a significant drag on our real output and wellbeing. Let's explore how to embrace this philosophy to enhance your productivity, maintain balance and look good doing it.

Workplace Productivity

Understanding Slow Productivity

What Is Slow Productivity?

"Slow Productivity" is a method proposed by Newport to combat the inefficiencies of modern work environments. By advocating for a reduction in the quantity of tasks we undertake, Newport encourages focusing on fewer projects but executing them with higher quality. The essence of this approach is to prioritize top-notch work over the frenzied pace of multitasking that characterizes much of today's workplace.

Benefits of Slow Productivity

  • Enhanced Focus: By reducing the number of tasks, you can allocate more attention and resources to the tasks that matter most.

  • Higher Quality Output: Less rush means more time to refine and improve the work, leading to better results.

  • Reduced Burnout: Taking on fewer tasks can lead to less stress and a lower risk of burnout, preserving your mental health and job satisfaction.

Practical Steps to Implement Slow Productivity

Prioritize Rigorously

Identify the projects that have the most significant impact and align closely with your goals or the company’s objectives. Everything else can be placed on your "waiting list," which you can make public to manage expectations with your colleagues and supervisors.

Set Realistic Timelines

When agreeing to a deadline, double the initial estimates to ensure you have enough time to produce a quality work product. This approach not only sets realistic expectations but also allows you to deliver consistently without last-minute rushes.

Master the Art of Saying No

Learn to assess each request critically and be transparent about your workload. When a new task arises, engage in a discussion about its priority and placement on your work list rather than immediately agreeing to take it on.

Schedule Time for Independent Work

For every hour of meetings on your calendar, block out an additional hour in your schedule for focused, independent work. This practice ensures that you have dedicated time slots for deep work, crucial for accomplishing complex tasks.

Maintaining Professionalism While Embracing Slow Productivity

Communicate Effectively

Keep your team and manager in the loop about your new working style and the reasons behind it. Highlight the benefits it brings to the team and the company, such as higher quality work and more thoughtful decision-making.

Deliver on Promises

When you set deadlines, make sure to meet them. Reliable delivery will build trust and demonstrate that your approach honors responsibility and commitment.

Leverage Quiet Periods

Identify slower periods during the year to scale back on additional responsibilities strategically. Use these times for recovery or to engage in professional development activities that can enhance your capabilities.


Adopting slow productivity doesn't mean doing less work. It means doing the right work in the right order with greater care and attention to get truly optimal productivity. This approach not only improves output quality but also enhances your professional image, showcasing you as a thoughtful, reliable, and high-performing employee. As Newport suggests, mastering this balance could be the key to not just surviving but thriving in the modern workplace, especially as AI begins to reshape our roles. Embrace slow productivity, and you may find yourself achieving more than ever before—both in terms of output and personal satisfaction. You'll also look good doing it!

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Finally, for a good article with some extra career insights, feel free to check out this article

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