“Work Slower”: 10 Paradoxical Rules to Help Finish Things Through

The most productive people are not those who work hardest and fastest, but those who work meaningfully and purposefully.

How not to go astray and finish a big project? The new post of the famous blogger and writer Chris Bailey, who has been studying the methods of productive life for several years. 

A couple of weeks ago I sent the manuscript of my book to the publishing house – 81,302 words. I locked myself in my office for six months, wrote almost nothing on my blog and worked on little else – and now the project is finished, and I’m damn proud of what I did. Perhaps the most interesting thing about writing a book is that in a sense, it created itself. When writing it, I used all the performance tricks that I talk about in it. And thanks to this, I completed the project a month and a half earlier than the deadline. It is worth noting that I wrote it from scratch and did not use any posts from my blog. Here are the top 10 lessons I learned from this project.

1. Disconnect from the Internet
If I hadn’t disconnected from the network while writing the book, I’m pretty sure that I would still have written it. Tim Pichil, who has been researching motivation and procrastination for 20 years, conducted an interesting performance study. He studied how much time the average person spends on procrastination when connected to the Internet, and something surprising was discovered: the average person 47% of the time spent online procrastinates. And that was before the take-off of social networks!

After reading this study, I began to disconnect from the Internet as often as possible. Naturally, the Internet is important and necessary for work, and it is unrealistic to disconnect from it for good. But as soon as I needed to plunge into something important, I turned it off. This allowed me to return about half the time spent and work smarter. I wrote 90% of the book, disconnected from the network – although writing it required a lot of research.

Next time you need to focus on something important, try turning off the Internet completely. You will be surprised how much more effective you become.

2. Assume obstacles
When you take on a large project or try to seriously change your life and work, you will face obstacles. Productivity is often a process of understanding your limitations, and the ability to anticipate obstacles will help you prepare to get around them before they even appear.

Toward the end of the work on the book, when I decided to finish it quickly, I wrote on average a thousand words a day for two months. In this ultra-productive period, anticipating inconvenience — travel, family obligations, meetings, and other work obligations — was crucial. Each week, I looked another week ahead to understand what obstacles I would have to jump over, and came up with a plan to get around them and still fulfill my daily norm.

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3. Organize a space around the most important tasks and projects
Urbanists say that the smoothness of the flow on the freeway does not depend on how fast the cars move, but on how much free space there is between them. The same thing with the tasks that we perform in work and ordinary life. It is one thing to know which of them are the most important, and quite another to be able to create space around them so that you do not feel overwhelmed. So you can devote more time, attention and energy to work on them. This is how the most productive people act, and above all, therefore, I was able to quickly dive into the work on the book.

In your work, you are responsible for dozens of tasks, but only a few of them bring the main result and the main value for your employer (even if it is you yourself). When I wrote my book The Productivity Project, I came to the conclusion that in my life there are only three types of obligations that have the greatest impact. Here they are in order:

– Writing a book
– Public speaking 
– Writing articles for my site

Everything else – meetings, correspondence, social networks, etc. – only supports my work, so I made a plan to help spend less time on these tasks, remove them from my schedule or delegate, so that I have more time on the three most important things.

The most productive people not only know how to step back and see where their most important result is, they also make special efforts to delegate, eliminate or compress everything else.

4. Plan your idle time.
Every day, your brain regularly switches between two modes: in one it wanders wherever it likes, and in the other it focuses intensely on something. For example, when you take a shower, the brain is usually in a wandering mode, different thoughts jump in it, and while you are reading this article, it is probably focused.

However, we spend less time in the “wandering” mode – we are increasingly burdening ourselves with chores and grabbing at a million things at once. And this is sad, because, as shown by numerous studies, spending time in dreamy thoughts is useful for creativity, it helps solve complex problems, come up with new ideas and reduces stress levels. Surely you came up with great ideas during a shower and hardly at the moment when you buried yourself in your smartphone.

I experienced all this myself while writing a book. If you spend too much time on multitasking or concentrated work, let the brain relax. Go to the art gallery, take a walk in nature, take a very, very long shower – in general, set aside time for dreams and dreams. This is a worthy investment.

5. Take time to reflect on your accomplishments.
Large and long projects like writing a book differ from other tasks in that they provide much less feedback. Therefore, it happens that they motivate less and are more difficult to carry out – although they are definitely worth the effort.

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This ritual helped me most of all – once a week I looked at the list of my achievements. Productivity does not mean producing as much as possible, it means achieving as much as possible. Keep a list of such achievements, and if you study and ponder it once a week, this will accelerate your movement to victory.

This is especially important because the more productive you work, the less time you have to stop and praise yourself. The more you achieve, the more you are busy, and the less time you have to enjoy the results of your productivity. So spend at least a few minutes a week on this.

6. Look for people you can rely on
It is insanely difficult to write a book or carry out another equally complex project without the support of a host of other people. Fortunately, I had this support. I would lie if I said that while working on the book I was the perfect friend / brother / boyfriend / blogger / etc., since the book required more time, attention and energy than anything else. But every minute that I invested in relations with people during this period brought me much more support and happiness. This greatly facilitated the work, especially because I have a natural tendency to try to do everything myself. But the more I struggled with this tendency, the more fun and satisfactory my work on the project became.

Whatever you do, having people to rely on and who can rely on you is crucial not only for productive work, but also for maintaining a sound mind.

7. In large projects, set many small goals
Going from regular blog posts to writing a book was weird. This is a completely different task: it requires you to juggle a lot of research, facts and stories, more people are involved in this process, and you need to pay more attention to the case if you want to draw real connections between the ideas you write about. But as I said, writing a book is even less stimulating, because in the process you get much less feedback. Having understood this, I decided to structure my work – to set myself many small goals and milestones. This allowed me to plan and move in the right direction, and most importantly – to see the overall picture of the project.

8. Big projects have big costs – but they are worth it.
The more important the project is for me, the more time, attention and energy I try to devote to it. And although there are ways to find more energy and better focus, finding more time is impossible – you have to spend less time on other commitments. And I had to put up with the costs – I had less time and attention to the important activities and activities for me.

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The trick here is to understand these costs in advance. Therefore, it is important to step back a little and think carefully about whether you really spend your time, attention and energy the way you want – especially before you start a new business, project or move on to a new job.

9. Curiosity rules the world
As more and more things hang over us, curiosity may seem more like a luxury than a necessity. But I think the opposite is true. Studying the life of the most productive people in history, I invariably notice the same thing: the most successful people are those who can see the connections between things and the big picture. And for this you need to master as many details as possible – new ideas, impressions, dialogs, mistakes and opinions.

And that requires curiosity.

While working on the book, I allowed myself to continue to learn new things about productivity, explore new topics, and experiment. I also allowed myself to dive even deeper into the lessons that I learned during the project, and to get even more fan of this topic. As a result, thanks to this, I was able to write a more worthy book, because it fit more ideas and connections. And I strengthened my writing skills because I was especially curious about how to write better.

Curiosity makes people more successful and productive. I hate the saying “curiosity killed a cat.” This is complete nonsense: everything that I learned about performance and derived from my own experience refutes it.

10. Work Slower
Perhaps the most interesting thing that I discovered during the work on the book is that the slower I write during the day, the more words I have ready by the end of the day. When I first started working, I could hardly squeeze out a few hundred words a day. Every day I first rushed to work on the next chapter, trying to give them out as vigorously as possible, and as a result I lost control of the process.

But then I slowed down – and it turned out that by the end of the day the result went off scale.

This, of course, is a strange and non-obvious tactic, but for me this is number one trick. When you slow down, it allows you to work more meaningfully and purposefully, gives you space and the opportunity to cultivate your productivity, and helps you think deeper about everything that you have to do.

The slower I wrote the book and the slower I worked on other tasks (presentations and counseling, for example) at that time, the more I managed to be in time by the end of the day, because it was just so much more reasonable I managed to work.

The most productive people are not those who work hardest and fastest, but those who work meaningfully and purposefully.

Especially for you Alihanrin Alihan!
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