How to beat pseudo-productivity with slow productivity…

It’s fair to say I have a strong “Pusher.” This is the part of me that is highly driven, constantly pushing for high performance, and never allowing for rest. To manage my Pusher’s relentless agenda and keep it within a helpful range, I have to actively work on my relationship with productivity. Recently, I’ve been reading and enjoying “Slow Productivity” by Cal Newport. Here are my three key takeaways:

Productivity is Problematic

Pseudo-productivity is about appearing busy or proving your busyness to others by instantly responding to queries and messages, ensuring emails are answered promptly, and making sure team members don’t have to wait for your response to progress their work.

However, this kind of activity doesn’t move the needle on the projects that truly matter. Instead, slow down your response time and communicate with others when they can expect a reply. For example, you could say: “I check my emails twice a day between 12:00-13:00 and 16:00-16:30. You can expect a response during these times. If it is urgent, please call this number (and add your mobile number).”

You’ll soon discover that very few things are truly emergencies. You can also add friction steps to slow people down, such as requesting they answer a couple of questions before scheduling a meeting with you, including what they have already done to resolve the issue.

To Do More, Start by Doing Less

This principle really hit home for me. My mentor always tells me to simplify, not complicate, wherever possible. Missions spawn projects, and multiple missions spawn multiple projects. Limiting missions helps focus projects.

Before you say yes to a new project, even if you really want to do it, block out time in your calendar first to see what the ongoing commitment to completion would look like. Is it feasible and sustainable? If it’s not, what would you need to de-prioritise or delegate to say yes?

I tend to be overly optimistic about how much I can achieve in a day/week and often overschedule myself if I’m not careful. This process of calendar blocking has been transformational in ensuring that I work at a pace that is enjoyable and sustainable long-term.

Our Anxieties Are the Fiercest Taskmasters

“Our anxieties are the fiercest taskmasters.” Ooof! I know this to be true. When I worked as a Scientific Project Manager, my anxiety about needing to prove myself led me to work beyond what was sustainable, to the detriment of my health and relationships.

When I transitioned into running my own coaching business, I was so scared of failing and having to go back to something I didn’t enjoy that I worked myself ridiculously hard to prevent that from becoming a reality.

I now know that the number of hours you work is not directly proportional to the outcome. In fact, the better I get at managing my own insecurities, the more permission I give myself to slow down, and the stronger my results become.

“Where you end up is ultimately what matters, not the speed at which you get there, or the number of people you impress with your jittery busyness along the way.” – Cal Newport

➡️ My invitation to you this week is to reflect on these three lessons. What is your biggest insight? What are you going to stop, start, or continue?

Keep Opening Up,

Hannah

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🎙️Listen to the latest episode of the Women in STEM Career & Confidence podcast 🎙️

Interviewing Dr Joanna Martin was a real privilege for me, as her insights on “superwoman” inspired my journey to becoming a certified coach, and she has been my business mentor for the past two years.

In this episode, we dive into:

  1. The Identity Shift: Navigating the changes that come when you switch careers.
  2. Effective Coaching: Why directing questions to “superwoman” isn’t effective and what truly works.
  3. Women’s Equity: A reality check on how far we’ve come and what it will take to reach true parity.

Join us for an enlightening conversation that is sure to inspire and empower you on your own journey.

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