Dealing with objections to slowing down

“I can’t slow down. I have so much to do. If I slowed down, my results would fall off and I’d be in a total mess.” It sounds like a reasonable objection to the idea of “Slow” in the workplace, but it’s not. Much of the reasoning that justifies our frenetic world is like this: plausible on the surface, but deeply flawed on closer inspection.

Why do people have so much to do? Much of it is genuine overload, caused by macho management and greedy cost-cutting. But a significant part is also due to faulty working styles. They’re overworked because they rush too much and cut too many corners, so they’re forced to go back to correct mistakes. Put plainly, they are encouraged to substitute effort for effectiveness.

It’s easier for bosses and organizations to force employees to do more work and keep longer hours than to invest in what would be needed to help them become more effective in the time normally available. Increasing effective working takes thought, research, investment. Making people work harder usually takes little more than inbred dictatorial behavior and a certain amount of posturing and shouting.

The rationale of excessive work demands

Let’s be honest. Business today isn’t about making goods or providing services—let alone providing employment. It’s about making money. It always has been. Once you accept that, a good deal of what is done becomes totally rational.

If you can increase output by making people work longer hours, while paying them no more to do so, why wouldn’t you? And why wouldn’t you keep on doing it until they collapse? It isn’t making your business a whit more genuinely productive (productivity is the ratio of effort to output in a given time, not length of working hours). But it is making you a whole lot more money in the short term.

Pleasing Wall Street is vital because most money today is made by trading stocks and financial derivatives, not by making or selling things. With executives’ incomes also dependent on stock options, they’re only interest is in stock trading too. Look at the vast salaries “earned” by people who run hedge funds. Doesn’t that show you where the real money is being made?

That’s why so many business leaders happily sacrifice long-term success for short-term profit. It’s a simple case of “take the money and run.”

Back to slowing down

If you really want to prosper in the long term—individually or organizationally—it’s going to require you to be more effective. Focusing on short-term gain, and gambling in the financial markets, won’t help you in that. If you want to have a long-term, fairly secure path to success, being more effective at what you do is the only thing that counts.

How do you improve your effectiveness? By thinking hard, exploring deeply, listening carefully, and finding ever more creative ways to do better than you have until now.

What do all these actions have in common? They take time, attention, and careful focus. They can’t be accomplished by tearing through your day like a hamster trying to break the world speed record for spinning its wheel.

Slow down. Give yourself time to think more clearly. Use that thinking time to become more effective at whatever you do. Then use the time that frees up to do even more thinking and improve still further.
You’ll establish a virtuous cycle that will pay big dividends over and over again. You’ll both work less and see more for your efforts.

Isn’t that what productivity really means?

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