The Lasting Power of Slow Gains

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You’ll never walk into the gym and hear someone say, “You should do something easy today.” But after ten years of training, I think embracing slow and easy gains is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned.

In fact, this lesson applies to most things in life. It comes down to the difference between progress and achievement.

Let me explain:

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How Fast Web is Impairing How You Think

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Before you realize, habits form. How much thought do you put into your daily routine, and how much of your routine is formed as a response to outer influence? In other words, do you know why you work the way you do?

Being purposeful with your work philosophy might be the missing key to achieving a healthy rather than hasty, always running-behind pace. Understanding the psychological benefits of controlling the flow of your time and attention reveals the wisdom in taking things slow.

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3 Surprising Reasons Why You Need to Rediscover Slow Growth

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We all have goals that we’d like to reach. And, if we had the choice, we would prefer to reach them sooner rather than later.

There’s nothing wrong with achieving a goal quickly, but the insatiable desire to enjoy results now — with little regard for the process — is hurting our health, our happiness, and our lives in general.

When we continuously glorify the end result (earn more money, find love, win the Super Bowl), it becomes dangerously easy to think that the goal is what validates us and not the struggle of the process.

If you want to fulfill your potential and become better, then you need to rediscover the power of slow growth. Here’s why:

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The 3-Part Recipe to Stop Working Around the Clock and Beat the Rat Race

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Humans are not machines.

This is stating the obvious, but the obvious hasn’t seemed to sink in. We organize our work days as if we were machines, never turning off even when we get home.

These work habits are erroneous, unhelpful, and unhealthy.

When the Huffington Post polled 1,000 people on their work habits and routines, the results show just how far we’ve tilted the scales to a machine-like existence:

  • 60% take 20 minutes or less for lunch.
  • 25% never leave their desk.
  • 66% fail to take their allotted vacation
  • 25% leave at least a week’s worth of vacation unused each year

And to top it all off, 33 percent spend less than half an hour a day completely disconnected from email.

This isn’t a sustainable work style.

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Collaboration is Noisy

When did work become so noisy?

I don’t just mean the ambient noise, that clickity-clackity typing, strangely noticeable chewing, annoying finger tapping, and chit-chatting hubbub of an open floor plan office. I’m also talking about the information and social inundation invading our work life, the buzzes and pings, the tweets and likes, the emails and comments, the meetings and chats.

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Our notion of productivity has become imbalanced toward focusing on the inbox of our thought process — input, information, inspiration. I can feel productive after scanning tweets, reading articles, even having an inspiring conversation, but if I don’t take time to think and process, if I don’t actually turn the input into something, that feeling is illusory.

Ultimately, productivity requires producing, creativity creating. It sounds so simple and obvious, but it has been easy to forget these days that we need solitude, quiet and time.

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What Happens When You Don’t E-mail?

We’ve got these social expectations that are wrapped up in email. If an email comes, you’re expected to respond to it fast. We feel compelled to reply.

Gloria Mark, LA Times, Email Stress Test: Experiment unplugs workers for 5 days

Professor Mark did a study to find out what would happen if you did away with work email. She found that people were less stressed, simply communicated face-to-face more (what, human interaction!?), were more productive, and able to focus longer.

While there are great benefits to stepping away from email, it’s hard to escape the compulsion to be chained to work email. How do we shift social expectation and work culture on the instant timing of email? 

Rethinking Productivity

I’ve learned that if I’m thinking about my productivity tools, I don’t have enough enthusiasm for my projects.

Fabian Kruse writes about “the loop” inherent to getting anything done, and the idea that periods of procrastination, having doubts, and losing momentum are just part of that natural productivity cycle. So, while productivity systems and techniques are valuable, they don’t necessarily prevent the slower parts of “the loop” from happening again. In fact, they become a part of the loop.

The reason why I hate productivity systems is because they easily become a dominant part of “the loop”. And once they become a dominant part of the loop, they become a problem. A problem that keeps creatives from focusing on what matters – and from doing what they want to do because their muse is calling.

While Kruse focuses on the lives of “creative” people, his post applies to pretty much everyone as a reminder that productivity systems are tools and managers, not creations. At the end of the day, there’s no point in having “make a to-do list” on your to-do list.

C.J. Chilvers also writes about the paradox of productivity apps and the struggle that remains in getting important things done. The solution, for him, has been that “the easier a system is, the more will get done.”

We hope iDoneThis is a super-easy system, helping you record more daily dones that matter!

Ken Robinson on Rediscovering Energy

Ken Robinson’s School of Life talk teaches us to think about our lives in terms of energy and passions. So often, productivity in work and personal corners is tied to the concept of time and efficiency, which is a rather narrow view of the world.

“If you’re in your element doing whatever it is that you love to do, then at the end of the day or the end of the week, you can be physically exhausted by it but spiritually uplifted. But if you’re doing things you don’t care for, at the end of the day, you can feel physically fine but down and needing to lift yourself up again. And in the end, it’s about energy, that’s all life is, isn’t it? It’s about energy, it’s what stirs your energy, what encourages it, what fuels it, and what takes it from you. And I find, that if you’re doing things that you love to do, if you’re in your element, if you’re following a passion of some sort, that you get energy from it. Some activities take it from you.”

Click here for the full 50 minute talk, where Robinson talks about charting our own course and the indirect ways that we can grow into our element.

This Day is a Gift

Forget about productivity and numbers. They matter not at all. If you are driven to do things to reach certain numbers (goals), you have probably lost sight of what’s important. If you are striving to be productive, you are filling your days with things just to be productive, which is a waste of a day. This day is a gift, and shouldn’t be crammed with every possible thing — spend time enjoying it and what you’re doing.

How to Live Well, zenhabits.