How can you regain control of your working week? The lessons of slow working

Hoe krijg je weer controle over je werkweek? De lessen van langzaam werken

“I’m underwater”, “I don’t have time”, “I’m swamped with work”… Tick tock, don’t you feel you never have enough time? At work or at home, do you feel like you’re running around without ever settling down? It’s time to take back control of your schedule. Regain control of your time and give meaning back to your work with the slow working principle.

In his book In Praise of Slowness, Carl Honoré talks about the modern evil that drives us to maximize every minute of our waking hours. Whether in our personal or professional lives, we try to do as many things as possible in as little time as possible, sometimes forgetting to slow down to do them properly. As a result, we wake up one day, exhausted, not knowing what we’re running after. The author got the idea one night when he was reading a bedtime story to his son, skipping a few passages to save time. It was when he came across a series of children’s books entitled “1 Minute Evening Story” that he realized the absurdity of this world that wants to go faster and faster, even if it means sacrificing quality time.

He therefore advocates the “Slow movement”, a counter-current trend that suggests taking the time to give meaning to one’s life. Slow movement has many facets: slow travel, slow eating, slow love and even slow working. The latter is of particular interest to us here. What is slow working? How to adopt it? We tell you all about this trend.

Slow working: the issues behind a trend

Slow working is a movement that proposes to shake up our relationship with work. The aim is not only to make it more enjoyable, but also to enhance its performance. Contrary to what its detractors may claim, slow working is by no means an incentive to lose interest in one’s work, or to do it more slowly and less efficiently. On the contrary, the aim is to break away from the misconception that productivity is synonymous with speed, quantity and immediacy, and invent a new way of working. The result? It’s a real revolution, leading to a new style of working life that’s more serene, more conducive to taking a step back, creativity and innovation. In short, a way of working that makes sense and gives pleasure!

What makes slow working more enjoyable and more efficient? More enjoyable: quite simply because it frees us from the dictatorship of urgency and multi-tasking, allowing us to devote more of our available brain time to really important, meaningful tasks. More efficient: because, let’s face it, we tend to drown in a glass of water and quickly find ourselves overwhelmed by multiple micro-tasks with little added value. By adopting slow working, we give each task the importance and time it deserves. By getting better organized, you stop blowing in the wind and actually perform better.

More concretely, the notions of speed of execution, quantity produced and immediacy of response are highly valued in our society and often associated with productivity. Yet neuroscience tends to prove the contrary. Multitasking, over-solicitation and hyperconnection are said to cause mental overload, which in turn can impair cognitive functions. And yes, by always trying to go faster than the music, we leave room for memory lapses, mistakes, a reduction in our ability to plan, poor emotional management, but also a reduction in our ability to gain height. The result: less creativity and strategy. It’s easy to see why these symptoms are a bad omen in the workplace, especially when you’re in a management position.

Antidote: regain control of your time

So how do we stop this mad race? How can we regain control of our working hours? How to work more slowly but surely? Fortunately, there’s an antidote. But be careful! Slow working is like quitting smoking: first of all, you have to stop looking for excuses and make the decision once and for all to start and stick with it. Because, yes, taking time is a choice and joining the slow working revolution requires some effort. The biggest one will be to take five minutes to organize, plan and prioritize.

The first step is to free ourselves from the culture of urgency, and remember that what is urgent is not always important, and vice versa. You then need to identify your priorities and plan them in order of importance, having first identified the working conditions in which you feel most effective. Divide your tasks according to these periods. On the other hand, slow working strongly discourages multitasking: we stop listening to a meeting with one ear while continuing to write an email. Every task deserves your undivided attention! If you don’t want to be tempted, try turning off these tempting notifications and accept that you won’t always respond to the slightest solicitation from your colleagues.

These tools will be your allies

It’s a great program that requires hard work. Fortunately, there are tools to help you get organized.

Eisenhower’s matrix for distinguishing the important from the urgent

The first of these helps to distinguish the urgent from the important, and to identify the real priorities: the Eisenhower matrix. This matrix is a tool for prioritizing and sorting tasks according to their level of urgency and importance. It therefore comprises four categories of tasks: those that are urgent and important must be dealt with immediately. Important but not urgent tasks should be planned, because if they don’t need to be dealt with immediately, they’re still decisive enough not to be forgotten in a corner. Urgent but not important tasks should be delegated. Finally, tasks that are neither urgent nor important should be removed from your agenda, or at least limited.

Prioritize and plan with the 3-task rule

Once this distinction has been made, it’s time to fit all these missions into your agenda. We recommend that you follow the three-task rule. This involves identifying three important missions and prioritizing them by planning them first and allocating all the time needed to complete them. The rest of the smaller tasks will be distributed around these three priorities. To better visualize this rule, imagine you have a vase into which you’d like to fit three stones, small pebbles and sand. If you place the sand first, then the pebbles and finally the stones, it’s highly likely that the stones won’t fit into the vase. So it’s best to lay the stones first, then the pebbles, which will slide into the gaps. Finally, sand will fill the last empty spaces. Now imagine that this vase is your work week, the stones the priority tasks, the pebbles and sand the less important tasks. Do you see what we’re getting at?

Time management with the timeboxing method

The final tool for perfect time planning: time boxing. The latter takes advantage of Parkinson’s Law, which states that all work inevitably takes up all the time allocated to it. Indeed, if we plan to complete a file in two days, it will indeed take two days, because there’s always room for improvement. And yet, if we decide to complete this dossier in five hours, we’ll probably be able to do the same job without having to deal with a few points of detail that aren’t always essential. So it’s best to use the timeboxing method, which involves allocating a fixed duration to each task and then scheduling it in your diary. This schedule, segmented into “boxes”, makes it possible to quickly visualize the week’s program, gaining efficiency and visibility over the time spent on each mission. It is then necessary to have an objective estimate of the time it will take to complete each of the planned tasks.

Now you have all the tools you need to start slow working . There’s not a minute to lose!

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