Book ReviewsWorkplace Norms, Expectations and Responsibilities

Slow Productivity – Cal Newport

In his book Slow Productivity, Cal Newport makes a convincing argument that we need to slow down, rather than speed up if we are to become more usefully productive. 

He does a deep-dive into how we got to the place of what he refers to as ‘pseudo-productivity – The use of visible activity as the primary means of approximating actual productive effort‘ in a knowledge-work context and how this is leading to burnout. 

This is especially relevant in the context of remote and hybrid workers, where productivity signalling is needed to showcase levels of busyness and relevance within a job role. 

The premise of this book is for knowledge workers to be less focused on producing lower-value knowledge widgets – juggling emails, messages, etc to feel more ‘productive’ and get more items ticked off the To-Do List. He suggests we spend more time engaging in deeper work that produces greater value knowledge products and output over an extended period. 

This logic is counter-intuitive for today’s fast-paced DigiTech-driven transaction-based business culture; where employees are mostly just a number and an individual career is more about transferable professional skills than staying with one company for extended periods. 

Maybe it’s time to shift our business culture to a more sustainable, more value-driven one of Slow Productivity.

Cal’s logic is sound and this way of operating within a business environment (whether employed or self-employed) along with the skills we should develop from his previous book Deep Work will give those who embrace these philosophies a strategic and tactical advantage over the prevailing shallower focussed skillset of the majority of knowledge workers.

About Cal Newport:

Cal Newport is an associate professor of computer science at Georgetown University, USA. He has published a number of non-fiction books and conducts a lot of research on the interaction of humans and technology. 

You can find out more about him on his website.