There seem to be two schools of thought for how we should approach productivity advice.
The first is that we should hustle like crazy. After all, hustlers get $#!† done! They “rise and grind,” hustle all day, and head to bed exhausted—but they feel that way because they were able to accomplish so much. Elon Musk—who advocates for working 80 hour weeks and has been prone to burn out—falls into this category. And it’s hard to argue with Elon’s success.
The second mindset favors working calmly and deliberately. This means planning more often before we get to work. When it does come time to complete a task, it happens with a deep intentionality. Over-working is rare. Warren Buffet—who spends 80% of each day reading, heads to work after the market opens, and sleeps for at least eight hours a night—falls into this category. And it’s hard to argue with Warren’s success.
So which approach is right?
Here is a simple truth about productivity that not enough people write about: if you care enough about getting your work done, you’ll almost always find ways to do it. Without thinking about it too much, you’ll align your time, attention, and energy towards greater productivity.
It’s for this reason that you may not need productivity advice on days when you have a rapidly-approaching deadline; or when someone is breathing down your neck to ship a big project. Or why, on days when you’re working late on a passion project, you probably don’t need to pick up a productivity book to figure out how to keep going. Productivity comes easily when you care about what you’re doing or have a strong incentive to get things done.
I personally fall into the second camp—my favorite way of becoming more productive is by working calmly and deliberately. This mindset also leads me to enjoy what I’m doing more. A few examples of how this plays out in practice:
- Instead of working on more things, faster, I step back so I can work on the right things deliberately and with intention.
- Instead of working at a frenzied pace, I approach tasks with a calm deliberateness that allows me to accomplish more in the same amount of time—what I lose in speed I more than make up for in intentionality.
- Instead of cramming my day with commitments, I take time to think, reflect, and daydream—leaving plenty of white space in my schedule whenever I can.
- Instead of hustling and working insane hours, I try to develop systems that accomplish my work tasks for me, so I have time for more meaningful things (like reading and strategizing).
- Instead of taking on more than I can handle, I delegate.
These two productivity mindsets lead us to accomplish our work in different ways. Generally speaking, hustlers devote more time and energy to their tasks, while those who work deliberately devote more thoughtfulness. Those who work calmly and deliberately are often also quite lazy, and it’s for this reason they look for shortcuts—ways of automating, delegating, and systematizing their work so they have even more time to relax and reflect. While it’s the immediate sense of accomplishment that comes from busyness that makes hustlers feel important, those who work calmly feel a sense of importance when their work makes a difference.
I genuinely believe that working calmly and deliberately gives me a slight edge—but at the same time, I’d be foolish to argue against those who achieve great conventional success by working faster and harder. That said, there could be one variable skewing these results: someone who cares about how much they accomplish at work may be more likely to become a hustler—a mentality in which you center your life around the perceived importance of work. Assuming that one prioritizes accomplishment the same amount under both mindsets, though, working deliberately gives you an edge. If you have the privilege and ability to slow down and work with greater intention, I highly recommend it.
When it comes to our productivity, calm and deliberateness matter—especially right now. In today’s anxious world, the path to greater productivity runs straight through calm. This is why I’ve been writing so much about the topic lately.
Hustling can be a sign you’re not working strategically enough. Instead, become more calm and deliberate. You’ll get your work done—and you’ll have a lot more fun while you’re at it.