Using “quiet quitting” to add seasonality to your work

by | Jun 4, 2024 | General Productivity

Takeaway: To add “seasonality” to your work, try temporarily adopting “quiet quitting”—defining stronger boundaries around your work—so you can recharge and find time to slow down and become more deliberate. This can lead you to become more productive while improving your work-life balance. Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 12s.

Recently, I had the pleasure of hosting author Cal Newport on the podcast to talk about his terrific new book, Slow Productivity.

This is Cal’s third time on the show—the previous two times he joined to talk about his books Digital Minimalism and A World Without Email. If you aren’t yet subscribed to Time & Attention, you can do that here!

In the book (and in our conversation), Cal breaks down the three principles of slow productivity, which are:

  1. Do fewer things;
  2. Work at a natural pace; and
  3. Obsess over quality.

As part of working at a natural pace, he talks about a new spin behind the concept of “quiet quitting”—an idea that went viral over the pandemic.

The idea behind quiet quitting is simple enough: you no longer go above and beyond in your responsibilities at work, while doing enough to get by with your workload. For example, you may no longer:

  • Work past 5 pm;
  • Volunteer to do extra work or take on additional projects;
  • Say yes to anything above and beyond your job description; or
  • Stay constantly accessible over email and chat after hours—or even while you work.

The ideas behind quiet quitting are simple—and in many cases, reasonable ways to define boundaries around your work.

That said, most of us don’t have the desire to “quiet quit” all of the time. For example, I’m lucky to love what I do for a living and also have the chance to help others out through my work. I’m not planning to quiet quit any time soon. On top of this, some of us value achievement quite highly (though I don’t personally fall into this camp).

For these reasons, quiet quitting has never felt like an optimal way of working for me—and maybe for you. I also care about how productive I am every day and find great joy in working hard to build something great—especially alongside others.

Adding Seasons

This is why I love Cal’s unique spin on quiet quitting in the book. He writes, “at the core of quiet quitting is a pragmatic observation: you have more control than you think over the intensity of your workload.”

He continues: “This got me thinking. What if we stopped positioning quiet quitting as a general response to the ‘meaninglessness of work,’ and instead saw it as a more specific tactic to achieve seasonality? What if, for example, you decided to quiet quit a single season each year; maybe July and August, or that distracted period between Thanksgiving and the New Year?”

When our work is not seasonal—it doesn’t have rhythms of both intensity and rest over time, and stays intense most of the time—we need to define better boundaries around it to practice rest. This technique can be a great way to define boundaries around work so you can benefit from greater rest when needed.

Cal suggests not making a big deal of the decision. Simply adopt tactics like the ones I listed in the section above to simulate an offseason for yourself—a slower period of work that lets you recharge and invest in yourself again. Remember, this is a flexible approach that can be tailored to your needs and circumstances. He also recommends, as an advanced tactic, to “take on a highly visible but low-impact project during this season” so you can both deflect new projects and project outward signs of busyness—signals of productivity.

This strategy is simple, and it may not work in every role. However, I personally find the idea of adopting it as a way of introducing a slower season into an otherwise busy schedule appealing. It’s a great tactic for finding more time for reflection, calm, and deliberate slowness, which can ultimately lead to a better work-life balance and increased productivity.

Written by Chris Bailey

Chris Bailey has written hundreds of articles on the subject of productivity and is the author of three books: How to Calm Your Mind, Hyperfocus, and The Productivity Project. His books have been published in more than 40 languages. Chris writes about productivity on this site and speaks to organizations around the globe on how they can become more productive without hating the process.

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