May 8, 2022
You can't outcompete robots and algorithms on overwork and insomnia. Working with constant interruptions and without breaks is detrimental to those qualities we need most in the future of work.
This is the ninth and last article in a series about Saent cofounder Tim's personal productivity journey and the history of Saent. The previous article was 2021: Flexibility for more balance and more Saent.
I've believed for a long time that the usual take on productivity—do more more more—is foolish. What's the point of always being busy and investing increased Return on Attention into more work? The topic of one of my first public posts on productivity asked this question back in 2014. So did a guest I wrote for Buffer in 2015 titled "A Startup Founder's Secret Confession: I'm Not So Busy."
Over the years, these thoughts evolved further. I now see working less not only as healthy and sane but critical for succeeding in the future of work.
Evermore tasks go to algorithms and robots, so we humans need to specialize in what we're uniquely good at. Those are undertakings requiring creativity, empathy, and critical thinking—coming up with original ideas, solving complex problems in new ways, making decisions, and helping and collaborating with others.
Working every hour of the day with constant interruptions and without breaks is detrimental to exactly those qualities we need most in the future of work. You can't outcompete robots and algorithms on overwork, Inbox Zero, and insomnia.
Instead of doing more, most of us need to learn how to do less. How to become more human and less robotic. How to tame the ravenous work beast from eating up every waking hour of our lives.
People and teams who can find balance—between peak and downtimes, work and play, action and reflection, work and life—will be happiest, healthiest, and highest-performing in the future of work.
Finding such balance requires limiting your working hours while increasing hourly Return on Attention. Doing so enhances productivity, creativity, well-being, and fulfillment. The four-day workweek movement and books like Shorter and Four Thousand Weeks point in this direction, too.
This shift is not easy. It clashes with cultural norms that glorify busyness and constant work. And daily life is filled with demands, expectations, and temptations that pull us in the wrong direction.
To do less, find balance, and rediscover your human strengths, you need all the support you can get—methods, tools, training, even coaches.
I've been experimenting with 30-hour workweeks myself for a while now. Staying sub-30 isn't an act of laziness. It requires everything I've learned on my personal productivity journey, like focus, prioritizing, balance, plus Saent's products Lifeline and our phone box.
Saent and I hope to support many others in making this shift. The excerpt below from our recent mission post sums up where I'd love to see our productivity journeys lead from here.
“We encourage meaningful instead of meaningless productivity and strive to invest its returns in shorter workweeks and days, not more work.”
I hope you'll join me on this ongoing adventure of discovery, exploration, and experimentation that will lead to more meaning, creativity, and fulfillment.
Extra special thanks to Gail Marie, former Director of Quality at Animalz, for inviting me to present my personal productivity journey to her team, which inspired me to write this article series.