We have 24 hours in each day. Sometimes it seems like too many hours, or sometimes – seemingly with increasing frequently – shamefully few of them. Krista Lepik, a lecturer of information sciences at the University of Tartu, has some words to share about the problem.
In their work “Estonian Society in the Quickening Time”, sociologists Halliki Harro and Triin Vihalemm refer to the situation when the hours seem to be in scarce supply as the thickening and quickening of social time.
Thickening and quickening of social time is characterized by various deadlines, frequent disruptions and shifts in one’s professional life, loss of time windows set for performing specific actions.
They describe how this thickening and quickening of social time is characterized by various deadlines, frequent disruptions or shifts in one’s professional life, and loss of time windows reserved for performing specific actions. As unforeseeable events can happen every day, one benefits from having their everyday life organized to be as flexible as possible.
To deal with such time pressure, people try to adapt multitasking (performing many different activities at the same time), though their satisfaction with the results of frequent multitasking is another story.
Depending on where people are in their life cycles or professional fields, multitasking can be a joy and possibility to thrive for some, but a source of discontentment and time-related stress for others.
Triin Vihalemm and Marju Lauristin wrote in the same publication how well can people use their time for work, communicating, consuming culture, and came to conclusion that different people have very different options and interests when it comes to multitasking. Depending on where people are in their lifecycles or professional fields, multitasking can be a joy and possibility to thrive for some, but a source of discontentment and time-related stress for others.
As written above, the perception of time that we have to ourselves can differ greatly. For a person waiting for something, time can feel extremely long, while another person might feel so busy they do not even have time to scratch an itching eye.
A lot of useful websites have been made for people who have trouble with time, not to mention books, as there are many devoted to time management. Ironically, such helpers direct the poor time-hungry soul to win some time to do even more, but there is a limit to human abilities, that could manifest itself as, say, a health scare or a relationship crisis.
What are some things that one can do less but in a smart way? And how is it possible to work or study in such a way that the laborious activity would feel so pleasant that you’d almost forget yourself in doing it?
Slow work doesn’t mean slacking off or slow moves.
You might have heard of the term “slow food”, the opposite of fast food. If you happen to even cook such meals yourself, you probably like getting fresh local food and taking time to savor your food. It’s the same with “slow work” – it requires the enjoyment of work done well, thoroughly, favoring local solutions to the mass-oriented ones, and putting health and contentment first.
In certain stages of one’s career, fast work – the notional opposite of slow work – might feel like a useful tool to prove one’s worth, but fixing the mistakes that come up during it can eventually take more time than working with sensible speed from the start. Working enthusiastically overtime might seem like a good idea, too, (there’s even saying Estonia: “Praise the fool, and the fool will do even more”) but it’s not possible to go on like this for longer periods of time.
So, which are the most important tricks in agreement with the principles of slow work, that would help one perform the professional activities in more meticulous manner, as well as more “in the moment”? Morgaine Gerlach has compiled a small but helpful list of such tools.
- Each morning, make a short list of things you need to do – all the while allocating twice the “normal” time for each task.
- Take breaks and use them for maintaining good relations with your colleagues. Communicate with them – be it directly or through the Internet.
- Avoid all kind of multitasking. For example, checking one’s mailbox after every five minutes, while occupied with another task, is quite seldom really needed. Maybe it would even be enough to do this a couple of times each day?
- Take small moments of rest just for yourself both before and after your workday. And in the end, you have to be patient, as even slow work takes time.
As we discussed the concept of slow work with participants of the summer academy of librarians of the University of Tartu, we found out that the term wasn’t necessarily familiar to everyone, but a lot of librarians who had shown up had still used some tools of slow work in their professional life.
In addition to the above-mentioned tips, some of them already used by the participants, some “morning persons” referred to going to work before their official work time. During this they could ponder the daily happenings ahead in peace and silence, do some yoga, lie around a bit. The luckier ones could do some pleasurable stuff during the day, i.e. checking the lists of new books or make small adjustments in the interior of the library, so the atmosphere becomes cozier.
Working at one’s own pace, in accord to one’s own plans and pauses, is also characteristic to slow work.
Working at one’s own pace, in accord to one’s own plans and pauses, is also characteristic to slow work. All the tricks of slow work that were mentioned would offer, as one of the participants neatly concluded on the work sheet, “a chance to immerse in one’s tasks, make them pleasant, feel joy from the work”.
Despite acknowledging these various tips, a question might rise – how easy or complicated is it for a librarian to use the slow work approach in their profession?
Slow work, designated to make the workday nicer, can be especially touchy subject, as one’s everyday work may feel like being a squirrel in a wheel and it seems that there is no way to get rid of the too fast tempo. Unexpected incidents (for example water leaking from the window), phone calls or letters that demand quick response, all kind of new urgent tasks that continuously pile up — all those function as quite inevitable obstacles or even brakes when trying to do some slow work. We cannot foresee them, only accept that vagaries are an inseparable part of the work.
Similar problems can occur in any professional field where one cannot exactly design one’s own comfy workflow for the workday.
Why not find some time each week for diving into more complex tasks?
It’s worth trying to combine slow work with so-called fast work. Why not make effort to find some time each week for diving into more complex tasks? The tricks of slow work, mentioned above, would surely help – if not all of them, then at least some.
The article was originally published on ERR Novaator.