You don’t have to get things done quickly to get ahead—here’s what to prioritize instead

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You don’t have to get things done quickly to get ahead—here’s what to prioritize instead

If you think of productivity as your ability to get things done quickly, you might be going about it wrong.

The secret to creating more meaningful work might actually be to slow down and do less, says Cal Newport, a Georgetown University professor and author of “Slow Productivity.”

The basic principles of harnessing what he calls slow productivity are to do fewer things, work at a natural pace and obsess over quality. Doing so can help you get rid of the busyness of work (like juggling emails and meetings) and pour more energy into creating a quality product.

Slowing down at work is nice in theory, but trickier to figure out if you work in an environment that rewards immediacy. If all your co-workers are faster than you to jump in on a project, how do you get ahead at work?

Being the first to raise your hand isn’t the only way to succeed

The key is understanding how to solve problems for your boss, Newport says. And it’s not always about being the first to raise your hand.

Think of it this way: When your boss delegates something to you, “they are responsible for this thing getting done, and that’s a source of stress. They want that stress to go away,” Newport says.

There are two main ways to remove this stress for your boss, Newport says. One relies on responding quickly, whereas the other relies on building trust and confidence in your ability.

“The goal is to take [your boss’s] stress away right away, which you can either do by getting back to them right away, or having earned a reputation that they can trust that once they send something to you, that you’ll get it back to them,” he says.

Bosses tend to favor immediacy when they have less trust that a person will follow through, or they’re just less familiar with how a person approaches their work, Newport says. They don’t want to have to follow up; they’d just rather see the results quickly.

However, “the other way you can take the stress away right away is that you’re super organized,” he adds.

Your boss will “know that when they send you something, that it’s going to get put on your list” and won’t fall through the cracks, even if they don’t hear from you right away. In this scenario, your boss’s stress “is gone as soon as they hit send.”

How to build trust with your boss

Sometimes that level of trust comes with experience and tenure, but you can fast-track it by being visibly organized, Newport says.

One way to do this is to have a public list of your projects, ranked by priority, with status updates and noted delivery timelines. Newport recommends Trello as a good option. You should also have a history of communicating with your boss when things get moved around, and if there’s a delay, of meeting (if not exceeding) new deadlines.

It comes down to your boss trusting you’ll get something done when they delegate it to you, regardless of when that happens. “It’s not so important you do it right away,” Newport says. “I just trust you’re going to get it done. That trust is a foundation for slower productivity.”

Newport says young workers should prioritize gaining a reputation for being organized.

“This will earn you a huge amount of autonomy and leverage going forward.”

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