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When there’s too much for us to imagine actually completing, we short-circuit our executive functioning mechanisms, resulting in a feeling of anxious unease.
The autonomy that defines the professional lives of those who toil in front of computer screens has led us into a trap of excessive work volume. We cannot escape this trap by expanding the weekend. We must ultimately brace ourselves for the larger challenge of slowing down the pace of the workday itself.
Burnout happens when, over a period of time, our resources are depleted faster than they’re restored. It’s partially explained by exhaustion at work, cynicism toward the meaning of work, and a sense of inadequacy at work.
It’s mediated by workload, control, reward, community, fairness, and values. There’s a pretty substantial overlap between the symptoms of burnout and depression, as both entail a loss of motivation.
As long as the economy rewards productivity and efficiency, there will always be people:
It’s nice to think that some companies might adopt anti-burnout measures—minimizing those small tasks, and doling out fewer projects.
The central goal of Slow Productivity is to keep an individual worker’s volume at a sustainable level.
When our work volume increases, so do the accompanying overhead and stress, reducing both the time remaining to actually execute the tasks and the quality of the results. If we can work more sequentially, focusing on a small number of things at a time, waiting until they're done before bringing on new obligations, the rate at which we complete tasks might actually increase.
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