2 min read

How work’s evolution has made it harder to disconnect

In the last several decades work has sped way up and efficiency has been rewarded with more work. Here's how to break that cycle.
How work’s evolution has made it harder to disconnect
Photo by tommy bachman / Unsplash

Sustain issue #7 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

Software developers and designers are two of the best functions I know at controlling their pace and setting boundaries. Why? Their work is specialized so most people don’t actually know how long it takes which gives them ultimate control.

What if we acted more like this?

Decades ago in my world of marketing, days would be consumed by waiting for market research to trickle in, thinking about messages that would resonate with that audience, and then supervising an ad agency. The pace was very reasonable.

Compare that to what marketing looks like today: Evaluating new channels that crop up, servicing dozens of existing channels, creating daily content, constantly measuring impact, and ensuring tech stacks and data flows are optimized. Let’s not forget about growth hacking *barf*.  The pace is sped way up.

In work today, we’re praised when we figure out how to do something more efficiently, only to be rewarded with more work with the newfound free time. This cycle continues until we’re pissed off and exhausted productivity bots.

“This is the dystopian reality of productivity culture,” as my favorite Anne Helen Peterson puts it. “Its mandate is never ‘You figured out how to do my tasks more efficiently, so you get to spend less time working.’ It is always: ‘You figured out how to do your tasks more efficiency, so you must now do more tasks.’”

Is it any surprise why today’s workforce leaves their jobs more quickly and moves to the next one with the false hope it will be better?

Work’s evolution has made it harder to disconnect. Here’s what to do instead.

We inherently know more rest leads to better work. But working more hours with less rest wins out day after day.

Anne Helen Peterson again: “You start to get diminishing returns, the sort that no number of fancy planners or five minute meditations or ruthless neglect of other parts of your life could correct.”

What if, instead of productivity always beating out rest, we intentionally went at a slower pace. Sure you could do that activity quicker, but should you?

Think like a software developer or designer.

What if you worked at a pace where you reclaim time to restore yourself today so you can do, not more, but better work tomorrow? And then did that day after day until you’ve reoriented how you prioritize work vs. life.  

Go at a sustainable pace for your self-preservation and as a signal you care about quality, not quantity in your work. It’s a harmless form of rebellion to our hustle burnout culture.

At a sustainable pace,


Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.

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