Why I care about Unhurried Productivity

14th Apr 2022


I’ve been going on about Unhurried Productivity for a while now. I thought you’d like to know why this topic is so important to me personally.


Back in the mid-90’s, I was a driven young 20-something professional. I was in my first real leadership role, as New Zealand National Manager for the international recruitment company Robert Walters. I was in charge of two offices and responsible for growing and running a business in a fast moving, hyper-competitive market. I had no leadership experience or training. But I had energy to burn and an ego to feed. I went for it.


The days were long, and the nights were often sleepless. I was on a plane a couple of times a week, constantly on the phone and email, trying to find the balance between fighting fires, serving clients, and taking the business forward. My answer was to work hard, then harder. Then harder still.


At one point, I remember stocking the work fridge with Red Bull and drinking 4-5 cans per day just to keep fuelled. I had no time for regular exercise, and my social life was pretty much centred on work functions. 


This is not a sustainable picture, people.


One Monday morning, after I’d taken a long weekend to get some respite, I got a call from a furious client. I’d promised to get them some CV’s over the weekend, but my brain had shut down and I’d completely neglected to send them. 


That night, lying in bed in the small hours, I woke up in tears saying “I can’t do this anymore.” The next day I went into the office and told the team I was at breaking point. I ended up taking six weeks off. For the first few weeks, I avoided picking up the phone or leaving the house. I was a wreck. My confidence was shattered and my ideas of what ‘success’ meant had vaporised.


Eventually, after a session with a counsellor and getting sick of being a hermit, I decided to take a few days to walk the Abel Tasman trail at the top of New Zealand’s South Island. I went solo – well, I brought my demons with me – with the aim of finding my centre again. It helped. After a few days of walking, reflecting and listening, I found myself sitting on an empty beach towards the end of the trip. I had an epiphany moment that changed everything.


I realised I was working hard for all the wrong reasons. I was in a rush to prove myself as a leader. I was driven to please everyone all of the time: clients, bosses, and staff. And I believed if I didn’t do it, it wouldn’t get done right. Those factors drove me to work like a nutter. Eventually, it cost me.


It took me five years to rebuild my confidence to step into a leadership role again. Yet this time around, I was more measured. I recruited a team around me to share the leadership. We developed a strategy that we stuck to, which meant that we said no to more opportunities than we said yes to. We prioritised wellbeing, and gave ourselves plenty of space to think, reflect and chill. We played the long game rather than the short game. And it worked.


I still work hard. I love what I do. Yet now I pace myself. Not everything has to be done today, nor by me. I’m in the business of serving my clients, and I know I can only do that to my best if I also serve myself. I prioritise the things that sustain me. And I focus on the disciplines of energy management, intention management and attention management rather than time management. 


For example, I make plenty of time to get out into nature, to read, and to have long exploratory conversations with friends. On the surface, those things may not appear ‘productive’. Yet I’ve come to learn that nothing is more essential to my productivity.


Unhurried Productivity is essentially about playing the long game well. As Change Makers participant James McCulloch said to me recently, “you’ve got to enjoy the journey at least as much as the destination.”


If you relate to my story, I reckon you’re not alone. Too many of us find ourselves running on fumes far too often.


The first step to becoming more unhurriedly productive is to have an acute awareness of how you spend your time. I’m developing an Unhurried Productivity diagnostic tool that’s designed to help you track your levels of energy and productivity over the course of a week. If you’d like to use the tool when it’s ready, let me know here and you’ll be the first to access it!


Also check out my overview on what Unhurried Productivity is all about and why we need it.




Like this post? When you’re ready, here are three ways I can help you further:

  • Sign up to my ‘Thinking from the Edge’ newsletter to get tips, insights and early release information that I don’t share on the usual social channels. Delivered weekly to your inbox.
  • Get my book, Change Makers: How to make your mark with more impact and less drama. It’s available here.
  • Check out Change Makers Kick Start – an online course + community to help you make your mark with more impact and less drama.