How To Work Smarter, Not Longer, And Relish The Slow Life

Less is more — it works in fashion, cooking, and at the workplace?  Indeed, says Bill Powers, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute who decided to chop his work-week by more than half and opted for a small New York City apartment with minimal wares to test out the “slow life.”

After spending more than a decade, bopping about the world, and working on improving the quality of life in developing countries, Powers realized he could improve his own as well.  To do so, he embarked on a year-long experiment: could he live a simpler, slower life in New York City, a 24/7 metropolis that favors speed and money?  He catalogues his journey in his latest book, New Slow City.

This month, Sweden announced that the country would experiment with 6-hour work days.   Critics say it’s not possible in the US where our workforce is tied to the clock and a standard 40-hour week.

Powers offers an alternative perspective.  It is possible to cut down, even if you’re tied to a cubicle job, he says.  And even if you’re in the fast-paced cities of the world.

Esha Chhabra: Can you please break down the 20 hour work week?  What does it look like?

Bill Powers: Personally, I slashed my working hours from over 50 a week to 20—just Tuesdays and Wednesdays— with a five-day weekend. My time was split between freelance consulting, writing and speaking gigs. 

Two ideas helped make the new arrangement work.  One, “Parkinson’s Law:” that work expands to fill the time available, and second, the “80/20 Principle” whereby we achieve 80% of productivity in 20% of our time. In any particular month, I might look at all the potential work streams that I could pursue, and distill out that week’s most strategic two or three in terms of income-to-time-invested and my current level of enthusiasm.

Read the full interview at


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