Book review: The Power of Slow

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the power of slow book coverNormally when I read books to review I take notes as I go.

But I have read The Power of Slow a couple of times, and I don’t have any notes on it.

I think I just got sucked in to the book, and read it fast, which was probably not the point.

Christine Louise Hohlbaum writes about techniques for being “slow” but she doesn’t mean managing your projects at a snail’s pace or missing milestones.

The book is subtitled 101 Ways to Save Time in our 24/7 World and for Hohlbaum, “slow” has a particular meaning.

“Slow means mindful,” she says. “When we become mindful, we automatically slow down to take a look at the big picture. It is not just about speed, but about the entire process of considering what’s truly important to you.”

In project management terms, being slow means better prioritization and being more productive. Each of the book’s chapters offers ten ways to save time by being better organized and clearer about what you actually want to achieve (except the last chapter, which just has one point, bringing the total to 101).

How often do you think that you could do the job of one of your team better and faster than they could?

Chapter 10 covers delegation:

“Keep a close watch on how the priorities of your project unfold, then delegate accordingly to ensure the highest quality outcome: Delegation requires a balancing act between autonomy and control. You want your delegates to soar while keeping an invisible tether on them in the event they get lost in the clouds: Milestones are important for checking in, but it is equally important to give your delegates a semblance of independence.”

Being able to share the work around is important for projects, as it means you can get more done, and manage the time more effectively. Oops.

According to Hohlbaum, time management doesn’t exist. “There’s no such thing as time management,” she writes, “since you can’t manage something you can’t control.”

Instead, she encourages readers to focus on managing what we do in the time that we have.

The book talks frequently about managing our relationship with time, and creating a better balance so that we don’t feel that time controls us. Essentially, this is all about the power of choice.

We can choose to listen actively to our project teams, when they bring us issues. Or we can listen with one ear while finishing off an email.

We can choose to say “yes” to every scope change, and then panic when the work won’t fit into the existing schedule. Or we can only take on what it is practical for the project to successfully deliver.

The Power of Slow is not a book about project management, but it is a useful book about the principles of working within the boundaries of time, and project managers do that every day.

There is some good advice in here about avoiding multi-tasking and getting rid of the little distractions that eat into the productive time in your working day.

If you want a purely project management take on getting the most out of your day and sitting in the comfy armchair of project management, read Peter Taylor’s The Lazy Project Manager. But if you want to take what you learned in that further, and really get to grips with what time means for you, in the workplace and at home, then read The Power of Slow.


  1. Nice review of this book,

    I found that while the Power of Slow talks about “managing” our relationship with time so that we don’t feel that time controls us, I think is misses the one key distinction.

    Stephen Covey makes a clear point in one of his books, I think it was the 7 Habits of Highly Successful people, when he says, “time management is a misnomer.’

    You can’t “manage” time, time just flows. But more importantly, what I took from this was that when you blame external things, like ‘time’, for your problems (i.e. “They didn’t give us enough time”) you give away all your power to change the situation.

    You must take 100% responsibility for your results.

    Thanks for the Power of Slow book review!

  2. Everyone like to work based on his/her developed plan rather than given one
    Everyone like manage him/herself rather than be managed by someone
    Everyone want to be respected as a reliable member

    I believe this is the human nature, so I think management should delegate planning job as much as possible because self planned task is the starter or motivator for self learning and self management. So based on this idea I developed my job management tool ChainOfAsker.

  3. The idea of slowness is interesting to me – there’s always a kind of prioritization that takes place with decision making. If you can sort out which decisions, or tasks, have the most leverage over the others, you can be patient in making them since when you do, it buys you more time than the ‘slow’ time it took to make that decision.

    This is why whenever I see a leader or manager that is always in panic mode, and *never* has time for anything, I know they’re never giving themselves the chance to invest more time in the right decisions. They’re always responding and if you’re always responding you can’t possibly be leading.

    It also makes me think saying NO is where it all starts. If you can’t say NO in your job, you can’t prioritize. if you can’t prioritize you can’t think. And if you can’t think you’re probably toast.

    1. Scott, I think that’s a good summary of the point Christine was making in the book – work out what is important to you and spend the time in a meaningful way on that, filtering out all the other things that have a lower (or no) priority. Hope your stint in Melbourne went well!

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