Skip to main content


Patton's Picks: Slow Productivity

March 27, 2024

Leadership Resources for the Philanthropic Sector

15 In this edition of Patton's Picks, we explore Slow Productivity, the latest work by Cal Newport that presents a compelling case for reevaluating our work habits and priorities. This book offers a lifeline to nonprofit leaders who are striving to do meaningful work without succumbing to burnout. Newport’s three-part framework guides readers toward a more fulfilling and impactful approach to productivity. Here’s why each component of this framework is crucial for nonprofit leadership:

Reduce Your Obligations: The first step towards meaningful productivity is simplification. Newport advises that to make room for what truly matters, you need to critically assess and reduce your obligations. This principle encourages nonprofit leaders to focus on their mission's core elements, delegating or eliminating tasks that don't align with their highest priorities. It's about working smarter, not harder, to amplify your impact.

Give Your Goals the Time They Deserve: Rushing through tasks can compromise their quality and significance. Newport argues that your most important goals deserve careful, considered effort and ample time. This approach resonates with nonprofit leaders who are often tasked with complex, impactful projects that can't be rushed. By allocating the necessary time to these endeavors, leaders ensure that their work is not only completed but done so with the thoughtfulness and quality it deserves.

Focus on High-Quality Work: The essence of Slow Productivity is the unwavering focus on excellence. Newport contends that an obsession with producing high-quality work will naturally lead to rewards and recognition. For nonprofits, this means prioritizing outcomes that truly make a difference, investing in projects and initiatives that have a lasting impact on the communities they serve. This section underscores the value of patience and perseverance in achieving outstanding results.

Stay tuned for more of Patton's Picks, your essential guide to resources that challenge, enlighten, and prepare you for a rewarding leadership journey. By adopting the principles of Slow Productivity, we embark on a path that values depth, quality, and significance in our work, ensuring that as leaders in the nonprofit sector, we fulfill our missions without sacrificing our well-being.

Dr. Patton McDowell, CFRE, MBA, is the creator of the innovative PMA Mastermind Leadership Program, a unique offering designed to elevate nonprofit leaders through comprehensive training and peer collaboration. He is also the author of the best-selling book, Your Path to Nonprofit Leadership, and host of the weekly podcast with the same name, available here. Since founding PMA Nonprofit Leadership in 2009, Patton has strategically guided over 300 nonprofit organizations to achieve their fullest potential. A Certified Fundraising Executive and Master Trainer for AFP Global, he serves as Executive in Residence at Cornell University's Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and as Director of the Institute for Philanthropic Leadership.