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Professor: downshifting to success

According to a professor from Jyväskylä University, Finns are an anxious lot, with a narrow view on life dominated by the expectations of others. Life in a lower gear could be better.

Beach. Image: Heikki Rönty / Yle

Downshifters can in fact be successful in work, achieving more in less time.

So thinks Professor Juha Hakala from the University of Jyväskylä, who urges Finns to seize more control over their lives. Many, according to Hakala, are already performing at the limits of what is humanly possible.

In its relentless demand for efficiency, industry churns out lots of second-rate and even useless produce. At the same time, nearly one million Finns are taking drugs for depression, mood disorders and dementia.

Limited horizons

“I’m surprised how limited Finns’ ideas of the good life are,” Hakala says. “By the age of 28, one should have taken care of life’s major acquisitions, and have a 250,000 euro debt hanging over one’s head.”

As a teacher of young teachers, Professor Hakala is especially worried about the younger generations. However, he notes that communal values are on the rise. Young people now give greater importance to free time, family, health and good friends than some time ago.

Hakala is convinced that a more leisurely pace of life would help to generate more ideas and innovations.

“Good ideas need time to brew. Studies on creativity show that people need leisure time. It is hard to see great ideas emerging in a situation where people’s basic security is being eroded by the constant rounds of consultative talks,” professor Hakala muses.

Less is more

According to the professor, a person who has downshifted is likely to achieve more in a short time than those slaving away over long hours. Indeed, it has been found that usually 80 percent of work is carried out during 20 percent of working time.

Taking this into consideration, many could afford to loosen up.

As for how those working on minimum wages could afford to relax more, the professor has no immediate practical solution.

“I don’t have any recipe that could be applied to all workers. However, it is clear that something must be done to change Finnish working life and the way of life in general. We should respect and pay attention to what our bodies are telling us. Take it easy when you feel like it.”

Professor Hakala lives as he teaches: he has alternated two weeks of work with two weeks off. This is about to change next year, however, when the professor is due to reduce his leisure time down to about 30 percent. “That was an order from my boss,” Hakala confesses.

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