What’s the hurry? Lately I’ve been thinking about the speed at which we’re all moving. For as long as I can remember the belief has been widely held that it pays to move fast! The busier we are, the more important we are too, right? And, technology continues to evolve in support of this idea. It seems everyone is zipping around like roadrunners beep beeping their way through life. As it becomes seemingly faster it’s no wonder the term “slow your roll!” is becoming more and more popular.
Ask my family members or anyone whose worked with me and they’ll agree: I was ALL IN on the go – go – go lifestyle. I was fast at everything: fast talker, fast walker, fast responder, mover and shaker. And, yes I shook things up, frequently without being aware of my impact. The old saying ‘letting life pass you by, and leaving a trail of dust behind’ rings true for me in this context. What was the benefit of my ‘always on’ behavior?
While I was successful by conventional standards, here is the reality: I was scattered, I wasn’t fully present to others, my decisions were too brisk at times, I didn’t get enough sleep and was generally unfulfilled without a real clue as to why. There were times when I didn’t like myself and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one!
This is a frequent topic with my coaching clients. Issues around relationships, ability to achieve goals, indecisiveness, time management and overall performance abound. The answers usually only come with making a habit of slowing down. These explorations with clients have helped build this list of 5 things you can put into practice. Here’s what I know: making just one of these steps a habit will harness the spinning and bring a new ease to your daily grind.
- Set daily intentions BEFORE checking social media and inbox messages. I’ve learned the hard way that convincing myself to check in first backfires every time. Once I’m in the work it’s difficult to pull back out of it. The adage ‘plan your work, work your plan’ is the idea with an added element: ‘plan your energy, energize your plan’! This time should be spent not only capturing goals for the day but also checking in with personal energy. What’s present? How will it serve? Setting the energy you want to bring and being intentional about how you show up is as powerful as planning what you do. It sets the course for getting things done while being connected to the work and others in a mutually satisfying way.
- Treat drive time as reflection time. A creative solution to an unbending in-office calendar! Leave the radio and phone calls behind for a few. Ponder mindfully: How did today go? How did I show up? Where were there wins and misses? Become practiced at leaving the ‘why’s’ behind as this often results in either self-justification or self-judgment. Rather take an objective view and see what it offers. Don’t drive? This works on trains and planes too! The point is to create the reflective space.
- Integrate the PAUSE button. I’ve seen this work in many different client applications. Each has their own ‘reminder’ for holding a response to things that may trigger a less than ideal outcome. One client is aware that activating the pause button before he enters his home after a long day at work ensures the day’s frustrations don’t spill over to his family. The pause creates needed mental transition time. Another has a particular co-worker who has a tendency to push her buttons. The pause button is used prior to interacting with said co-worker. Here we learn that other’s energy miraculously changes when we check our negative energy and projections at the door. And another has a simple sticky note on their computer with the pause button icon to remind her to think before sending her usual super direct emails that can be perceived as off putting and curt. Using the pause to become mindful of emotion allows all these interactions to go much more smoothly – with considerable gains.
- Take time to get outside and walk. This one shows up time and time again as a solution when clients are in high stress, high demand project implementations or nearing burnout – quick use of a pause button far from reach! I’ve seen some creative implementations especially when clients felt there was no pleasant outdoor area available. Becoming mindful of what is possible vs. what isn’t allows for some really cool secret spots to appear. Some also use ear-buds and soothing music to increase the impact! Fast Company recently posted a mid-day walk challenge and the outcomes speak to how this practice fuels results.
- Begin a meditation practice. While all of these show up in my life in various forms, my foundation for ensuring I am in the present moment and act with intention is meditation. This 15-minute ritual of quieting the mind through focus on the breath while acknowledging and letting go of thoughts as they appear brings new levels of focus to my day and calm to every situation. By taking time to be present to myself, I am more equipped to show up fully for others. Don’t have 15 minutes? You can make this 30 seconds to start – it will serve. Here, Dan Harris talks benefits and teaches Stephen Cobert how to do it. For a quick how-to check out this guide.
Frequent responses to the idea of slowing down are “impossible”, “that’s too simple, how could it really make a difference?”, “I’ll look weak if I take this time for myself”, and worst “I don’t deserve it. I haven’t accomplished enough yet”. Yes, it’s hard to make a commitment to slowing down when we feel so busy in the near term and yet it’s proven to create clarity, focus, better outcomes and more fulfillment in the end. If we are always trying to get somewhere we are certainly missing out on a ton of juicy stuff available in the here and now. If you need help, consider hiring a coach. (Google CEO Eric Schmidt succinctly speaks to the value here.) Coaching is all about being present to what is and creating space to achieve more resonant outcomes.
No matter how you choose to make it happen, remember you can always begin again. No need for the pressure of an all-or-nothing approach – that just feeds the need for speed! Simply start. And, if you get side tracked start again. The more you allow yourself to experience the benefits, the more you’ll commit to new habits and open up to the idea that it pays to slow down.
Please share your perspectives! What steps have you taken to slow down and create better experiences? What are your reactions to these ideas?