It seems counter-intuitive to slow down when we have busy schedules and a huge To Do list. There’s always something that needs to be done in a hurry. It becomes an ingrained pattern of behaviour.
A fast pace can be exciting and exhilarating.
It can also be exhausting, disconnecting and lead to burnout.
A time and a place for fast
Fast is useful when you have strong relationships, high levels of trust and everyone is in sync. If you have a specific deadline, you might need the team to push through to achieve it on occasion. This is fine if it is for a critical deadline. It becomes damaging if pushing through becomes the norm and every deadline becomes critical. (Hint: not every deadline is critical!)
Fast is crucial in a crisis to avoid or recover from a disaster. If you see a child run in front of a bus, there is no time to reflect. You act. The result (making the child safe) is more important than the relationship in this moment. Your primary focus is to save a life. Fast is the only option.
When we switched to remote working for the pandemic, technical teams implemented projects in days that would normally take years or months. The urgency created the speed.
A fast pace is therefore driven by the desire to achieve results quickly.
But it was also exhausting. It’s not sustainable in the long-term.
Not everybody can go at the same pace. What is fast for one person, is slow for another. A stress-induced fast pace can lead to burn out, both for you and for your team.
A time and a place for slowing down
Whilst slowing down seems counter-intuitive, the faster a conversation becomes, the more confused people are, and the more people struggle to keep up.
When people focus on speed, they focus on putting their own point of view across, focus on what they already know and cease to listen to others. Creativity and innovation cannot occur. People don’t feel heard and understood, leading to people disconnecting and feeling less valued.
When you slow down conversation, there is more space for dialogue, listening and curiosity. This leads to understanding others better, it builds relationships more quickly and creates more inclusion and less division. When relationships are strong, you can go faster when it’s needed!
Slowing down is paradoxically a crucial component of speeding up. We can achieve more and faster when we slow down and embrace dialogue and listening. Slowing down provides clarity on what you are thinking and feeling, enabling you to make more measured decisions by integrating the head, heart and gut.
Time to reflect
Reflection is crucial to enable us to access additional information. Most people get their best ideas in the shower or walking the dog because their mind has often slowed enough to allow creativity to occur.
Many people tell me they don’t have time to reflect. I’d argue you don’t have not to. Reflection enables new insights that can help solve problems quicker. If you’ve had the same issue for days, weeks or months, reflection could provide you with the answer. Stop and reflect on what you can do differently.
Reflection is also a critical step in the process of learning. If you reflect, you can identify what you’ve done well, what your impact was and how you can improve. Reflection creates self-awareness and enables deeper understanding.
Reflection provides new insights on old situations. It enables you to explore different ways of leading to get a quicker result.
Reflection requires you to slow down. By slowing down, you speed up relationships and ultimately the results. In the absence of the daily commute, we need to create time for reflection every day.
12 ways to slow down
Slowing down doesn’t always mean taking a day off or a two-week holiday. Slowing down can become a part of your everyday practice whilst working instead of collapsing in a heap several times a year! Here are some (quick!) ideas:
- Notice your breathing – For one minute every hour, check your breathing and slow it down. You should ideally take 10 breaths a minute
- Pay attention to your body – notice any tension in your body, breathe into it and allow your breath to release the tension and relax the muscles
- Speak more slowly – we talk faster under pressure. By slowing down deliberately, you invoke calm and can resolve differences of opinion more easily
- Consider other perspectives – Before making a decision, ask yourself: what other perspective is there on this that I’ve not yet considered?
- Allow contingency time – assume everything will take longer than you expect – it usually does! Contingency time will enable you to deal with unforeseen issues
- Invite the quiet ones to speak – the quieter ones in the team often reflect more, observe better and can slow the pace down, allowing a calmer state for everyone
- Match a slower pace – don’t always go at the pace of the fastest. Reduce your pace to the pace of the slower ones in the team
- Take regular breaks – finish meetings in 25 or 50 minutes to give yourself space to breathe in between. Think of it as reflection time instead of walking across the office for a coffee or to your next meeting
- Use the Pomodoro Technique – it enables you to work in a more focused and efficient way
- Book a lunch break in your diary – even if you don’t use all of the time as a break, use it to work at a slower pace
- Say no to whizzy new ideas – it’s easy to get caught up in new ideas. In order to do something new, consider what you are letting go of in order to create space for it
- Step outside for 5 minutes in between meetings to bring your heart rate and breathing down
Pay attention to your pace throughout the day.
What’s your default pace and what pace is appropriate to the different situations you encounter?
Make leadership easy. When it isn’t, there is always another way of doing things.