Dear Young Professional,
Every once in awhile I grab a book I have read, randomly open the pages and reread a paragraph or two. It’s interesting how this habit has a way of sending me a message I need.
Last week I opened The Good Life Project. This book was given to me from my dear friend Amanda, who has a gift in focusing one’s messages, and by extension so does this book.
I currently, like many of you have experienced, am in one of those periods in life where the professional and personal demands of my time have increased. Covering extra assignments at work, family events from graduations to weddings and the like all add things to my calendar and yet there is still only 24 hours in a day.
Feeling (admittingly self-inflicted) pressure to “get it all done” I started rushing from one item to the other with laser focus, so I could check things off the list. Proud of myself for handling the pressure, delivering to the team and getting kudos from my boss, I am thinking “I got this”.
And then I practiced my random book habit, ad what I read stopped me in my tracks. “What was I thinking?”
See, the book tells a story where a busy executive takes bike rides along the beach for exercise. Like most executives, the demands on his time is an issue, so the speed at which he could finish this event (about 43 minutes at break speed) was important so he could get to other pressing matters. Sound familiar?
However, as the story illustrates, living at this break neck speed is not sustainable. After time the task of the bike ride became less enjoyable and that pace started to seep into other areas of his life. Creating anxiety, stress and diminishing the quality of work.
The executive purposely slowed down his ride with the focus of enjoying the process and the sights, sounds and smells of beach living. What he learned is the same distance with this new approach he timed his ride at 45 minutes. 2 MINUTES MORE. That’s all he saved, 96% of the results by going slower and enjoying the process.
As I reflected in this passage from the book, I came to realize that there were small signs from my team that I had chosen speed and busyness. Let’s not fool ourselves… speed and busyness are a choice. Phrases like; “I don’t want to bother you I know you are busy” or “I know you don’t have a lot of time…” started to be the standard opening to many conversations.
With the reflection of the book’s story in my mind, I started to listen to signs and asked, “what if I slowed down a bit could I get 96% of the results and not kill myself in the process”? While I am not racing miles down the beach on a bike, I was trying to race out the door every morning on the way to work. Leaving very small tasks for “when I get home” which only added to my stress at the end of the day.
I started to look for small actions I could take that might add up to a difference. Below is a list of five things I tried, and what I found out, it only added about 5 minutes to my commute to work in the morning and allowed me to connect with my team and my husband again.
- Empty the dishwasher (I hate this task) from the night before so I have nothing to do but prep dinner and enjoy my kitchen when I get home.
- Have my first cup of coffee without watching the news, allows me to hear the birds from the nearby wetlands or have quiet cuddle time with my corgi pup.
- Slow down my thinking and be present as I move through the workplace.
- Stop thinking of that next meeting when grabbing coffee of filling up the water bottle and talk to those around, after all if they are in public places they too are taking a quick timeout from the desk.
- Stop and say good morning to those who arrive before me as I make my way to my office.
- HIT the reset button on my drive home. Use this time to start decompressing my day’s thoughts so I can be calm ready and present when I walk though my front door. Pick song selections that add to my energy.
- Reconnect with my spouse, rushing to work and rushing back into the house I wasn’t taking to connect with my hubby even for 10 minutes to see how his day went, or I was ½ listening while I multi-tasked other activities.
While I cannot measure if I am getting 96% more or less achieved, I can say anecdotally I feel calmer, my to-do list is getting done and I feel more focused on how to get things done.
Sometimes life throws us an unplanned curveball and we are thrust into the breakneck speed of life but ask yourself this question. If you feel you are living at breakneck speed, the projects, pressure for promotion, kids’ events, time clicking to get married or have a baby…is that speed your choice?
If you decide speed and busyness is a choice you made as YOUR response to the demands of your life, start small to unplug and slow down. Even if it’s just a little bit like my examples above. Still get everything that really matters done but find those small pockets where you can take it down a beat.
- Maybe it’s not projecting your speed and stress on your spouse or kids when you drop them off at school, and teaching them “hurried is better”
- Maybe it’s taking 15 minutes at the end of you day to plan your approach to the next work day demands
- Maybe it’s taking the longer route to the bathroom, copy machine for a few extra seconds away from your desk see different co-workers along the way
- Drive a different route to work forcing you to look at a new environment
Try it on for size, write done 3-5 small steps you can take to start to slow down the speed of life. You just might surprise yourself as to how you can get it done without killing yourself and those around you.