I often set the cruise control at 75 when traveling the interstates (yes, I’m aware this is speeding, but that’s another post for another day). Even at this speed, I spend a lot of time in the slow lane because of the many vehicles blowing my doors off as they zip past. The speed of travel is simply symptomatic of the speed of life today. The increased pace is seen everywhere - in young families with multiple kids participating in multiple activities in an attempt to keep up with the Jones’; in our high schools where students feel pressure to choose between building college resumes and enjoying the best years of their lives; and in our social lives where fewer people have time for deep friendships. It’s well documented that the speed at which information is available is unprecedented and increasing exponentially. To attempt to keep up is futile. Because of the impossibility of staying ahead of the curve in all these areas, I have a suggestion - stop trying and instead take a different, counterintuitive approach. Slow down!
Two weeks ago I wrote about the importance of creating urgency and how doing so often increases productivity. But urgency has a potential downside too. When urgency produces panic, productivity usually suffers. But when urgency produces focus and intentionality, productivity and effectiveness flourish. Here is the winning formula:
Urgency --> Focus + Intentionality = Productivity and Effectiveness
One of the keys to this formula is understanding that the arrow requires a pause. In other words, there is a yield sign at the beginning of the path to increased productivity.
Bypassing this pause will lead straight to panic, poor results, frustration, and burnout. With the idea of slowing down added to the productivity formula it can look like this:
Urgency –(s-l-o-w)-> Focus + Intentionality = Productivity and Effectiveness
Here are three benefits of slowing down:
Slowing down positions you to do the right thing the first time.
There is something to be said for trial and error. Some of life’s best learnings come from experimentation and failure. Yet there are times the error can be avoided altogether by simply slowing down at the beginning and thinking through a plan. I used to coach my little leaguers to count “one, one thousand” before chasing down a fly ball. It takes just a second to determine where the ball is going. To start moving in the wrong direction can be costly. The same is true in life. Slow down, assess, and then move quickly in the right direction.
Slowing down increases the quality of your work.
Is it better to get a lot of average work done or a little excellent work? Well, it really depends. When I started blogging I was coached to write every week even if I didn’t feel it was that good (sorry, readers). But when writing contracts or proposals it is critical that the writing is precise, which takes more time. My suggestion is to slow down long enough to determine if the situation calls for quality or quantity and then adjust appropriately.
Slowing down keeps your motives in check.
Perhaps the top reason so many are so busy is that it feels good to accomplish a lot. Checking off boxes, looking at a pile of work completed, or obtaining a large bank account can all bring a sense of satisfaction. There is nothing wrong with feeling good about a hard day’s work. In fact, work ethic is of great importance and can show a lot about a person’s character. However, value should be derived not by what you do but by who you are. That’s why it is always better to ask, “How does this grow my character?” before asking, “How will this make me look or feel?” Funny thing is, when character is pursued, accomplishments and satisfaction often follow.
What intentional effort can you make in some area of your life to slow down this week? Chances are you’ll be better for it.