Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to get things done, and how little time there is?
The usual reaction to seeing time ticking away is to pick up the pace; to work a bit faster; to cut corners. And that sometimes works – if you’re running late to catch a flight, it might pay to hurry along before it’s too late. But I find that more often than not, the faster pace becomes the new norm, and the next step is to increase the pace once more in a never-ending cycle.
I’m not peddling a life-changing method; this is not something which has come to me in a blinding flash; it’s not something I’ve read about in a new age book; nor is it about more haste less speed.
I’ve just finally realised that I genuinely get more done when I slow down. I’m better prepared for meetings; I spend less time reworking things; I have more time to give to others; my thinking is more considered.
So here are some of the specific things which have helped me:
Walk away from it
I was recently preparing for a big presentation and was struggling with the best way of delivering an important message. I had pushed words around the slide, I’d changed the wording, I’d tried it forwards and backwards and it just never felt right. I figured it wasn’t the right time to be doing it, and that I needed to put it to one side whilst I caught up with my admin. Within a few seconds of doing something completely different, it suddenly came to me and I had a beautifully straightforward, elegant message – solved. This effect is not uncommon and we’ve all experienced it at some time. But when we’re under pressure (usually time) to deliver, it is difficult to convince ourselves that we’ll get there sooner by walking away from it.
Speak to strangers
The world is packed with amazing people. Their skills, experiences and attitudes lie inaccessible to us because for the most part, those people are strangers. And they will remain strangers until we talk to them. And until that time, our own skills, experiences and attitudes are inaccessible to others too. When we’re rushing to meet deadlines, the last thing we feel like doing is stopping and introducing ourselves to strangers. But by doing so, we open doors. Strangers can be a source of inspiration, or opportunity, or even a sounding board. It doesn’t always work, but it works enough to make it worthwhile.
Slow down on the roads
I love driving fast – it’s fun – and I’m certainly not advocating taking the fun out of life. But it’s a fact that journey times on roads are only very loosely connected to our instantaneous speed. It’s the amount of traffic on the roads which has the biggest impact on the journey time. Slowing down not only saves lives and fuel, but it also gives us more time to think and at the same time makes slowing down at other times in your day feel more natural.
Beware the lure of social networking
It’s here to stay in one form or another, and delivers many benefits. But social networking comes at a price – it robs us of time, encourages nosiness, and all but the most disciplined fall for it. Somehow we feel compelled to check back to get minute-by-minute updates from our “friends” around the world – even when we know that less frequent checks would work just as well. Somehow, we feel that doing it privately (on our mobiles) makes it less of a problem, less noticeable. It’s certainly usually less noticeable, but it’s just as much of a problem because it stops us from doing so much else. Would we still do it if we had to stand up with our hand in the air before “just checking on so-and-so”? Probably not. I’m absolutely not advocating outright rejection of social media, but I am suggesting that by being aware of it and cutting back, we can achieve so much more with the people around us.
Take a different route
Creatures of habit, when all other things are equal, we tend to go the same way to and from work every day. We like the fact that we don’t have to think about it. We just switch on the autopilot, and go. Our minds race or go blank; our eyes glaze over and our ears block out all but the most urgent or unusual. We go into a self-induced dormant state in which we’re moving physically, but not progressing mentally. By taking a different route we reactivate our brains, allow ourselves to take in the sights, sounds, smells and everything else around us. We see things differently, or perhaps the same things from a different perspective.
Perhaps what I’m suggesting is slightly akin to taking time to smell the roses. I don’t mean that from a “this-is-what-life-is-all-about” perspective. Simply that by slowing down, I get a whole load more done. It might work for you too.