Slow Down and Get Ahead

In today’s fast-paced, highly-connected world of multitasking, life hacks and FOMO we tend to always be on the edge of exhaustion. And we’re constantly reminded by our bodies and minds that the pace of life is spinning dangerously out of control. But what if we were to slow down? Not just as an act of defiance or desperation, but because it could truly make a positive difference in how we feel and perform. Herewith, four reasons why you should slow down and the payoff that comes from taking the slow and steady approach.

Quick decisions can be dangerous decisions.

A good leader is thought to make up their minds quickly and decisively. But in their book, Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work, brothers and academics Chip and Dan Heath break down why rushing to make a decision is a mistake. We tend to immediately lock ourselves into one alternative, they explain. We ask ourselves, for example, whether to fire an underperforming worker—as if that’s the only choice we have. Heath asks you to imagine that your current options are vanishing. Do this and you’ll often discover an answer that’s better than what you had initially been considering. (Move the employee to a role he’s better suited for? Provide a mentor to improve his performance?) The authors illustrate that people who had considered even one additional alternative did six times better than those who had considered only a single option.

You have built-in systems. Care for them.

We all have systems we develop for how we work both at home and at work. When you feel overwhelmed and busy, they can be the first thing we neglect. But when those go uncared for, things can fall apart quickly. If you’re a list-maker, take time at the end or beginning of each week to go over what you’ve accomplished and what still needs to be done. If you’re they type that can’t be at peace without a cleaned-out inbox, then make sure you schedule in time to prune through everything so you aren’t stressed or burdened by an avalanche of unopened emails. It may seem like you’re not “being productive” but this work allows you to focus (and often doesn’t take much time).

There’s a reason you think better on vacation.

Journalist (and rehabilitated speedaholic) Carl Honoré refers to this as “slow thinking” in his book, In Praise of Slow. “Slow thinking is intuitive, woolly, and creative. It is what we do when the pressure is off, and there is time to let ideas simmer on the back burner. It yields rich, nuanced insights and sometimes surprising breakthroughs.” How do you bring that to your day-to-day workflow? By consciously slowing down. When you do this, you’ll realize that you likely have more time than you think to complete a task. When you allow yourself to get overwhelmed with the pressures of time, you likely jump from task to task, which often leads to cutting corners or opportunities, forcing you to revisit the task later. If you focus intently and deliberately on getting one thing done at a time, you’ll see that you can put much more thought into and get it finished in less time.

Take a pause. And be heard.

Our impulse is often to jump into action. But a brief pause allows you many opportunities to gain your thoughts and evaluate options. Slow down when speaking with a colleague and allow them to finish their thought before giving your input. Often, in hopes of getting our point across, we talk at, over, and past each other, rather than with each other. When you slow down, it gives you both time to truly process one another’s ideas.

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