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4 strategies to accomplish more by slowing down

In the fast-paced business world, slowing down can actually be the best way to accomplish more, writes Joel Garfinkle.

6 min read


slowing down

(Stefan Rotter/Getty Images)

You really can accomplish more in life by slowing down. Today, we live in a society that glorifies busyness, as if long hours and a flurry of chaotic motion equals maximum productivity. If you’re tired of the constant feelings of near-emergency and impending doom that come with the rush syndrome lifestyle, you might want to check out my book, “Are You Always Stress and Hurrying at Work?” for a complete guide on rewiring your overly busy approach. 

To get you started on the path to a lower-stress life, read below for a few of the topics and techniques I often use with my executive coaching clients. I will explain why slowing down will accomplish as much (or more) while improving your quality of life.

1. Be more present

Most of us do our best, most creative and innovative work when we’re calm and focused on the here and now. But there are always a million things — big and small — vying for our attention every day. We also spend a lot of thought energy dwelling on past mistakes and simultaneously worrying about the future. No wonder we are eager to learn how to reduce stress at work. Staying present, however, is a skill you can build. I recommend my clients start with identifying and reducing the triggers that can pull them out of their most productive state.

Action step — create a better atmosphere for focus. Think about your work environment and make a list of the things that increase your stress and push you into panic mode. What steals your time in insidious ways? Do you find yourself scrolling on the phone? Put it away and restrict yourself to minimum check-ins. Are you quickly drawn into a conversation? Close your door while you complete a specific task, or put on noise-canceling headphones with a “check back in 30 minutes” sign. Not only will you feel more present and focused on the task at hand, but you’ll also find a sense of calm that comes from a singular focus.

2. Lower your sense of urgency

That sense of “go-go-go” sometimes feels like enthusiasm but is usually rush syndrome in disguise. Except in situations of genuine emergency, that kind of urgent thinking is rarely the way to tap into your most visionary mind. No doubt you were given your current position because of the experience, skill and critical thinking you’ve displayed in the past. To capitalize on your best judgment and truly shine, you need to dispel the panic and give yourself free rein to think and reflect. Start by making more space for your best self.

Action step — take ownership of your time. I tell my clients to begin by getting control of their calendars. Decline unnecessary meetings, learn to delegate known or repeatable tasks to your team and start scheduling in time for you to work on the deliverables that only you can do. Don’t allow distractions, and resist switching tasks – stick to what you booked the time for. There is plenty of evidence that multi-tasking is a myth — it will steal your precious time AND make you feel less accomplished. 

3. Have better mental and physical health

More and more, my clients are coming to me with the chief goal of achieving a better work-life balance. Work promotions and on-the-job accolades cannot make up for feeling burnt out, unwell and too exhausted to enjoy the other parts of our lives. If you’re like many of my clients who want to achieve better physical and mental health, it’s time to take up habits that can help you achieve career success while still prioritizing the critical personal things in life.

Action step — develop strong personal management. So many speakers and books will go on at length about the virtues of managing your time and energy at work, but never consider how you manage your off hours. How do you reduce stress? At home? At work? Do you have good self-care habits? Do you make time for friends and family? It is impossible to be top of your game for the time you spend at work if you spend the remaining hours neglecting your physical and mental health. Find stress and anger management practices that work for you and commit to regularly practicing the techniques that keep you well. Whether that’s meditation, deep breathing exercises, singing or dancing (alone or in groups), physical exertion like running or shadow boxing or just walking in nature, do what works. Tons of scientific studies demonstrate and explain why these habits work to keep us emotionally and physically attuned; pick some and stick to them. 

4. Fully enjoy your downtime

I cannot be clear enough: you deserve rest, both mentally and physically. Never feel bad about entirely “switching off” to live your life, and don’t wait until your vacation (though definitely schedule and take that, too). Clients often overwork themselves, only to find themselves either too tired or too preoccupied with their jobs to enjoy it when they do have time off. Every day needs a recharge cycle, one that includes leisure, human connection and quality sleep. Start building the habits that set healthy boundaries — for you and others — on work time versus personal time.

Action step — take your time off. Make it easier on yourself, and start with small goals you can build on, or try situations where you must go “cold turkey” — whichever you know will work better for you. Make rules for yourself — no email after 6 pm, no phones at the table, whatever will bring you back to the present moment.  Turn off your phone or turn off notifications. While you’re building this skill, book a vacation where there’s no service, or leave your work phone at home. When I talked about controlling your calendar — personal time is no exception; don’t forget to block off the hours you need for rest and personal wellness, as well as for your friends and family.

When you learn how to slow down, you will accomplish so much more. Even better, you will feel calmer, more focused and more satisfied with your work. Not only will you enjoy your job more when you quit rushing, but you will enjoy your off hours more, too. Even though it may feel slow and methodical at first, when you consistently practice no-stress habits, you will quickly see improvements. By devoting your full attention to your highest priorities, you’ll achieve more impressive results.

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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