Slowing Down – How To

This is part 3 of a series of 3 blog posts on how slowing down can actually improve effectiveness and productivity. This focuses on practical aspects.
The first one’s called “Are you living your life too fast?” and the second is “Benefits of SLOW living“.

How to slow down?

I’m a fairly fast person. Multitasking is my middle name and I can get things done faster than normal people. But – guess what! – most of my time is spent on petty stuff.
So, I’d say, slowing down on the petty stuff is not going to make you more productive. This post is not devoted to help you slow down in general. Just in the right areas.
The whole idea of slowing down is that it helps you get the perspective.

You wouldn’t respond to 50 emails a day if you knew it takes 2 hours for each, right? You’d pick the most important 2-3 emails and devote your time only to those.

Now, imagine you’re applying the same principle throughout the day.

The No.1 rule for slowing down – look at “the right way” to do the process.

When we think fast, we want results. Now. 4e23r453r5f45t6546y75y7
When I think of process, a Japanese Tea Ceremony comes to mind. In the end, it’s all about drinking tea. But the whole intricate process prepared in delivering that tea is thought through, carefully executed and attention is paid to the minor details. The fine art of the tea pervades to the smallest aspects of the ceremony. And no Japanese master ever exclaimed “Why don’t we just pour water over some instant tea?”

The Japanese have a principle that pervades throughout their entire lifestyle. It’s called “respecting the right way” to do things. There’s a “right way” for almost anything – the most famous are tea making, arranging flowers (ikebana) or origami. But truth is, the Japanese would probably not be where they are now, if it wouldn’t be for their patience, slowness, and attention to details.

Most times we just want to “get things done”. We care too little about how they are done.
That’s why people don’t get coached, they get delegated tasks.
That’s why people don’t get performance evaluations, they get “you’re fired” emails.

We care too little about the “right process”, and devoting time to all the little steps. Remember the saying “A Project Manager is a guy who thinks 9 pregnant women will deliver a baby in a month?” Well, we got to that mindset.

So, next time when you rush into a meeting frantically planning an initiative that’s supposed to happen next week, slow down.

Coaching Questions for getting the right process – and Slowing Down:

What’s the final result that needs to happen?

What if you put that into perspective?

If you had no resource limitations, what would be the ideal result?

What needs to happen in order to get the ideal result?

What is “the right way” for that process?

At this moment, you can expect to get a lot of objections like  “But we don’t have the luxury of time”, or “We don’t have that many people” or “The budget’s too tight”.
And of course, we can’t all have ideal projects. But if the difference between what you can get and the “ideal picture” is too large, then maybe you need to let the project go.

If you can’t do it right, just let it go.

Eat cooked food. Let fast food go.
Spend time with your dear ones. Skip the messenger and texting.
Get out. Skip the computer.

Enjoy life. Slow down.

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  • Mihai
    June 16, 2010

    nice article!

    also “is this objective really necessary for the current goal?” would be a good question I think.

  • Maria
    June 17, 2010

    Thank you Mihai!
    Yes, very good question to check the bigger picture. We do so many unnecessary tasks, that are just “pebbles” and we forget about the “big rocks”, like Covey would put it.

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