While doing complex process reengineering and IT projects at Waste Management, I learned a valuable lesson: slow down to go fast. This can be a hard lesson for people to learn, since the time we spend understanding a problem, planning an approach, and finding the resources we need can seem inordinate when we’re under pressure to get stuff done. However, this work pays off and we can move so much more quickly when everyone is on the same page, knows what they need to do, and has processes, metrics and tools in place to adapt and change direction when necessary.
My team at Waste Management knew one of our multi-year projects would affect a multitude of employees, so it was even more essential that it run smoothly. That’s why we invested quite a bit of time creating a budget and project plan, while making sure we had the appropriate resources in place to execute when we were ready. The team also took the time to align the employees with our goals and mission, and taught them the necessary tools and systems to hit the ground running. All of this made the planning phase a little longer, but once we started, we were able to coalesce quickly and move forward as a team. We also had mechanisms in place to change course when we inevitably had to, which ended up saving us precious time and energy.
In a world where it is rush, rush, rush, go, go, go, and get more done, asking people to slow down seems counterintuitive. It seems like you would want to keep cultivating your ability to move, and think faster than ever. However, at some point you may find yourself very busy doing lots of things, yet not knowing why, what your goals are, or where you are going. What happens when you are in the midst of the frenzy, and haven’t built in those tools and processes to recalibrate, is that you don’t take time to recharge your energy and at some point, you may find you are forced out of the game.
Depending on how hard you run, your body may resist by getting sick, breaking down or falling apart. We all know, or possibly are, those people who go, go, go, and then get sick as soon as they take some time off. Personally, my back goes out and I end up on the floor, literally, for a day or two. Managing the pain is all I can do, and I have learned now to take this time to be still, and reflect on what is out of whack in my life. I usually find that when I have been taking on more than is workable for me, that I have allowed myself to create a sense of overwhelming pressure to get things done. I have also learned that if I pay attention, and slow down enough to observe, I can see the symptoms coming on in my body. Now I adjust my schedule, work load, or how I am spending my time and energy. I recalibrate and find I can avert a full-on collapse, and instead be much more productive by being aware of the things that get me in trouble, and schedule my time and energy accordingly.
If you ever feel like you’re pressured to go too fast, try these 3 steps:
- Reflection – what’s happening now
- Step Back – make the necessary adjustments
- Move forward with intention
These steps help people take more mindful action, which ultimately leads to a more fulfilling life. Of course, there are some less effective shortcuts available, such as taking a pill to be more focused, to calm your anxiety, or to get you that much needed sleep. However, all of these outcomes can be achieved naturally with some mindfulness work. The key is recognizing when you need to slow down, and not being afraid to do so.