Create Balance by Slowing Down

Create Balance by Slowing Down

by Gretchen Schisla

A few years back, I was at a book fair with my mom and sister, perusing a sea of used books under a huge tent. One book title in particular caught my eye: Slow Down to the Speed of Life. It turned out to be a little gem full of ideas that make a lot of sense, on many levels. I picked it up again on my beach vacation last week, and would like to share some of its wisdom.

Many of us see life as a series of tasks to get done, daily responsibilities, items to accomplish, meetings to attend. We’re so busy in our everyday lives, we don’t often allow ourselves to take it a bit easier. As it turns out, slowing down has some real benefits. Enjoyment of life has everything to do with “being in the moment,” and learning to make the quality of each moment more important than just getting things done. Actually, by focusing on one task at a time, it’s possible to get more things done with less effort and more satisfaction.

The authors, Richard Carlson and Joseph Bailey, offer 6 reasons why it is critical to slow down to the speed of life:

  1. Reduction of stress (So much of the fatigue in stress comes not from the actual work, but from thinking about all we have to do.),
  2. Improved physical health,
  3. More present in our relationships,
  4. Heightened sensory awareness and enjoyment of the natural beauty around us,
  5. Greater peace of mind and serenity, and;
  6. Dramatically improved ability to be productive and creative – and to stay focused.

Let’s take #6. How does “slowing down to the speed of life” apply to your work?

Even though this book was introduced 15 years ago, it’s relevant today. It’s still valid to note that increased demands on our time in a world of downsizing, business competition and rapid technology has left workers feeling stressed and overwhelmed – with more to accomplish in less time.

Ironically, you need to slow down at work in order to better deal with those increased demands. With the deluge of information and the speed that we receive it, we need to use our thought process in a more intelligent way, one that doesn’t stress us out. Rather than relying on analytical, process-based thinking, the author suggests using “the free flowing mode of thinking, a deep source of intelligence that takes into account all the knowns, and the unknowns, and comes up with a decision that feels right.”

Here are some tips for working smarter, not harder:

  • Do one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking, with a presence and pace that lead to balance and enjoyment in your work day. I’ve found that focusing on one task at a time leads to greater efficiency and productivity.
  • Stay in rapport with others, knowing that without harmony, collaboration and communication don’t exist.
  • Focus more on listening and reflecting, before “acting” on your decision, rather than “reacting” out of habit.
  • Draw on your memory and experience in a way that helps you in the moment, as a resource, instead of being blinded by past experience.
  • Be confident and trust your instincts to do the right thing in the moment, when there isn’t time to sort it out.
  • Use the “backburner” approach: if you don’t see a solution in the present, put the question on hold, allowing your “creative intelligence” to come up with a great solution.

How does your company stack up? 

Visionary
Dynamic
Self-motivated
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Stressed
Survival-oriented
Bureaucratic/Dysfunctional

Companies that operate at the speed of life are smart, productive and cooperative. Those with qualities listed “above the line” exhibit more instinctual, intuitive, responsive thinking. These are highly successful organizations that operate with a vision of service to others and the community. Ideally a firm will operate at the “visionary and dynamic” level,  where thinking is creative and original, with a steady flow of new ideas and practical thinking to implement them.  At the “self-motivated” level, employees are satisfied with their jobs, productive and don’t need much management. They spend their time efficiently and see solutions to problems more readily, as well as work as a team to support the company’s vision.

In contrast, “below the line” companies have employees who tend to feel overwhelmed, rushed, exhausted and negative. They rarely experience a sense of teamwork and often feel burned out. Organizations who operate at this level have a high rate of turnover and often make costly mistakes. At the stressed level, people can be more “busy-minded,” working harder but not smarter.

If you want your workday to flow more easily and creatively, follow the authors’ tips and see if they work for you! Remember, doing one thing at a time, with presence and at a reasonable pace can lead to greater balance in your personal and work life.