Sometimes you Have to go Slow

All my life, I’ve had lots of energy. I love to be up and about and doing. I have that in common with many entrepreneurs and high achievers. And maybe it’s just a human thing. When something happens, we feel better when we can do something. Even if it’s just make a cup of tea, at least we are doing something.

The more hectic, the more unpredictable and volatile our world becomes, the more we are drawn to doing. There’s a hack for everything and it seems we are looking for ways to be more efficient, to get more done, to accomplish more in less time than ever before.

Of course we need to do things, especially when we lead a business or a team. We have to get stuff done because often, we’re it. At times, there’s no one we can delegate to.

While that is all true, sometimes, this tendency to do more, louder, faster, isn’t effective. Sometimes, we have to go slow.

A case in point. I started writing this blog in early July.

I knew July was going to be a busy and fairly intense month. It turned out to be much busier and far more intense than I had imagined and here we are in early August.

Life happened and I had two choices. Fight it or flow with it.

In the end, I chose flow with it. It didn’t always feel good in the moment. I spent a lot of time paying close attention to my internal chatter because I was ridiculously hard on myself because I wasn’t perfect. Another thing I have in common with much of humanity.

Here’s the hard truth. I got the same result by accepting and flowing with the events and pace of my life in July as I would have if I fought it. By that I mean, I would still be writing this early August. The only real difference is that I would have been more stressed, more irritable, less effective and way less happy if I fought the pace of life instead of flowing with it. By flowing with it, I made sure I had the time, focus and energy for those critically important issues and I didn’t exhaust myself or exacerbate the situation.

We can’t control or even manage time. The only thing we have any control over at all are the choices we make. That means we can prioritise. Stephen Covey divided activities into 4 quadrants:

Quadrant 1 – Urgent and Important
Deadline driven projects, crises, pressing problems

Quadrant 2 – Not Urgent and Important
Relationship building, new opportunities, planning, wellbeing & recreation

Quadrant 3 – Urgent and Not Important
Interruptions, other people’s deadlines, some calls, emails, meeting

Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent and Not Important
Busy work, time wasters

People who spend a minimum of 20% of their time in Quadrant 2, doing those activities that are not urgent and important, are significantly more effective and most importantly, are able to sustain a high level of performance over a very long period of time.

Where do you spend your time? I’m willing to bet if you feel overwhelmed, like there is too much to do, not enough time and not enough you to go around, you are spending the majority of your time in Quadrant 3 or Quadrant 1.

Here’s my suggestion. Get a piece of paper and divide it into Covey’s 4 quadrants. Look at your typical day, typical week. Plot the major activities that consume most of your time, thoughts and energy into the appropriate quadrant. Then step back and look at it.

If you are spending at least 20% of your time in Quadrant 2, pour yourself your favourite beverage and raise a toast to yourself. You are in the minority of people who actually work effectively.

If you’re in the majority and you’re spending most of your time in Quadrants 3 and/or 1, give serious consideration to how you can shift that to spend more time in Q2, working up to that minimum 20% of the time.

Use your calendar. Block time in your calendar to get the most critical Q2 activities done and resist the urge to ditch them when something that feels more urgent but probably isn’t, comes along.

This tool, Covey’s Time Management Matrix, has been around for over 30 years now. This is not ground breaking, earth shattering or the newest latest and greatest hack. Learning to function this way is not a hack at all. It’s a habit and habits take time, patience and commitment to develop. I have been teaching clients how to function in the world like this since the late ’80’s.

Here’s why it’s worthwhile bringing forward now. We were all busy and stressed 2 years ago. We didn’t have enough time, money or people before the global pandemic. After almost 2 years of lockdowns and chaos, with a 4th wave surging, we really need, even more than we did before, to turn within, learn to listen to the wisdom of our bodies and develop habits that enable us to sustain a high level of performance, regardless of the environment outside of us. Learning to be effective and living in flow is far more important than feeling efficient in the moment.

You are important. You are a leader somewhere in your life. If you run out of energy, who is going to fill the gap left by you?

Keep shining brightly. The world needs all the light we can give right now.

We Can’t Give What we Don’t Have.

I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about what it means to be a leader. And by “leader”, I mean in all kinds of situations. Whether we are in formal positions of leadership in our work, we are that go-to person at work that everyone relies on, in volunteer positions or we are in a position of leadership in our home life. Leaders, all of us, can only give, what we have.

And yet, that sort of flies in the face of what prompts us to move into leadership, or be drawn into positions of leadership. We love to give and help and support. We love to give because that fills us up.

But even the most giving person, needs to fill their own internal well or just like a real well, we will run dry.

There are clear signals that we are running out of internal giving fluid. Things that made us smile, gave us joy and felt easy, begin to irritate and feel heavy. We begin to feel we are falling behind on “our” priorities and resent being interrupted by others. We can’t remember when we did anything for ourselves. It feels like every time we begin to do something for ourselves, that time gets used up doing something for someone else. We feel rushed, tired, disenchanted. We become crabby and/or withdrawn.

So what can we do about it? The good news, filling our own well doesn’t have to take a lot of time. It just needs to become a regular habit.

The most powerful and simplest way to start to fill yourself up is to practise gratitude. Take a few minutes every day to think about 3 things you’re grateful for. Focus on the little things. Notice the small joys that every day, even the worst days, contain.

You can do this on your own, with friends or family. Friends and clients have started a gratitude journal with their families, with children as young as 2 and 3. What an awesome family heirloom and a powerful way to raise healthy, resilient people!

Which brings me to journalling. Keep a gratitude journal. Take the few minutes it takes every day to write down the 3 things you’re grateful for. On days that feel harder, open it up and read it. It will remind you of how much you have during those times you feel you have nothing.

Sit quietly outside and breathe. Find a park or some grass and take your shoes off. Roll up your pant legs and stand in a fountain. Eat ice cream. Have a yummy glass of wine. Cook or get a favourite food. Call a friend. Hug someone.

There are so many small, simple ways to practise gratitude.

If you run a business, think about incorporating gratitude into your core values, like Stybek Roofing did. Gratitude sits at the heart of Transparency, Accountability and Customers First. You will be amazed at the positive impact being grateful has on your results. Read Michele Bailey’s most recent book, The Currency of Gratitude: Winning Business with Gratitude. It is filled with ways to do just that.

There are many, many ways to fill our well. What ways work for you? Drop us a line and let us know. And if you’re looking for inspiration, check out Share Your Stories. I am always uplifted by the amazing things people are making positive impact in the world.

Keep shining!! The world needs all the light it can get right now!