Why slowing down is vital to business success

by Contributor06 Dec 2017
In business, there is a lot to do. Whether it’s your own business or you’re working for a company, there is always an endless list; people expect a lot of you, and a mountain of tasks is vying for your attention.

Whether we like it or not, the situation is not going away, and if future predictions are correct, things are not going to slow down. In fact, strap in, because we are in for a long and fast ride. Advancements in technology, an overwhelming amount of choice and ever-changing expectations are impacting our ability to cope with the speed of change and the expectation that we will keep up.

Unfortunately, there’s no big red button in front of us to press when things are getting too overwhelming. Instead, we keep persisting with working late, working on weekends and pushing through sickness in an attempt to get the basics done, even though we know the long hours and constant connectivity aren’t doing us any favours.

Constant connectivity to people, technology and our workloads is resulting in our work and life becoming overwhelming, making it hard to ever switch off. Our frenetic pace – racing from one meeting to the next and one client to the next – is affecting our ability to take time out, slow down, switch off and refuel.

We are in a state of chronic ‘overconnection’ – overwhelmed and overstimulated. With our bodies and minds constantly ‘switched on,’ our health, well-being and relationships are increasingly paying the price. Despite our best efforts to manage focus and productivity alongside creativity and progress, as a society, we are finding that the pursuit of ‘more’ and ‘now’ is not working, and is an ever-growing concern we must address before it gets out of hand.

Life role evolution
Over the last two decades in particular, we have seen a significant shift in life roles for men and women. Stay-at-home roles and part-time work that were predominantly undertaken by women are now being embraced as options for men, allowing them to pursue their passions outside of work or share family responsibilities with their partners so they can both develop careers.

The evolution of our value of work and its purpose in our lives on a personal level is creating a shift in our expectations of our workplaces as we look for new ways of working that allow us to be engaged in productive and meaningful work, in addition to spending time with family and pursuing our interests. From workplace health and well-being incentive programs to paid mental health days and health education sessions, the responsibility for employee health and well-being is now falling to both the employee and the employer.

This continual shifting of work roles and workplace expectations is evidence that people are searching for ways to better manage their lives and all this involves, knowing that without optimal health, we are not performing at our best.

Doing more by doing less
To achieve more, we do not have to keep pushing ourselves to do more; in fact, we are capable of achieving more by doing less. How? By slowing down. By taking our foot off the pedal, we are allowing ourselves three important gains that will improve our motivation for work while also improving our productivity and progress.

1. Perspective. When we slow down, we can take a big metaphorical step back from our lives and see what is happening to our health, our relationships, our businesses and our goals. When we are too bogged down in our to-do list, looking down constantly at our devices, our field of view narrows, and we can miss the opportunities that are right in front of us.

Giving ourselves the opportunity to step out of the detail of our day and take a look at the big picture will provide perspective on whether we are moving in the right direction. This can be as simple as setting a reminder to look out the window, going outside to eat lunch to take in your surroundings, or reflecting on your week with a friend or partner.

2. Renewed energy. Ever tried sprinting a marathon? It would be impossible. Our bodies are not designed to go full throttle for long periods without rest. When we try to push ourselves beyond our limitations, the effects of burnout take over, and we find ourselves without the energy, focus and motivation to get through the day.

Energy, focus and motivation are three factors crucial to success in any business. When we slow down, we give our bodies the time they need to rest and re-energize, boosting their resistance to illness, meaning fewer sick days and more energy. With energy, we become agile in our responses to unexpected challenges; this enhances our ability to make better decisions, and our creativity flows.

If you live life at full throttle, slowing down can feel like you are being lazy or wasting your time. But that is far from the truth. Resting can be as simple as a five-minute break where you stand up from your desk and take a big, deep breath. Slowing down is necessary if we want to keep moving forward with energy and stamina.

3. Sharper focus. We all know what it feels like to hear the alarm sound when it seems like we have just fallen asleep – it’s awful! Sleep deprivation is known to affect our ability to make rational decisions and respond to situations, and it impacts our mood and emotions.

Not getting enough sleep could be holding you back in business, and if you are not an early riser, then you could be missing out on your peak period of productivity. Early morning is when our circadian rhythms are at their most alert, our attention and energy peak, and it’s the perfect time to work on priorities, setting a frame of clarity and calm for the rest of the day.

Making time to slow down
The argument that slowing down is impossible in today’s society is not true, and there is ample evidence to show how people are successfully integrating the skills of slowing down into their fast-paced lives. Slowing down can feel like an impossible scenario when we lead such full lives, but switching off isn’t about doing more; it means doing less!

If we focus on the payoff of taking time to slow down – better health, improved energy, clearer thinking and a renewed motivation for work – switching off will no longer seem like a cop-out or a luxury, but instead a necessity if we are to keep up with the pace of life.

Angela Lockwood is an occupational therapist whose retreats, corporate education programs and keynotes help organizations, schools and individuals prioritize their health and wellbeing. Lockwood is the author of Switch Off: How to Find Calm in a Noisy World and The Power of Conscious Choice.

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