Why Does “Slow Down” Make You Go Faster?

Flash (comics)

The Flash

The situation with my 30-person startup client is common; they’re growing so fast, and have so much to do that they don’t have time to stop and think.

And in the rush, predictable things happen; mistakes get made, rework has to be done, and you end up taking two steps forward and one step back. Thinking has taken a back set to action. Not a bad idea if you’ve got fire drill; not so smart if you’re trying to move a team, a business, or even you forward as quickly as you can.

So what are the other choices?

Here are five different things you can do to make better choices, and in doing so run faster, make fewer mistakes, and makes you perform better. Do them because they are all good things for you – they make you great performer rather than just a “flash in the pan:”

  • Pause for 5-15 minutes in the morning and 5-15 minutes in the afternoon to get away from distractions (no phone calls, no computers, no colleagues) to let you mind clear. Tony Schwartz in a piece in the New York Tims advocates thinking about hard work in terms of 90 minutes cycles (work 90 minutes, take a break, work 90 minutes, take a break). That is frankly hard in most corporate settings. My exec coaching clients have had great success with simply scheduling in that 5-15 break – which frequently consists of something as simple as a walk around the block, walking across campus if they’re on larger space, or even finding a conference room and staring out the window.
  • When you take that pause, think in terms of priorities; what are the most important things the team (or you) need to do – and does actual work time map to those priorities?
  • When you pause, think in terms of next steps; if I know what Point G looks like, there’s a good chance I’ll take steps to Point B, C, D, E, and F differently and what are interdependencies, if any. Likely more effectively and more efficiently.
  • Avoid multi-tasking; research shows it’s not efficient or effective. Sometimes counterintuitive actually makes better sense. Focus on one thing at a time and you’ll be more productive.
  • Take care of yourself; exercise regularly and sleep more. Research shows that if you sleep well you’ll think well. Regular exercise causes your brain to behave differently (it has to do with increased blood flow) than if you’re a couch potato.

If you’re a CEO or another manager, one of your most important jobs is to get the most out of your talent. Take care of them. Make sure you’re telling and having your people take this advice. If you’re an individual or individual contributor, take the advice. It works.

So how does going slow help you go fast? Because it makes you more efficient and effective.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.