Slow Down and Accomplish More

2009 September 8

Boston #56
Creative Commons License photo credit: Dennis Wright

Peter Bregman has a really insightful piece called To Get More Done, Slow Down in

This life is a marathon, not a sprint. Most of us don’t go to work for 20 minutes a day, run as fast as we can, and then rest until the next race. We go to work early in the morning, run as fast as we can for 8, 10, 12 hours a day, then come home and run hard again with personal obligations and sometimes more work, before getting some sleep and doing it all over again.

[...] Not an athlete in the world could sustain that schedule without rest. Most athletes have off-seasons.

So if we’re running a daily marathon, it might help to learn something from people who train for marathons.

[...] Here’s what I learned: if you want to run a marathon successfully without getting injured, spend four days a week doing short runs, one day a week running long and hard, and two days a week not running at all.[...]

And when we do take the time to rest, we discover all sorts of things that help us perform better when we’re working. Inevitably my best ideas come to me when I get away from my computer and go for a walk or run or simply engage in a casual conversation with a friend.

I quoted a lot because I love the way the common sense of it builds, one piece upon the last. It’s not a unique observation, nor particularly novel, and it ain’t rocket science. But it does bear repeating and reinforcing.

What I think is interesting about this idea of slowing down is that it’s not so much that you get more done, as the title of his piece suggests, it’s that you accomplish more. Subtle difference, that, but I think a powerful one: when you take your time getting your work done, you tend to do the most meaningful stuff naturally because you don’t have time for all the trivia.

At least that’s what I find. It’s easy to get caught up in a crazy-hectic, run-around frenzy trying to keep up with my email inbox, my phone calls and voicemails, my to do list, my face-to-face meetings, my IM client, and more often these days, the work-related stuff that comes in via my Twitter direct messages and Facebook messages. When I quiet those inputs and choose my focus, I tend to gravitate towards the weightiest task; the one that’s going to have the biggest reward. Whether that’s a proposal that’s due or a presentation I need to give, my instincts know what to do when the volume of the chaos is turned down and the pace slows down with it.

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