Slow Down to Speed Up
The Strange Link Between Productivity, Discipline and Patience
I have a lot on my plate right now, both in my professional life, and personally too. It isn’t forever, but it is going to continue for at least two more months. Building an online university, supporting several women as they launch their new businesses, and guiding other clients who are building their marketing and brand strategies is a full load. But my husband had knee surgery and I have been dealing with a couple of very sick cats who need critical care. I’m not complaining. This is just the way life is sometimes.
When life hands me a bigger load than normal, I am reminded to slow down. I take a mini time out, so I can adjust my routine and pattern to accommodate this new set of tasks. I resist twin urges: the first is the urge to freeze altogether. The second urge tells me to race pell-mell into the burning building. Instead, I assess where I can strategically batch, box and block my time better. I refocus on what is of primary importance. I don't stop moving. But I heighten my awareness of the precise movements I am making. And, most importantly, I look at where I may have been less productive, disciplined and patient than I am capable of being.
Here is what I have learned:
Things That Stop Us from Taking THE RIGHT Action
Everyone has things that prevent them from taking the right action. This happens when we are either too eager to take any action in order to see some quick results, or afraid to take an action for fear of being wrong. The former misstep this can cause might just slow you down a little (which usually creates an intense level of frustration). It may contain the unexpected gift of some key insights. Both, however, may hold you back from achieving your goals, whether external or internal.
It's too easy to let things around you distract you from what you’re committed to do. But unfortunately, we live in a world where most people want something to happen immediately, and you’re likely no different.
It’s almost ingrained in us all by the society we live in. We want results now and don't want to wait for gratification. The problem is that most good things don’t happen in an instant.
Not to mention that negative thoughts and impulses often tell you that you can't do something or that you’re just not good enough. That negativity can make you feel frozen. On the flip side, there are always temptations to do things you know you shouldn't do, but you often do them anyway.
No matter who you are, it’s easy to come up with excuses and reasons why you can't do something instead of just doing it. It is equally easy to do something too fast out of fear or unconsidered excitement.
Confusing? It can be. Especially if you are not being extremely conscious and self-aware with each action.
Being caught up in life's urgencies can stop you from acting, or compel you to act rashly. Just remember that you alone control yourself—and that means you control your actions. You really can choose to act with clarity despite all these things—AND you can choose to slow down to assess a new terrain as well. Slowing down to be very aware is the best place I know to start.
Let’s explore how to overcome the things that may derail you from taking massive action toward your future goals, either through paralysis or rushing.
You know the feeling: you’re trying to focus on a task but can’t because something else is pulling your attention. It might be a notification on your phone, a colleague chatting nearby, or even a nagging thought in your mind. Most often, that last item is anxiety.
Distractions (including your fears) are everywhere and can be major roadblocks to getting things done. But there are ways to recognize, eliminate, and set boundaries around distractions so you can take action and get things done.
· Recognize when you’re being distracted – This might seem obvious, but it’s essential to be aware of when you’re being pulled away from what you’re trying to focus on. Finding a way to refocus will be easier if you catch yourself in the moment.
· Eliminate distractions – Once you’ve identified the source of your distraction, do what you can to eliminate it. For example, if it’s a physical object like your phone, put it in another room or turn it off. If it’s a person, politely excuse yourself and ask to continue the conversation later. And if it’s an anxious thought, try to refocus your attention on your core values, goals and forward movement.
· Set boundaries – Even if you can’t eliminate all distractions, you can set boundaries around them. For example, you might only allow yourself to check your phone once an hour or set a rule that you won’t work on weekends. By setting these boundaries, you’re taking control of your distractions and ensuring they don’t take control of you.
Distractions are a part of life, but they don’t have to stop you from taking action. You can stay focused and get things done by recognizing, eliminating, and setting boundaries around distractions.
The Desire for Instant Gratification
Everyone is constantly bombarded with messages saying you need to have everything now. When you’re a child, parents, teachers, and the world tell you through marketing messages that “getting whatever you want, whenever you want it, immediately” is realistic. This constant barrage of messages leads to a strong desire for instant gratification, even if you’re unaware of it. It shows up in the idea that if I build my website right now I will get more business right now!
While there is nothing wrong with wanting things immediately, it can become a problem when it causes you to try and skip crucial foundational activities. Think about going from bench pressing 30 pounds to bench pressing 300 pounds. If you try to skip the intervening weights, not only will you not be successful, you are extremely likely to cause yourself serious injury.
After all, while some things are easy to come by, some things are not only stronger and more enduring with time, they don’t happen without the time they require. Furthermore, when you can't wait for something, you may feel anxious or stressed, leading to impulsive decisions that may not be in your best interests to try to stuff your emotions and feelings.
If you struggle with the desire for instant gratification, you can do a few things to overcome it.
· Be mindful –Try to become aware of the instant gratification standard. This may not always be easy to notice, but enhancing your awareness of when you are doing it is vital. Mindfulness comes from living in the moment. When you live in the here and now, you are happy with what you have, with no need to desire something you don’t have yet. More importantly, this builds your ability to recognize your intuitive guidance, which can be hard to hear over the sound of your excitement, or your fear.
· Once you are aware of it, you can start to question your choices – Are you making the best decision? Will this choice help you in the long run, or is it just a quick fix? You can begin making different choices if you start recognizing when you are using the instant gratification standard.
· Begin practicing delayed gratification – Intentionally wait to have something you want. It can be challenging, but it’ll become second nature with practice. Start small, then work your way up to delaying more substantial desires.
If you can overcome your desire for instant gratification, you will be able to make better decisions. You will also find that you are less likely to impulse buy, skip your savings deposit, or make other choices that are not in your best interest. Remember, it all begins when you become aware of when you are allowing the desire for instant gratification so you can work through it.
Negative Impulses and Thoughts
Negative impulses hold you back from achieving your goals and living a good life. Whether it's procrastination, fear of failure, or self-doubt, these negative impulses can majorly impact your ability to reach your full potential and become who you are meant to be. Many of my clients struggle with a fear that they will take too long to generate the income they need. Ironically, this fear causes them to race to grasp at any income, regardless if it fits their business model, and undermine their foundational business focus. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.
You can overcome negative impulses and start achieving your goals by:
· Recognizing your negative impulses – It shouldn’t be a shock that the first step to overcoming negative impulses is to become aware of them. What thoughts and feelings typically hold you back from acting on your goals? When you can identify your negative impulses, you can start to work on addressing them.
· Challenge your negative thoughts – Once you've identified your negative impulses, it's time to start challenging the thoughts and beliefs that fuel them. For example, why do you believe that you can't achieve your goals? What evidence supports that belief? When you start to question your negative thoughts, you will see them for what they are: irrational and unfounded.
· Taking small steps – When overcoming negative impulses, taking things slowly and focusing on taking small steps is essential. Making too many changes at once may overwhelm you and set you up for failure.
· Being patient – Overcoming your negative impulses will take time, effort, and patience to see lasting results. Try not to get discouraged if you don't see immediate progress (remember what was said about delayed gratification). Instead, keep working and remind yourself that every small step brings you closer to your goal.
When you recognize, challenge, and take small steps patiently toward overcoming negative impulses, you’ll start living the life you’re meant to live. What’s more, you’ll finally truly feel happy about it.
Temptation is something that we all face daily. Whether it's the temptation to eat unhealthy foods, to stay up late watching TV, or to close a piece of business without doing your diligence on whether it is a good fit, you can learn to overcome it.
If you know you will be faced with unhealthy food choices, ensure you have a healthy alternative. If you know that you will be tempted to close any business that seems possible, have your non-negotiables on a post-it note on your desk for a reminder.
Unsurprisingly, being aware of your triggers to give in to temptation will go far in helping you to stop yourself. What are the things that typically lead you to give in to temptation? Avoiding temptation will always work better than relying on your willpower.
Remember that sometimes it's okay to give in to temptation. You are human, and due to that, you will make mistakes. Just don't let it become a habit. Notice how you feel and what your experience is like when you do. Learn from it! If you do give in, forgive yourself and move on. Remember to shoot for doing the right thing for yourself at least 80 percent of the time, and you’ll be fine.
Making excuses is a common occurrence in life. Everyone does it sometimes. Sometimes they realize it’s an excuse, and sometimes there is a reason. Realize the difference if you have a genuine cause, such as you broke your leg or something serious. Falling into the habit of making excuses and rationalizing is easy. But making excuses is also a significant roadblock to success.
If you're constantly making excuses, it's time to stop. It's time to face your fears, find your purpose, and step out of your comfort zone.
· What’s your purpose? – Finding your purpose is a crucial step. What is your why? Why do you want to achieve your goals? Once you know your purpose, staying motivated and overcoming obstacles will be easier.
· Where is your zone of comfort? – Stepping out of your comfort zone is also vital. Comfort zones are safe, but they're also comfortable. That's why it's important to jump through your zone of comfort and challenge yourself.
· What thought processes do you experience? –Shifting your thoughts is another way to overcome obstacles. Instead of seeing obstacles as roadblocks, see them as opportunities. This shift in thinking will help you stay positive and motivated.
· How can you rewrite your limiting belief? – A limiting belief is a belief that limits your ability to achieve your goals or to live a happy and fulfilling life. When you rewrite your limiting belief, you change the belief to something more empowering, positive, and hopefully factual.
If you have any beliefs holding you back, challenge them, then rewrite them. Remember, most beliefs are just thoughts. They're not reality. So, if you believe you can't achieve your goals or are not worthy of achieving them, it's time to change that belief.
Finally, don’t forget that learning lessons from your mistakes is essential. Every mistake is an opportunity to learn and grow. So, if you make a mistake, don't beat yourself up. Instead, learn from it and move on.
So, in this season I am having right now, so full of added demands, I am returning to what I know about the critical importance of slowing down to speed up. Of looking at my distractions, negative thoughts, temptations and excuses. I am no victim, nor am I required to do all the things I did before exactly the way I did them. In fact, I cannot. The next ten weeks are about doubling down on my understanding of time management, and focusing on the important and the urgent—part of which is self care! As a result, I am realizing a renewed sense of order, productivity and time mastery.