The case for slowing down.
As the year starts to unfold, it's so easy to want to run and do everything! And that's probably why last week... I got sick. Ha! The best thing about it? I HAD to stop working for two days and in the end, I enjoyed the down time so much that I took four days off.
This was a fantastic reminder that unless I continue to take some time for myself, I am going to crash - and crashing is not what I have in mind for 2019!
The main thing I gained from this experience (in addition to being able to breathe again) for and the time I had to reflect was perspective: it helped me to remember what’s important and what could wait. It helped me to realize that I was feeling overwhelmed because I was losing sight of what would help me truly move forward. I was not prioritizing and went into brain overload.
As high performers, we rarely take the time to slow down and reflect and so, for the next month and a half, I have decided to find a bunch of ways to do exactly that: slow down and reflect. I deeply believe that self-awareness is the key not only to building sustained performance, but simply, to being a better human.
I decided to draw from my own experience to work out why slowing down is so important to me if I want to continue to perform at a high level and I put together a few tips I could share to actually slow down.
Why #1 - Slowing down helps me be more creative.
I have noticed that each time I am away on a retreat or when I walk the dog or take a bike ride, I have new ideas and conversely, when I’m working at 150mph, I get stuck and overwhelmed and find it hard to problem solve. And so, I have to say it wasn’t a shock when I learned that it’s actually a fact that our brain needs these four conditions to create insight.
Quiet: we tend to notice insights when our brain activity is low because they themselves are low-energy signals. We need to make space for them.
Looking in: Insights tend to come when we shut out external data. An introspective state favors insight.
Happy: When we are in a good mood, we are much more open and tend to have less “tunnel-vision”.
Away from the problem: have you ever noticed how the answer comes to you when you least expect it? When you’re in the shower or walking down the street?
How #1 - What are some ways to slow down for insight?
For me, it’s all about stepping outside when I can. It’s the smallest things like walking around the block with the dog, or just going down to the stoop when the weather permits and watching the world go by. When I can’t step out: I read a fiction book that has nothing to do with work! I do crosswords, or I take time to nurture my relationships (friends, family, boyfriend…)
Why #2 - Slowing down helps me prioritize.
One of the areas I need to work on in terms of creativity is choosing carefully the projects I want to work on. I always have a ton of ideas, and I write them all down and being the high achiever that I am, I want to make every single one happen! Slowing down helps me to take a step back, gain perspective and decide what I actually want to do and not what I need to prove I can do.
How #2 - What are some ways to slow down to prioritize?
I often do this by asking myself questions:
* What is important vs. urgent?
* What gives my life meaning? How can I include more of those activities / moments into my life?
* What is MY definition of “balance”? What elements constitute a balanced life FOR ME?
* When I say YES to something, what am I saying NO to?
You can read a whole blog post on prioritizing here!
Slowing down helps me to take a step back, gain perspective and decide what I actually want to do and not what I need to prove I can do.
Why #3 - Slowing down makes me more efficient.
I know, it seems counterintuitive. Yet, it does! When I slow down, there is so much more space in my mind. It’s often because I am not reacting from a place of danger or threat. My brain is in a much more relaxed state and therefore my cognitive functions are at their peak. This means I am able to make more logical, thought-through decisions and I make fewer mistakes. I do think there is a place for intuitive decision making, don’t get me wrong. But when it comes to work and efficiency, I usually prefer to rely on system 2!
How #3 - What are some ways to slow down to be more efficient?
Simply taking breaks works wonders for me. I’ll sometimes simply breathe in and out or take a couple of stretches. Making a cup of tea works wonders! I wait for the water to boil and it means I have to move and stay away from the work at hand for a few minutes. Another way is doing small things like watching a funny video or connecting to something important to me (e.g. looking at a picture of loved ones or the ocean).
Why #4 - Slowing down gives everything more meaning.
It’s incredible what a difference it makes to spend time in the moment! I realize that I am not great at this: I often devour my food so fast I don’t have time to appreciate it. I do so much so fast. Too much, too fast. And yet, when I make the conscious decision to take time to meet a friend for coffee, to call my dad in France or learn something new, I notice that I am immediately more present and I am reminded of what matters to me, of my values and of my purpose.
How #4 - What are some ways to slow down to see more meaning in every day life?
I find that my morning routine of yoga and meditation (sometimes just 15 minutes) before the day starts, in the dark, does wonders for me. I mentioned earlier making a conscious decision - I think that’s the key: I have to tell myself why something is important. Another trick I use is looking at the big picture: when I start feeling overwhelmed or obsessing over a detail, I ask myself: will I remember this in a month? In six months? In a year? On the scale of my whole life, will this make a difference? And the sad truth is, after hours of agony, that simple question makes me realize that no, it will not make a difference.
As I write this, I realize that every single one of those reasons to slow down and ways to slow down is a move towards knowing myself better and being better connected to my values of growth, simplicity, challenge, positivity and inner peace. And so, I will go back to where I started: I deeply believe that self-awareness is the key not only to building sustained performance, but simply, to being a better human. In January and February, let’s take some time connect and slow down.
From now, until mid-February, I will share tips to help you slow down through emails and social media. These will come in the form of questions, videos, blog posts... and surprises!
For now though, if you would like to slow down with me, you will need to do three things:
1) Join the NYC High Performers group on Facebook.
2) Subscribe to my mailing list.
3) Mark your calendars for the following dates as I will be going live to talk about the following topics and take questions.
January 27th: 6.15-7pm EST: Manage Your Energy
February 3rd: 6.15-7pm EST: Celebrate Yourself
On February 4th 6.15-7pm EST, I will host a Facebook Live video to answer questions about the League of Extraordinaries, my group coaching program. If you're interested, that will be the day!