“The trees that are slow to grow bear the best fruit.” – Moliere
In times of stress, when you have a lot on your plate, a lot to get done before the day is out, the natural tendency is to speed up to cram it all in. However, this is not always the most productive way to hit your goals.
The issue with speeding up is that often when we do this, details get missed, the brain struggles to tackle multiple things at once at the speed you are trying to go, and the results are often below your personal standards. Not only that, but you don’t feel great by the end of it.
Counterintuitively, it is often more productive, and certainly more mindful, to slow down in order to be productive. When we are stressed about cramming stuff in, that stress is just another thing that helps to clog up your mind and stop you from working with clarity and resilience. Here’s why slowing down is sometimes the best option, and how to implement de-acceleration and rest for ultimate and timely productivity.
1. One Thing at A Time
When we are trying to get a hundred things done, multi-taking can often seem like the best option. The thing is, though, each task still requires the same amount of energy as if you decided to do the things on your list one after another. The only difference is that your mind is trying to be in several places at once. By moving through your to-do list one thing at a time, you are living in the moment, and dedicating all your concentration to a single thing. Try to put all other tasks out of your mind. Complete each task without the distraction and noise of other tasks and thoughts for better clarity, concentration, and quality in your finish.
2. Overwhelmed? Take a Break
If everything seems too much, take a break. Even ten minutes of decompression, ten minutes outside the eye of the storm, can help you to see things more clearly. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself staring at a blank document that needs to be full by the end of the day. I’ll be looking at it, trying to solve the next problem, and not only is the solution illuding me, but my head is also full of the stress and panic of the fact that I’m running out of time. I know, in a case like this, that being away for a few minutes, and doing something else, making some tea, for example, will do me good. In this state, I’m better off coming back in ten minutes ready to hit the ground running, than staring at the blank document for hours in a state of stress.
3. Carve Out Time for Planning
If there is too much going on in your head to see a way to complete all tasks quickly, dip out, lay all your tasks out on the table, and come up with a plan. It may simply be deciding an order in which to do things and how much time you predict will need to be dedicated to them. This, for me at least, takes the stress of wondering whether I’ll manage to get everything done away, as I have already confirmed it is possible because I have planned and time-managed it all. Be mindful that the stress of the unknown can have a real impact on your focus. Therefore, remove that stress with some simple planning.
4. When Does Your Brain Work Best?
I often find myself working at the end of the day and finding that my brain has pretty much turned to mush. I have no new ideas, I can’t string a decent sentence together, and I can barely type a word correctly. This is when I know that there is no use trying to do any more. This is because I am at my best first thing in the morning. Something that would take me three hours at 7pm will usually take me one hour at 5am the next day. So, if the deadline allows, that is what I do. I get up early as opposed to working late. It’s just more productive! Be mindful of what time of day and in what environment you are at your best.
It wouldn’t be a Conscious Professional post about stress relief, if I didn’t remind you that, if all else fails, take a moment to concentrate on your breath and clear your mind. Nice and slow, in and out, as deep as you can. It never fails to calm things down!
By Chris Thomson
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