Action produces results. You can’t write a book if you never type the first word. You can’t run a marathon if you never run at all. Without action, there is just talk.
However, there are some moments where slowing down is the right choice. The key is in your ability to recognize those moments. Here are four such instances.
A Quick Break
The cursor on the screen blinks. It’s waiting to fulfil its purpose and put words on the page. But alas, I have no words to give it. I have been wracking my brain for over an hour. Nothing is coming to me. So I get up, do a 10 minute meditation, go for a short walk around the block and then go back to my desk.
Within minutes, the words begin to flow.
There are moments where slowing down and taking a break is the best option. In my case, that means meditation and walking. In yours, it could mean anything you like that gives you a break and refreshes you.
Regardless, there are times where no matter what you do, being productive and working at peak can be elusive. You can force yourself to do something, or you can take a break. It takes the same amount of time.
In the former, it’s like hammering a screw into wood. Doable, but forced. The latter is like running out to the store to buy nails. They both get the job done. One inevitably produces better results.
In your work, slowing down for a rest or a break can be a productive strategy.
Silence is golden
You need to fill the silence. In conversation, any pause in discussion feels like eternity. Your mind races. You think, I am so awkward! Or, What’s with this person? Silence is uncomfortable. However, silence can also be powerful.
Silence gets the other person to speak. Mainly due to the discomfort it causes. Additionally, silence is powerful for an entirely different reason as well. It gives you time to think. Instead of vomiting words out into the ether, pausing allows you to plan your next move.
Japanese businesspeople are known for this smart tactic: when dealing with a foreign nation, Japanese businesspeople will have a translator present. Even if they know the language they are dealing with. That’s because while the other party says their piece and the translator translates it, the Japanese businessperson is able to sit, breathe, and consider what to say next. It prevents them from sharing more than necessary. It also allows them time to think on the situation.
In a negotiation, discussion or meeting not talking, for a specific reason and for a planned time, can be a very productive strategy.
Time to ask and time to think
You feel the urge to go, go, go. Just like in conversation, you fill the silence of inactivity with more activity. This doesn’t always produce the best results though.
I always say that the best advice in business comes from the experts: and the experts in your business are the people that work with you and the people that buy from you.
So, when you’re stuck, or just as a great habit, it’s always a good idea to stop, ask and listen.
- What’s going well?
- What do you think could be better?
- What would you do if you were me?
And, when they answer, don’t rush to reply, just keep actively listening, encouraging them to talk and asking open questions to keep them talking.
Sometimes giving yourself time to listen and think, if only for a minute, can give you the idea you’re after.
When deciding what to do next, asking and listening can be a productive strategy.
A Fire That Extinguishes Itself
You’ve planned your day, and you’re getting on with it, then you get an interruption.
Or a series of interruptions.
Now, if you follow our advice on time management, instead of jumping onto this interruption you slow down and take the following actions:
- Make a mark in your plan so you know where you got to (this makes you slow down, gives you time to think and gives you confidence that you can easily get back to where you left off)
- Grab a piece of paper and a pen (more time to think, and a strong signal to the interrupter that you’re taking this seriously)
- Write down the interruption
- Ask open questions to find out four things: how this relates to what’s important to you, what outputs are wanted, what other options there are, and what the timescale is.
- Then, and only then, should you decide whether to accept the interruption or not.
More often than not, this approach will get rid of a good proportion of interruptions straight away … and those that remain can be programmed in to your timescale to deal with.
Either: it needs doing quickly: in which case you’ll want to stop everything and pull your weight (and this should apply to about 5% of interruptions or less).
Or: it needs doing, but not quickly (about 20 to 30% on average), so you can then plan to do it later.
Hours later, it’s finally time to address the problem. Only… what’s this? It’s fixed! Whatever issue was causing the problem has miraculously resolved itself. Problem solved. And the best part is you spent no time solving it.
When ‘fires’ arise, it is easy to fall into the trap. Where you feel you need to remedy the situation right away.
However, more often than not, that fire isn’t a priority. In fact, it’s very rarely a fire: it’s usually a light show pretending to be a fire.
You likely have much grander, much more important projects to tackle: You can spend time you don’t have in order to fix the low-priority problem. Or you can use that same amount of time on valuable endeavours.
Who knows? By going with the latter, the former may just solve itself.
And, by taking the actions suggested, you already got rid of 70 to 80% of issues straight away!
When fires arise, not jumping on them can be a productive strategy.
So there you are: 4 instances where slowing down can be very productive:
- Taking a short break
- Keeping silent
- Asking and listening
- Dealing effectively with interruptions
And, let’s face it: these 4 issues can eat up most of our day if we don’t slow down and handle them properly …
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