You can’t slow things down by speeding up to complete tasks, this may not be the best way to be productive as it can leave one feeling unfocused and stressed
It always starts small, and – in the beginning – it always make sense: “I’ll just stay here over lunch to take care of some things I didn’t get done this morning,” or “I’ll stay a bit later to work on that report for tomorrow,” or – more and more – “I’ll use a bit of Saturday morning/Sunday evening to be ready for next week.” Soon it is not just working a bit here and a bit there to get ahead of things, but a matter of survival to put in all those extra hours just to keep up.
Somewhere along the way the old 9 to 5 became 8 to 6, or even 7 to 11 and hey presto, you’ve got no time for you. Recent research found that, on average, Londoners work the longest days in the UK with one-third working over 9 hours per day.*
But you can’t slow things down by speeding up and doing more. It sounds obvious of course, working on weekend’s just increases the volume of work to be done the following week, emailing through the night just creates an arms race of responses into the early hours.
Still, the pull to go faster and do more to catch up with the speed of what is coming and past us is very seductive. It seems counter-intuitive, but sometimes the only way to deal with the speed is to slow things right down, to get a handle on the speed.
Without the time out required to get perspective, everything seems important, just moving faster seems a good option. Once perspective is gone, it seems to be the only option.
Have you found that if you take some time off – on a holiday, over the weekend, or even just not checking mail in the evening after closing time – your decisions get better? You don’t just keep grinding it out, trying to get strategic by processing ever more detail. You start to notice what is really important so you can leave the rest, or delegate it, because you’re not there.
When running at full tilt you don’t even take the time to think of delegating. Things get stuck not because there is no one to do them, but because the person who has them on their plate doesn’t have (or take) the time to clarify who should be doing them.
It’s not about being staunchly 9-5. Work when it suits you, and take your rests when it suits you. But in a culture that seems to demand responses within the hour, rest seems to have been pushed aside. Try telling the junior people in an organisation that they can have weekends off when they know the boss is working through.
You will probably never be finished. There will be no ‘right’ time to stop and rest. But either we choose the time to rest and refresh, or it will come looking for us by fair means or foul. If you’ve ever fallen sick on day one of your holidays you know that your body will take care of resting itself if you don’t take care of it.
Protect your right to do nothing; it is one of the ways to make sense of all the doing.
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