For you young’uns reading this, there was once a time when people watched advertisements during their favorite TV shows. Rumor has it that commercials still exist, but you’d never know it with the invention of DVRs, Netflix, Hulu, and the like.
Also back in the day, I used to ride a triceratops to school and chiseled my homework onto stone tablets. Yabba dabba doo!
Just because we can skip the ads on TV doesn’t mean we’re not subject to all kinds of questionable claims on magazines covers in the checkout lane, billboards, and nearly all “free” websites and apps.
And if you’re like me, you’re probably a little jaded about some of those dubious claims out there.
Lose 10 pounds in a day!
Learn to speak Italian while you sleep!
Make your first million in 3 months!
It’s not that all these promises are untrue. You could lose 10 pounds in a day if your starting weight is in the 400s. You could learn Italian while you sleep if you’re sleeping with a handsome Italian lover who whispers sweet nothings in your ear all night. And you could make your first million in the next 3 months…if you made $900,000 in the last 3 months.
So as a productivity and motivation guru, I roll my eyes when I hear things like, “Work less and do more!”
But here’s the thing: taking breaks, slowing down, and working less actually CAN make you more productive. And there’s no hidden catch like needing a team of employees to do your admin work.
Keep reading and I’ll show you how taking it slow can fast-track your progress.
What Slowing Down Really Means
Most people mistake slowing down with taking an entire week off work or loafing on the couch recovering from the stress of the day. I also hear people talk about taking a break once they reach a certain point, such as taking a 3-month sabbatical after they hit some astronomical benchmark.
Honestly, that sounds like a miserable way to live! Who wants to push themselves like a hamster on a wheel only to get relief “sometime” in the future?
Here’s a better idea: take breaks all the time and spread them throughout your work day, week, and year.
When you slow down and give yourself permission to do something fun and relaxing every day, like read a non-work book, you’ll never get to that desperate point of needing a vacation NOW or else you’ll lose your mind.
It’s all about avoiding burnout while you still get stuff done. You’ll lose much more time if you have a nervous breakdown.
Tim Ferris talks about this idea in his popular book, The 4-Hour Work Week. Don’t wait for retirement to take a break. Do it now while you’re young enough to enjoy it. (PS, Tim Ferris kind of annoys me, but I do agree with him about not deferring pleasure.)
No More Flying By the Seat of Your Pants
I was talking to one of my friends the other day, and she said she runs her whole life “flying by the seat of her pants.” This means she never has a plan and is racing to do whatever needs to be completed next without considering long-term goals.
Needless to say, she never ever takes a break. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.
I’m normally a go-go-go-getter who regular bites off more than I can chew. But last week I took a break from blogging and social media. I still met with my clients, but everything else was put on hold.
The thinking behind my break was that I needed time to slow down before I speed up. I have big plans for my personal life and business in 2014, but those enormous goals need to be broken down and mapped out…and that takes time.
Think about the work you do. It could be at a corporate job, or running your own business, or managing your household. If you ever feel like you’re rushing from one thing to the next, you could absolutely benefit from taking a break to work out a better system.
A Systematic Slow Down
Look at your calendar and choose a planned time to slow down. Maybe that’s an hour every afternoon or maybe one day a week devoted to planning. Consider quarterly breaks to reassess your progress and plan your next batch of goals.
When you’re taking a planned break, do the things that will give you the biggest bang for your buck. In terms of self-care, that might mean taking a nap, doing a hobby, or calling a friend. If you’re focusing on your business, that might include creating a backlog of finished work so you’re not scrambling later.
At the start of each day (or better yet, the night before), choose no more than 3 main priorities that absolutely, positively must get done. Then ignore everything else (email, Facebook, reality TV) until those 3 tasks are completed. You’ll be surprised by how much more you can get done in less time when you get rid of distractions and really focus.
There’s no magic pill to make you smarter, more attractive, and über successful (despite what the headlines say).
But you can get more stuff done when you slow down. I promise.
Do you give yourself breaks and down time?
In the comments below, share your best tips for slowing down but still moving forward.