TIME PRESSURE: SLOWING DOWN TO GO FASTER
You are drinking wine with your old friend and decide to remind them of an embarrassing episode from when you were in high school. “Which year was that… That was how many years ago? Wait. What??”
Have you noticed, the longer you live, the faster the time goes? Part of you wants it to slow down, because way too often, you think to yourself: “Where have I been in the past couple of months? Was the spring warm this year? When did my kid grow out of these jeans?” But when you have too much to do, when you have tight deadlines one after another, the last thing you feel you can afford is slowing down.
What is interesting, albeit counter-intuitive, is that we can achieve much more once we stop rushing. In order to be productive, our brain needs regular periods of downtime and it also doesn’t like to be yelled at, not even by you. When we push ourselves to work at a pace that is way beyond comfortable too often or for too long, our brain perceives it as an existential threat and enters the survival mode. When we are in the survival mode, creative thinking is beyond reach. When we are in the survival mode, we are incapable of seeing clever solutions and elegant shortcuts – precisely those things that can get us faster to where we need to be, with less effort.
Your brain is much more likely to solve your problems for you if you leave it alone for a while. If you don’t stand there with a whip and tell it to go faster. In fact, it can do a lot for you without your conscious involvement. Try this as an experiment: if you are dealing with a complicated problem, instead of staying up late obsessing about it, tell your brain, “Hey listen. I need to go sleep now. Here is the question, will you work on it for me while I rest?” Revisit the problem in the morning, or better yet, give it 24 hours. Provided you’ve been nice to your brain during those 24 hours, it might pleasantly surprise you when you come back to ask for the answer. You might even not need to wait that long, it might just say: "I got it! Here is your solution!" in the middle of you doing something completely different.
Remove the pressure, and not only will you be more relaxed, you might become much more efficient as well. Think of it as going around a mountain instead of climbing it. Distance-wise the detour may seem longer on the map, but you will still get to the other side faster than that crazy mountaineer. You will feel and look refreshed after the nice stroll and the mountaineer – well, you’ve seen them…
This is where I feel you might start to get angry at me and say: “But how can I possibly slow down, I am not going to get anything done! I don’t have 24 hours to slack off! I already cut out all activities that were unnecessary.” I get what you are saying, really. It’s your stress talking. When it’s talking, it tends to be loud, obnoxious, and rather convincing. Let's have a constructive dialog with your stress. Maybe if you have another pair of eyes and ears, you can start seeing how you can fit slowing down into your busy schedule in order to achieve more with less effort.
Life is too short already. Why speed it up?