When I was Sr.VP-Creative Director of a $1.8 billion Omnicom agency responsible for not only supervising four creative teams but traveling the country to produce commercials, writing scripts and returning emails at 10:30 at night from my hotel room, attending back-to-back meetings in the office on weekdays and working on new business presentations on weekends, teaching young account executives about creative briefs and mentoring young writers and designers, I soon realized that my world was spinning too fast. If truth be told,
I could rarely spend 20 minutes in any one meeting for fear that I would not get to “touch” everything that was necessary throughout the day.
Surely, I’m not alone. Managers, small business owners, supervisors, even my ultra-busy, always moving wife (who runs the household, cares for her aging mother, doctor’s appointments, shopping, caring for our Bichon Riley, and doing pro-bono work as president of our homeowners association) can attest to, many of us seem to be running out of time to do all the things we need to do. Or we’re moving so fast, we don’t know any other speed.
Have we become a multi-tasking society incapable of slowing down?
Let’s face it. Between all the personal and business tasks we tackle on a daily basis — all the emails, texts, phone calls, Facebook- LinkedIn-Twitter-Pinterest socializing, and face-to-face meetings (remember those?) — we all need to slow down. If not for our own health and well-being, but for our customers and colleagues.
How often do you use your customer’s name in conversation? Slow down and start building a stronger connection with them. Stop selling your customer all the time. Slow down and start working as a team to solve his/her challenges together. And while you’re at it, be more realistic about the time limits you set. Customers don’t mind a few days delay just so long as they know it up front. It’s okay to slow down and deliver 110% rather than an acceptable 85%.
For some people, running out of time is chronic. Perhaps it’s a severe lack of time management or follow up. Some people have so many plates spinning that it’s virtually impossible to give clients, colleagues, kids and spouses the proper attention they deserve. And we all know what happens when you can’t keep plates spinning? They come crashing down.
Whether it’s running out of time, or running too fast all the time, both situations can lead to greater anxiety. That, in and of itself, can lead to other problems.
For instance, a study by Fraley suggests that anxious people may have problems in their relationships because they jump to conclusions too quickly about facial expressions. This ‘hair trigger’ style of perceptual sensitivity, according to the study, may be one reason why highly anxious people experience greater conflict in their relationships. The irony is that they have the ability to make their judgments more accurately than less-anxious people, but, because they are so quick to make judgments about others’ emotions, they tend to mistakenly infer other people’s emotional states and intentions.
People who speed through the day, consuming large amounts of caffeine, going from meeting to meeting, texting while in meetings, texting while driving, multi-tasking at every turn, are experiencing more severe levels of anxiety, whether they realize it or not. Doctors say that this can often lead to problems with balance, with many people reporting they sometimes feel dizzy for no apparent reason and sway more than others while standing normally.
Recent studies found that four 20-minute meditation classes were enough to reduce anxiety by up to 39%. Other research has found that meditation can help people fight the ‘negativity bias’: people’s natural tendency to focus too much on negative information. If this is the kind of improvement that can be seen after just 15 minutes of meditation, just imagine how much consistent, regular meditation can improve thinking and decision-making skills.
Admittedly, I am not the meditation type. But before anxiety and stress overtake you, perhaps you should find other ways to slow down. Before your blood pressure hits 220 over 110, slow down. Before you get acid reflux and put on 20 extra pounds from stress eating, slow down. Before you miss your kid’s third soccer match, slow down. Before you cut a 30 minute meeting down to 10, slow down. And guess what, in the process, you may find that by doing so, you get to finish what you started rather than leaving it partially undone. Your job will be less stressful. You’ll feel less anxious. Your life will be richer. Your health will be better. Your clients will appreciate the extra time you are taking with them. Your spouse will get to reconnect with you again. Your kids will rediscover what’s it’s like to have “non 24/7 working” parents in their lives. And your colleagues and employees won’t feel like they’re being minimized.
Little tricks you can start today to help you slow down.
Slow down and re-read your emails before pushing the send button. You’ll be amazed at how many spelling errors you’ll catch. Slow down and think about what you really want to say in an email instead of just putting just anything down because you have 40 more emails to return. Take a 15 minute break during the day. Close your door and listen to your favorite Pandora music. No emails. No phone calls. Just disconnect (wow, there’s a concept!) for 15 minutes. Take lunch every day. Religiously. Don’t skip it. And yes, it’s okay to leave your phone in the office for 45 minutes and just be human again. Have a few laughs (very therapeutic) with colleagues. Slow down on the road. Stop texting and driving. Stop checking your emails while you’re out to dinner with your spouse. Slow down and see how much more you can accomplish completely during the day. You may be surprised how much better you’ll feel.
Stuart Dornfield is a leading freelance senior copywriter, creative director and marketing strategist who left the 9 to 9 grind of the agency world to give himself, and his clients, more time to accomplish more things, more completely. A winner of more than 200 awards for creative excellence in web, print, radio, tv and direct response, you can view Stuart’s credentials and copywriting services here website.