Originally Published: Feb 2020
Once again, it took skiing to remind me of a core business principle. In this case, it’s the principle that in many cases you must “go slow to go fast.” The idea is simple – if you take a pause rather than working as if you are living in a run-on sentence, you will get things done faster than if you rush, rush, rush. Why? Because you are less likely to make mistakes, cause rework and miss important details.
The pause is the accelerator.
It was perhaps the best first water ski set I’ve ever had during my first post-season winter trip to Florida. From the minute it started, everything felt significantly better than it had at the end of my season. This is a big deal, because my season ended with me skiing worse than I had in quite a while. Through every setback of my season, I pressed on. I changed skis, worked hard on technique and doubled down on practice time. Still my skiing was way below the level it had been before. It made for a bit of nerves getting back on the water after a much longer than normal break.
This first set was fantastic. I ran my pass off the dock – something I was not doing before. Everything felt so much better. One of the best things of course was my rested body. Skiing takes a significant toll on the body, and so I was strong and fresh.
But there was more to my better-than-average performance. The time off also allowed my mind to take a rest. Knowing that winter was coming, I quit thinking about skiing, and why I wasn’t skiing well. I quit watching videos and “worrying” over what I was doing wrong. I took a real break. If I did think about skiing, it was only to visualize myself at my very best.
It’s a lesson that I’ve had to learn more than once. The higher the stakes, the harder it is for me to remember than a small break will produce hours of productive work.
All too often, I will be trying to finish something important and will press on instead of taking a break. That little – yet loud – voice in the back of my head demands that I finish this task BEFORE I doing anything else. (That sometimes includes taking a bathroom break – but I digress.) I especially felt this pressure early in my career when I was doing complex cash flow analysis for 50 different business entities. The permutations were mind-boggling and sometimes mind numbing. One day, I discovered that taking a break was a better strategy when I was stuck. A walk around the block would clear my mind and the problems that had me stymied suddenly melted away when I returned to the work with fresh eyes. Even though I knew this was a useful strategy, I had to fight back guilt every time I walked out of the office to get a breath of fresh air. My old rules of operation were strong and it was hard to do something different.
Where do you press on when a break might give you the space you need to solve the problem? What stories do you tell yourself about why it’s better to keep going? (My story: I just love to ski- every warm day seems like it should be a ski day! Or “They are paying me to do this job and by golly I’m going to do this job – right now and in a hurry.)
What if you became more effective by taking a break –and a breath — instead of pressing on?
Be kind to yourself today. Give yourself a break. And let me know how it goes!