“Take time for all things…” ~ Ben Franklin
The wisdom of our forbearers has given us so many warnings about the dangers of hurry, rush, and busyness. Most of these have been repeated to me over and over again since my youth, and yet, here I am hurrying to finish a blog post I should have finished last week.
“Haste makes waste, and waste makes want, and want makes strife between the good man and his wife.”
There’s something so seductive about hurry – if I go faster, I can get more done—right? Well, not if “Haste makes waste.” Or, as my Welsh ancestors would say, “The more the hurry, the more the obstacles.” And yet…there are those times when it works! There are times I get really focused. If I shut everyone else out, and I can bang something out in record time. That feels great! (This is the seductive part.) But there are those other times. You know, those times I’m rushing through something, and I just barely make the deadline? And right while I’m patting myself on the back for having finished it, I realize that I totally left out a crucial piece of information; or I left the prior client’s name in the proposal that I cut and pasted from; or I forgot to sign it in the right place; or I mowed down everyone else in my office in an effort to get my project out on time.
The cost of hurry
“If we don’t have time to do it right, how will we find time to do it over again?”
Sometimes when I hurry I am rewarded. But if I’m honest, it’s way more often that I’m not.
If I look back—even over the last few months—at the times I was rushing through my day, I can see the ways I treated people (staff in my office, service providers, even clients) as if they were objects. Obstacles to navigate around in my rush to complete my very-important-work. I value my relationships and the trust I’ve built; but those moments when I bark out orders and push to get something out can undermine months of trust building.
There are other ways to hurry. Like when you listen to someone for five minutes and you just “know” the solution they need; and so you rush to get to that solution only to find that you solved a problem the client wasn’t having. And they felt missed. That’s happened to me more times than I care to admit. Afterward I think, “If only I had taken the time to listen, to confirm that I understood; and made sure that I was rushing off to solve the right problem…”. Then there are times when people shorten their conversations with me (because they know I’m busy) and so they don’t say everything they are feeling. (Feelings after all take time.) Another missed opportunity.
When I cram a lot into my day I also lose track of myself. I get so focused, (or distracted?) I forget about other commitments I have. The phone rings and I was supposed to be on a call 15 minutes ago; I look up and it’s been 6 hours since I’ve eaten (or gone to the bathroom). I don’t realize how tired, hungry or alone I am. So I get grouchy. I’m easily irritated by people around me—not because of something that they’ve done—but because of what’s going on inside of me that I’m not paying attention to.
If all these things happen when I rush, when I hurry to get more done, why do I still do it? When I really slow down and think about that question, I discover yet another seduction to being in a hurry. And it’s a little embarrassing. Sometimes busyness and hurry make me feel important. It feeds my ego. I don’t know about you, but my ego does a fantastic job justifying my bad behavior. It sounds a little bit like:“Why should I listen to this person’s feelings? I don’t have TIME for that. I’m a busy important person; and besides I already know everything I need to know about this issue…”.
Once I look past my ego, I realize pretty quickly that it doesn’t matter how “important” I am (in fact, I realize I’m not that important at all); if I want to build trust, and develop a healthy, engaged team, we need to know each other. That means taking time to listen.
What happens when I slow down
The only time I really slow down is on vacation. That’s when I remember that slowing downis so nice! I have so much less stress. I’m much less irritable. I don’t fantasize about doing violence to people in front of me on the freeway. It’s great. But I can’t live like I’m on vacation every day, right?
Why not? What if I set reasonable limits on what I can get done? What if I make sure that my day and week have some margin so that I have time to listen, time to think, and time to reflect? What if I blocked time on my calendar to check in with myself, to eat, exercise, go for a walk…
If doing that would make me a better professional, then that’s what I should do. My clients are paying more for my thinking than for my doing. If slow, unhurried thinking makes for better, more thorough doing, then that’s even better!
If someone offered you a chance to really slow down, would you take it?
I’ll leave you with these observations made by two deep thinkers who lived centuries apart:
Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~Lao Tzu
Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there someday. ~A.A. Milne