Big, complicated and expensive projects often cause physical and emotional stress in people. Looming deadlines demand us to work faster. Balancing employees’ professional development with producing results requires us to multi-task,which hampers productivity and happiness, too. We think that speed is essential for during project-driven work. Such a need for speed creates a stressful work environment. Stress is absolutely debilitating for peoples’ well-being and productivity, two things that are essential when we’re required to work together to achieve results under pressure. Slowing down within the fast-paced, high-stress environment of busy projects might seem totally counterintuitive, and yet it is a great way to enhance productivity, foster collaboration and reduce stress. Here’s how to get things done faster by slowing down.
The case for slowing down
Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow argues that human beings make more “fast” decisions when we’re stressed or surprised by events. These decisions aren’t always the best ones, though. Slowing down unleashes the potential of the more rational or “slower” parts of our brain. Learn more from this simple summary. The science shows that slowing down leads to better decisions.
Research by Carnegie Mellon University has found that stopping work for as little as 25 minutes a day and practicing mindfulness alleviates psychological stress. This contradicts how many of us typically view the hours of practice it takes to actually see results. From reprogramming the brain to be more rational (and less emotional) to fostering innovation, there are ample reasons to embrace this practice during high-stress, time-bound projects. Most importantly, the Carnegie Mellon study found that mindfulness meditation positively affects peoples’ ability to be resilient under stress.
When we think at a slower pace we are less reactive and more intentional. We are less irrational and more thoughtful. And we are much less likely to make decisions based on assumptions or biases. Here are some simple tricks for how you might embrace slowness on your next project.
Stop, drop and meditate
For at least 25 minutes per day, stop everything and embrace stillness. The experience – be it alone or with a few colleagues – can take many forms and a quick Google or YouTube search of “mindfulness meditation” will yield a lot of options for how you might practice. For the record, this is the most challenging way to slow down during a busy and stressful project. You will probably think that you don’t have the capacity, space or support to make this happen.
Take a lazy stroll through the world
Human beings can work productively for around 90-consecutive-minutes. After that our efficiency declines drastically, which isn’t great when we’re trying to hit ambitious deadlines. Exercise, new scenery and getting outside can help us re-focus and re-energize ourselves. When you leave your desk be disciplined about not taking your phone along for the journey. Take in the world around you, listen to your breath, and try really hard to focus on everything besides the problems that are waiting for you back at your desk.
Create seconds of slowness
Taking multiple breaks or meditating for 30 minutes might be frowned upon in your organization. Realistically, your efforts to slow down and think more might have to be applied to common everyday occurrences, such as your commute to work or eating lunch. When you feel yourself becoming blurry-eyed or extra-frazzled, simply close your eyes, breathe deeply and take a long, slow minute to focus on nothing besides your breath. This will provide you with a timely boost to get through the next task.