If slowing down is not your strong point, I feel you! I've always been fast—a fast thinker, fast talker, and quick to take action—and it hasn't always served me.

I can remember one time when I was a sales leader. As a leadership team, we met to discuss how to manage a somewhat sensitive situation with some customers. During the meeting, we came up with the communication plan and discussed how we would message it.

I went back to my desk and immediately actioned it.

Good right? Wrong. 15 minutes later I got an email from our CEO asking me to hold off as they had realized some new considerations.

Ummmm… too late.

This is one of many instances in which I was too quick to pull the trigger on something. And there are countless more—times I spoke up without thinking through my idea enough or pitched a ‘great' new idea to the leadership team without taking the time to socialize it and determine the best way to frame it.

I often got frustrated when other senior executives seemed to take eons to get their point across and thought it was a waste of time to put my ideas into a written plan or slide deck. What was the point?

Every now and then, this strategy would bite me in the behind. Other times, I would be left scratching my head wondering why no one was on the same page as I was. And after years of this it hit me, I needed to slow down if I was going to be an effective leader. The truth is that acting with intention, even if it takes longer, will allow you to have a greater impact.

So today let's dive into this topic:

  • How can you recognize this trait in yourself
  • Making the mental shift to change
  • How to apply this to your daily life

Signs you may need to slow down

Let's start with a simple exercise: Open up your calendar.

  • Are there back-to-back meetings all day?
  • Do you have strategic thinking time blocked?
  • Do you have time set aside for meeting prep?

If your answers are ‘yes', ‘no', ‘no', you probably need to slow down.

The fact is, the best leaders have planned their calendars intentionally and prioritize the things that matter most. They take the time to prep for important meetings and ensure they are spending time in strategic thinking and deep work every week.

As I always say, you'll never have a great strategic insight in the 3 minutes you have between Zoom meetings.

And if you're working to get to the senior leadership table, this is even more important because demonstrating strategic insights is the key to showing leadership you're ready.

When you don't have ample space in your calendar, you're probably also scrambling to put together slides at the last minute for leadership or the board. Is this you?

If so, you're missing out on a huge opportunity to showcase your insights and expertise! And why? Because you haven't slowed down long enough to invest in this activity.

Slowing down involves more than just getting your calendar in order, though. Want another great sign you may need to slow down?

In meetings do you get the feeling that you're three steps ahead of people? Maybe you share a solution and are met with blank stares, and then when someone else shares it 10 minutes later everyone thinks it's great. Sound familiar?

If you're a fast thinker, you may actually be a few steps ahead of your colleagues. But this isn't a good thing unless you catch everyone else up! Not only that, sometimes we forget that the people who aren't in our department may need some additional background.

I used to see my colleagues ‘stating the obvious' and wonder why they were wasting time doing this. Except I kept noticing that people responded really well to it. Finally, I realized how powerful it was to re-state goals or key concepts as a way of framing a conversation and getting buy-in. I was the one who needed to adapt. And once I did, I saw much more success.

How can you start to slow down?

This is largely going to be a mental shift. So many of my clients feel guilty if they aren't constantly producing or pumping out work. They feel as though they shouldn't be blocking out any thinking time at all! It should all be spent in meetings or 1:1s, or putting pen to paper.

These same clients often share that they are slapping their slides together for the leadership meeting the morning of, and that's when I tell them that I have a pretty good idea why they haven't gotten promoted.

Okay, here's the reframe: when you're a junior employee your value as an employee is based on what you produce. Once you become a senior leader, your value is in the decisions you make and your ability to get people on board with them.

Okay, if you skimmed over that last part, go re-read it. This is what you need to embrace if you are ever going to make this change. Your value is no longer in getting loads of stuff done. In fact, the more you're unable to get out of the weeds, the LESS value you're creating as a leader.

Once you start to embrace this idea, you can take action towards slowing down at work and, hopefully, in life, too.

This may look like blocking out more time to:

  • Consider what the biggest problems are on your team today
  • Dive into the data and metrics and see what insights you can glean
  • Find the best way to frame your new idea to your manager or the team
  • Create a visual model to represent the new strategy you've come up with
  • Determine the top 3 things that will have the greatest impact on your team's success

So, slowing down means taking time to think, but it also means acting with more intention. On top of spending your time more intentionally, this may also mean communicating more intentionally in meetings — listening to what's happening around you and ensuring everyone's aligned on the goal, or slowing down to frame a topic or idea before jumping into it.

Does this extend to life outside of work?

Let's face it, most of us are just as bad, if not worse, when it comes to our life outside of work. We run around taking kids to activities, trying to get dinner on the table, doing everything we need to do and still trying to find time for ourselves at the end of the day.

Most of this, we can't stop doing. We can't stop feeding our kids. We can't stop taking them to dance practice or hockey or baseball. We can't stop doing laundry for tooooo long, because eventually everyone needs underwear.

But too often, we use all of this as an excuse not to do the thing we really want to do. Here are some examples:

  • No time to meditate in the morning but time to scroll social media
  • No time to exercise but time each night watching Netflix
  • No time to catch up with friends, but hitting happy hour with work colleagues

I was caught in this cycle for years, starting my day with coffee and checking work email or Slack and ending it with wine to ‘wind down'. And here's what I learned: I had the time to create the healthy habits I claimed to want; I just wasn't intentional about how I was using it.

Too much scrolling, drinking, and hanging out with people I didn't really want to be hanging out with.

Not enough intentional action around the activities or people that really mattered to me.

The interesting thing is that as I became more intentional in life, I also became more intentional at work and vice versa. This new way of being reinforced itself.

If you follow my newsletter you probably know that now my day starts with exercise and meditation, and ends with reading and journaling. I've stopped giving my time and energy to the people that don't fill my cup. And boy, has life ever gotten great.

So my challenge for you today is this: If you are someone who has been living the myth that you need to be constantly producing or busy all the time, create one small step or action to add more intention to your work day (or personal life). As you see the benefits this creates, I believe you'll be convinced.

Until next time friends… ✌️💜