Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I began my career as an accountant, something I wanted to be since I was a child. When I first entered the accounting field, I was tasked with counting parts in a warehouse in Arizona; needless to say, it was a horrible experience. However, it led me to my first professional passion: computerized accounting systems. That passion took me on a journey that began with installing PC based accounting systems in the late 1980s, to world-wide ERP implementations in the mid-1990s. It was during this time that I furthered my passion in consulting and solving human issues in the workplace. From those experiences, Individual Advantages was founded, and we have evolved into the global organizational change and consulting firm we are today.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed.” Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
As I noted, I have been involved in information management systems for companies since the late 1980s. Back then, data was distributed person to person through direct communication via the phone, facsimile, or face to face. As technology advanced, we developed new ways to communicate. It was during the 1990s that we started to notice people in work environments expecting more from their peers, subordinates, and systems. In 2000, as the increase in data continued, we saw a rise in workplace stress and frustrations.
This was the foundation of my dissertation: Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder (TIADD). The evolution of technology and our ability to communicate more rapidly has created an environment where humans have a need for immediate gratification, high expectations, and low tolerances. In my opinion, these expectations and pressures have created generations of individuals who feel they must get more done in less time, making them feel rushed.
Based on your experience or research, can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
When we are rushed, our minds have a much harder time focusing and staying focused. Typically, people who feel rushed are also stressed, which inhibits their ability to focus. Rushing can take on many forms: multitasking, consolidation, short-cuts, elimination, and much more. Multitasking splits your attention between two or more tasks, dividing your focus and sacrificing the quality of your performance. Consolidation of tasks or thoughts can produce issues where details are missed, and, for many professions, the devil is in the details.
Taking the shortest path, or short-cuts, creates potential risks. In some professions, this can be harmful to safety and risk physical factors, even death. Eliminating steps altogether typically results in failure quickly, due to the lack of understanding or completion of said task or requirement. All of these issues and more can lead to unhappiness as the stress of issues created outweigh the value of multitasking, consolidation, short-cuts, and elimination.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
By slowing down, we can create an environment where we are focused on a task with complete clarity. When we slow down, we eliminate mistakes often caused by going too fast; the time to repair mistakes made usually costs more than slowing down and doing the task in a focused manner. We can imagine all the time it takes to rectify the issues we create when we rush through things and don’t give them our full attention; this often creates one or many additional issues or tasks due to our rush to complete something.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers six strategies that you use to “slow down to do more?” Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Plan Out Your Day: Stop and set aside a few minutes in the morning (or the night before) to look over the tasks you have at hand for the day. Slow down and think about these questions while doing so: How many tasks do you NEED to finish by the end of your day? How long will each of your tasks take to complete? What is the priority and importance of each of your tasks? Which tasks will require the most brain power? Then, prioritize your tasks by how much brain power they require and how important the tasks are.
- Schedule Time for Breaks: When you plan out your day, make sure you plan out brain breaks for yourself. During your brain breaks, we recommend moving around a little bit. Even if it’s just a quick walk around the office to fill up your water bottle, keeping the blood moving in your body will help your brain tremendously. These short breaks may seem counterproductive, but you will make up for this time with the added productivity you have by focusing on one task as you slow down.
- Empower Others: One of the goals in your workspace should be to empower others to slow down too. Use your peers, subordinates, or anyone with influence over you as a catalyst to slow down. By working together in effort to slow down, the act of slowing down will start to become more of a habit and ritual rather than something you need to be reminded of. By empowering your team, you can all influence your company culture to remain present and focused through slowing down.
- Stay Present: Remind yourself often to stay present by using something as simple as a post-it that says, “STAY PRESENT.” When we stay present and don’t allow our mind to wander, we are able to focus (typically on the task at hand). Staying present slows your mind down so you don’t have to worry about anything else that is going on in your life. This type of concentrated focus allows you to complete tasks more quickly and efficiently.
- Practice Patience: Living in a world that is so fast-paced and expects immediate gratification, it is important to practice patience. I say practice because patience is something that even the most mindful and focused person can have difficulty with at times. Having patience for yourself and those who you influence will allow you to slow down, remain calm, and (hopefully) influence others to be patient. When we practice patience, we slow down the need and pressure of immediate gratification on ourselves and team; in turn, your team will become more relaxed, mindful, and begin to slow down as you have practiced patience towards them.
- Written Communication: For some instances, typing your communication is more efficient (like when you are reiterating a conversation or sending an email). In other instances, it’s nice to slow down even further and write out long-hand what you need to get out. This can be magnified if you keep a journal, write a note for yourself, or send letters. In a life full of technology and quick reactions, it helps to slow down and write things out.
How do you define “mindfulness?” Can you give an example or story?
To me, being mindful means connecting your mind, body, and present self through empathy and facts. Mindfulness stems from an understanding of yourself (your body and brain) and a connection to the world around you at a certain moment. It’s important to stay present through your connection. The present moment is where you have the power to make the best decisions for yourself.
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Integrating mindfulness requires you to schedule time to be thoughtful about yourself. It requires intent and an acceptance to be mindful of your current situation. Becoming mindful begins with slowing down for a few minutes of reflection each day. It also requires an understanding of yourself: your past, foundation, habits, willpower, and influence.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
Yes, my journal. I have journals at work and at home because I find myself needing an outlet to prepare myself for focusing on me and certain present situations. My outlet is writing, and I like to write long-hand. My journal at work is a Moleskin journal that integrates into my Evernote journal.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?
My favorite book for mindfulness is Deep Work by Cal Newport. My favorite podcast is The Tim Ferriss Show, and another resource I like is Smart Briefs.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote?” Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“There is no tomorrow and there was no yesterday; if you truly want to accomplish your goals you must engulf yourself in today.” ― Noel DeJesus
In the early days of my career I was always worried about what was going to happen next or what happened already, never really staying focused on what was happening in the present. As my life evolved I began to understand that I was always focused on what happened or what could happen because I never really paid attention to what was happening; when you slow down, you don’t need to worry about the past or future in a way that distracts you from the present.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That the influence we have over other people is the biggest responsibility we have in our lifetime. Our influence affects our own lives and those of the people we interact with daily. When we lose focus of the fact that our actions have consequences (good and bad), we take for granted the influence we have and forget about the accountability that goes along with our actions. Influence is not something we are taught to pay attention to, but there is influence in all things we do. We should be mindful of our actions, our words, and our thoughts as they can all have influence in our lives.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!