Increase Productivity: Slowing Down to Speed Up

I recently listened to an interview with Mario Andretti. When asked his best advice to business leaders, his response caught my attention. It was a way to increase productivity. He responded, “Slow down so you can speed up.”

Now you might be thinking that makes no sense. That doesn’t really apply to business.

In the racing world, drivers practice all week long. They don’t run at their maximum speed during all of their practice time. Part of their time is actually spent at slower speeds so they can feel what is going on with the car and communicate it to the crew so they can make adjustments. They have to slow down to focus on what the car is doing and how it feels.

Marathon runners do a similar thing. During the week as they practice, they are often advised to dial back their running speed and intensity so they are not as exhausted when it comes time for the race. In addition to exhaustion, running intensely during all training can cause stress injuries.

So what’s the connection to business?

For most of us, we start our day by checking our phones for texts and emails; then we jump out of bed and run to the gym for a workout. Then it’s back home to feed the kids and run them to school or daycare. Off to work, where we respond to more emails, sprint from meeting to meeting, reply to questions, solve problems, eat lunch while meeting, lead more meetings, and respond to more emails. This is usually followed by heading out to pick up dinner, join the kids for evening events, and then running home to get the kids to bed. Then, before crashing to bed ourselves, we check our email one last time. Whew! That is a marathon day!

So when Mario Andretti says to “slow down so you can speed up,” it’s actually sound advice. But how? It’s actually harder than it sounds. Slowing down on purpose when our society doesn’t recognize ‘thinking time’ as ‘productive time’ makes it even more difficult. If people were to notice that you’re not typing while sitting at your computer, they would think you weren’t busy.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Walking. Schedule time to walk. Fifteen minutes or more at a slower pace. At first, notice the details around you. That will shift the gears in your mind so that you can focus on what you need to think about or allow your mind to wander and be creative.
  • Driving. For me, driving on the open highway is where I solve the world’s problems and become creative. I do my best thinking outside of the city limits on trips of more than an hour. Stop checking your phone. Turn off the music or news station and let your mind go.
  • Exercise. I’m not suggesting an intense training session here; but jogging, yoga, or stretching helps slow you down and allows your brain to be free.
  • Lunch. Get away for lunch. No meeting. No lunch date. Take lunch to the park. Eat by yourself at a restaurant. Just do a little people watching. You’ll feel more focused and energized after a little time by yourself.
  • Vacation. Make sure you take time away from work a couple of times per year. Go somewhere that relaxes you. For some, it’s the beach. For others, it is hiking or biking. And for some, it’s just staying home. Even shopping can be relaxing.

These are just a few suggestions to increase productivity. Taking time to slow down so you can be more focused and energized will allow you to be more productive, not just busy. You’ll feel better and those around you will notice the change.

Looking for more ways to increase productivity? Click here to read more!