When Speeding Up Requires Slowing Down

WHEN WE STRETCH OURSELVES TOO THIN, WE OFTEN TRY TO CATCH UP BY MOVING FASTER, WHILE IN FACT THE ONLY WAY TO REGAIN BALANCE IS TO SLOW DOWN.

Even though there are 24 hours in every single day, the days seem to grow shorter as we take on more responsibilities. Like a boat taking on water, we slow down with our burdens while the waves of time speed by us. As Tolkien’s pint-sized narrator Bilbo Baggins put it, plainly yet poignantly, we end up feeling “thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.”

While Baggins resides in fantasy, “hurry sickness,” as doctors have taken to calling it, is a very real affliction. With their minds stuck in the fast lane, healthcare leadership can suffer physical responses from the flood of chemicals their brains pump into their bodies to keep them ready for action at all hours of the day. Eventually, these chemicals build up and become toxic. In the short term, they demolish their host’s ability to work efficiently and effectively, and over time they can inflict serious damage on a person’s cardiovascular system. In fact, a 1972 medical study found that disliking one’s job places cardio stress more likely to cause heart disease than smoking, high cholesterol or not getting enough exercise.

The Catch-22 of hurry sickness is that in response to faltering productivity, most people try to move faster, which only worsens the problem. The solution, while simple, can be hard to convince yourself of: you need to slow down. However, even if you are able to acknowledge that dropping a few commitments can help, this can be easier said than done.

To get started, ask yourself the following questions. This is a good opportunity to practice — take the time to answer carefully and honestly.

  • Where in my life might I be moving too fast?
  • Where do I seem to be losing myself?
  • Should I slow down, take a break or renegotiate some commitments?
  • To whom can I talk about this?
  • How does the group of people I spend my time with affect my pace?
  • Who would support me in slowing down a bit?

If you found these questions difficult to answer, or if your answers simply seem unrealistic, executive leadership coaching can be a great resource to help you strategize your slow-down.