It is hard to get things just right. The AC runs too hot or too cold. The volume on the TV is too loud or hard to hear. Time flies or is frozen. It is much the same when it comes to our professional life. The pendulum swings between “running around like a chicken with its head cut off” and things being slow and worrying about what that might mean.
If your life is on fast-forward, hit pause. So often we are frantically at work on the wrong things, but are moving too fast to notice. Are the things on your plate (the phone calls, networking events, documents to revise, deals to renegotiate) going to make a significant measureable difference? If they are not going to move you substantially closer to your big picture, ditch them. No one gets successful by being hard at work on the details, detours, and drama. Like Seth Godin rightly said, “The obligation is to carve out time for the big work.”
For those in the moving-at-the-speed-of-light camp but want to slow down, here is a way to start (If this is not you, go ahead and skip this paragraph!):
What does it cost? Quantify what would happen if you waited or skipped it altogether. What is the downside to returning the phone call tomorrow, forgoing the last round of edits, or declining an invitation to coffee?
Dolly the Sheep. Admittedly (and thankfully) we are a couple years away from cloning people, but maybe there is someone who can step into your shoes. Although I would never come out and say you are not indispensable, you are not indispensable. Often there is someone else who can do the work. Determine whether that is true in your case.
Conversely, if you think time is on your side, I say to you, “What’s the hold up?” People drag their feet for one of two reasons. Some are afraid of the work that matters. It is big, bold and scares you to death. Brainstorming, analyzing and checking and rechecking have become part of the procrastination strategy. Alternatively, maybe you’re taking a timeout. To recover from your previously frenetic pace, you are now overcorrecting by taking things too slowly.
Assuming you are ready for time to stop standing still, here are two lines of attack which you can try:
Turn up the Heat. Envision what you might accomplish if you were to move faster and dream bigger. Do you like the way it looks? If so, outline the steps and create a timeline of what you need to do to get there. Hold yourself accountable.
Bask in the Glow. There is nothing wrong with taking a break, but do not fall off the grid. Decide how long the break will last and commit to engaging once it ends. While you are on sabbatical, be sure to enjoy the time away and use it to recharge. A change of pace can be productive. By stepping back we can gain perspective and tap into our creativity.
Finding and maintaining your sweet spot is hard. It requires thought, regular monitoring and frequent adjustment. Not everyone wants to be bothered with it. In the short-term it may be easier to just continue on your merry way. For those few who practice and perfect their technique, the return justifies the investment. The fact is that given our ambition, the high professional bar we have set for ourselves and the time in which we are trying to do it all, we cannot afford to operate on the extremes. We have no other choice but to perform in the place where we get the maximum response for our effort.