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How could you be less rush, more roll?
Slowly, slowly, catchy bum rub
The other day a colleague told me they weren’t going to rush. Not only then, but ever. Why? They’ve spent their life rushing. To work! In work! From work! At home! With friends! All rush. 😫
So they’ve decided not to. Time for a micro-task? Leave it. Running late? Saunter on. Caught in a queue? Meh.
Good, no? Except… the whole thing made me feel incredibly antsy.1 Until I realised that actually, they’d end up more efficient by not rushing. Multitasking = multifail. Etc.2 And even if they weren’t more efficient they’d probably be more mindful. Or something. Phew, order restored.
Their take on my insight?
I’d missed the point. Not rushing wasn’t a sneaky scheme to cheat productivity. Or be an indefinably better person. It was just what it was: not rushing. The end. 🤯
And hey, that makes sense. Consider the lilies of the fields…3 Etc. But then what? I love an intellectualised concept, but what does it mean in practice? Where’s the line between not-rushing and not-getting-on? Or between being fast and being rushed? How can you tell one from the other? And how do you cope without the sweat-drenched, brain-focused WHOOSH! of a deadline?
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What’s the rush?
Let’s step back a bit. Why are you rushing in the first place? I'm not suggesting you channel your inner sloth. Just get curious. What is the consequence of not racing ahead? Is that really true? Does it matter?4 Fan of nuance that I am, I’d venture that it probably depends.5 Some things are time-bound. I’d still rather catch the train than not, for example. So there’s that.
But lots of things don’t have inherent so much as imposed deadlines. “I’ll get this done by x time, so I can fit in y before I do z. And then tomorrow I can crack on with a.” But again, why? What’s lost if you don’t? What’s gained if you do?
Ugh. Such boring, obvious, coachy questions. 🙄 And honestly, who has time to live their life in constant ponder?67 But actually, I don’t think you always need to answer those questions – so much as ask them. It’s a sort of mental intervention: pausing the rush in your mind to rush a bit less in practice. If nothing else, it gives you a bit of choice: rush, or don’t. Just make sure you own what you choose.8
What do you rush?
A funny thing: the leaders I work with don’t rush everything. Most of them won’t rush strategic decisions. Or budget forecasts. Or tricky conversations with the team. Etc.
But most of those leaders will rush themselves. How? Sometimes by rushing the stuff that makes life calmer. Like time to decompress after one of those tricky chats. Or by squeezing the stuff they love so there's more time for stuff they don't.9 Which is odd, really. Because who has time to dispense with joy?
If you are going to rush, you might as well rush everything equally. Except you probably won’t. So why do you rush some things and not others? And what about the reverse: what do you savour, for good or ill? If you audited this day, would you be content with what was rushed, or not, or savoured?
What’s your post-rush recovery time?
We don’t really think about this mid-rush, but rushing isn’t finite. The reason to rush might end with the deadline, but the effect of rushing tends to hang around. And hey, that’s not necessarily bad. It might be a sense of delicious triumph, of having made it against the odds. In which case: hurrah for you! 🙌
But mostly, I reckon it’s just tiring. Because it’s actually quite hard to pull your attention away from the deadline that's been consuming your energies. Or to feel calm, or present, or ready for the next thing. At least for a while.
And then there’s the inadvertent impact on your team. Or customers, or clients. Does your rush speed them up, or stress them out? And what about their impact on you?
What if you added up the rush time plus the recovery time? Would you end up in the same place as if you hadn’t rushed? My strong hunch is: yes. Not always, and not for everyone. But often enough to give one pause.
Want the whoosh without the weep?
Maybe you need a deadline to channel your inner brilliance. Maybe, like me, you actually enjoy that glorious sprint to the finish. In which case, might I commend One Step Forward to chunk the madness? That way, when the deadline looms you can hurtle on with the hard yards done.10 And focus more (not entirely) on being your brilliant self. And less (not entirely) on panic-ploughing through the mud. It’s not about trying to turn yourself into someone who doesn’t respond to deadlines. It is about giving yourself the best chance to be you. Slowly, slowly, catchy bum rub.11
I’m off now to send this before my own self-imposed deadline. (11am on Thursday, if you wondered.) Btw, if you’re a new subscriber a) hearty thanks, and b) you’ll have noticed that TCL is longform. With footnotes. And emojis. If you prefer a short burst you might like my 20 Impertinent Questions, each a 30-second read. Perhaps you’ll like them either way. And if you’re not a new subscriber: hearty and continued thanks!
And that’s it! 👋
I hate being late. But I love other rush-related stuff that I won’t mention in case I sound like a twat.
Also, the notion that women are brilliant at multitasking is one of the most insidious excuses for the quantities of unpaid labour dumped on them. Everyone’s shit at multitasking. And, like all things patriarchy, it does a disservice to men as well as women.
“Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Matthew 6:28, The Bible: King James Version)
These are two of the most helpful questions you can ask, imho. A question (or two) for all seasons.
I imagine there are examples where being in a rush is preferable to being quick. I just can’t think what they might be. CPR came to mind, but even that needs to be steady rather than racy – roughly 2 compressions per second, according to the British Heart Foundation. Btw, they offer free CRP training on your phone or tablet. It takes just 15 minutes. It could save a life.
Which is why it’s much more sensible to be consistently curious. Constant anything is pretty exhausting.
Then again, who has time not to?
It’s much more powerful to own your own decisions than to pretend they’re someone else’s. You’ll come across as clearer in yourself, as well as in your motivations. Which also means colleagues (or friends and family) are more likely to know where they are with you.
Is all this selective rushing because they’re kinder to other people than to themselves? It’s a coaching question so tremendously clichéd I hesitate to commit it to print. But lots of leaders I know really wouldn’t treat their teams the way they treat themselves. Which is intriguing for all sorts of reasons. Do they consider themselves more able than their teams? Or more deserving of mistreatment? Discuss.
I should add that lots of my clients use One Step Forward to avoid running up against deadlines altogether. And that’s cool too.
I love this phrase, which I think was born of a malapropism-cum-mondegreen. You’d have to ask its originators, those marvellous folks at Advai, for the full explanation. It is entirely irrelevant to what they do (clever things that stress-test AI). But a phrase like this deserves to be out in the world!