Slow Down. Reflect. Engage.

Slow down to ensure your productivity. There is such a thing as being too fast to be effective. There is also a danger that speed will mean you miss more important relationship signals.

Unsafe at Speed

I started a conversation on twitter this week with a reflection on how productivity is being sapped by a culture of continuous activity and the relentless pace of business.

As Harold Jarche points out reflection and learning are the first things to go as we get busy. I also find many people don’t have the time to do their jobs, engage with others or move projects forward because they are so tied to a daily schedule of meetings and activities.

The power of working in more agile ways is that it forces us to understand what done means for a piece of work. There are lots of meetings, documents and other busy activities that don’t advance a piece of work towards done. Going faster and doing more of these things is just destroying productivity.

Unsafe at Any Speed

Working without time for learning and reflection, is dangerous because it threatens our relationships, our productivity and the effectiveness of others. We don’t work alone. Lack of learning and reflection impacts those around us.

After that twitter post, I received a call in the middle of a busy day. I dove into discussing the presumed topic of the call. I was enthusiastic, keen to get the call done and talking quickly. After about 5 minutes of chatter, I paused for breath and that pause helped me to realise that the other person wasn’t particularly engaged. My enthusiasm seemed to be draining them. Worse still, I realised their tone of voice suggested something else was on their mind. I had been prattling on when clearly they had called to discuss a more difficult topic.

Reflection is one thing. The next step is also making the time to do something different with that insight. If we are too busy, we can put off implementing the insight until later, if ever.

When I stopped prattling, I asked then and there if they were OK.  That simple question led to a much more meaningful and valuable conversation. We ended up discussing the challenges of modern work life, career struggles, motivation and the need to talk to others when you are struggling with symptoms of depression. If I hadn’t stopped my self-absorbed activity and reflected on the other participant in the conversation, then a valuable opportunity for us to help each other would have been missed.

Make the time in every interaction to check that others are OK

We need time for reflection and learning because we don’t work in networks of transactions with widgets. We work in networks of relationships with real complex and highly adaptive human beings. Being alert and allowing space for those relationships to develop enables our productivity and collective success.

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