Slow Down to Go Fast

As I was running up a steep hill coming out of the beautiful Don Valley ravine, I realized that I was doing exactly what I had recommended to a client: slowing down to go fast. In running, the best way to maintain top average speed is to adjust your pace to maintain effort on the hill – not speed – so that when you reach the top of the hill you’re ready to run at your normal pace. Work pace, especially before vacations, works the same way.

Have you ever noticed that when you go on vacation, it often takes most of the first week to actually relax? If you’re like most people, you probably spend the week leading up to your vacation knocking items off your to-do list so that you don’t leave any loose ends. That week before vacation is like a hill when you’re running: more work in a shorter time. Maintaining top speed means working twice as hard to get through two weeks’ worth of work. And then we pay the price when we don’t get the rest and renewal we need while on vacation. So when you plan your vacation this year, plan to maintain constant effort in the week leading up to your time off, not constant speed. Here are some suggestions for how to do that:

• Be crystal clear about what your top one, two or three priorities are. Most of us spend a lot of time and energy on things that don’t really drive our success (paperwork, meetings that we don’t contribute to, etc.). Ask yourself about each activity, “If I didn’t do this now, would it matter 6 months from now?” And if the answer is yes, put it on your priority list.

• Once you have your priority list, consider what you can delegate. If you have no direct reports, see if you can create a buddy/back-up system with one or more of your team-mates. If you have people to delegate to, consider their strengths and learning opportunities. Some of your less urgent to-do’s might be good development for your team members.

• Now that you’ve whittled your to-do list down to something manageable, pace yourself. Take a 5-minute break every 90 minutes, and remember to drink water and eat! Taking a short refresher every 90 minutes will allow you to maintain your focus, and drinking water and eating right will keep your energy up. You’ll get more done in less time.

Taking the time to think through what you will do in the week or two before your vacation will take a few minutes. But the time spent will be well worth it when you are able to work through your important tasks and leave for vacation confident that your work is taken care of. And you’ll be ready to relax and enjoy your well-earned vacation.