The Busier You Are the More You Need to Do This One Thing

August 8, 2017
By Zack Poelwijk

The busier you are, the more you need to slow down. What? You don’t have time to slow down. I know. I understand how it is. But the busier you are, the more you need to get beyond the noise.

Here’s why. Producing quality work requires a sense of calm. Generating good ideas requires space to allow creativity to develop. Taking breaks helps restore the nervous system. Don’t just take my word for it, science shows it. Earlier this year, researchers from Duke Medical School found that that silence is associated with the development of new cells in the hippocampus, the key brain region associated with learning and memory.

In my humble opinion, you don’t even need silence to get the benefits. Straighten your back and take a few deep breaths. Put your phone down first!

I know some people who are so busy, so frazzled, that they only half read texts and emails before firing off a response. Inevitably, they get something wrong because they didn’t answer the question the person actually posed. Or they give an ambiguous answer that the person has to follow up on. If this is an employer doing it (like, perhaps, you), you’re making more work for yourself. you could even be doubling the work you do. If you take a minute to slow down and throroughly read an email before responding to it, you only have to read that email once.

If you rush through it and miss key pieces of information because you’re in such a hurry you’re just focused on getting to the next email, you’re going to give a reply that doesn’t help. Then you’re going to get a follow up email, and you’re going to have to read that one too. Will you give it your attention the second time it crosses your desk?

At Aetna, an insurance company, the leaders have taken the forefront of giving their employees mindfulness training. After teaching employees to take short breaks to center themselves, and offering meditation and yoga, stress levels dropped by 28%, 20% of employees reported that their sleep quality improved, and their pain dropped by 19%.

Close the office door. Turn off the phone. Take a walk. Take a deep breath.

When you’re constantly fixed on the next action, making room for new ideas is truly difficult.