I was on the golf course a few weeks ago. It was pretty warm, but it was likely the last chance we'd have to go before the weather got really hot, so we took advantage of a cool morning to hit the links.
Now I'm not a great golfer, so this isn't going to be a post describing best practices when it comes to golf. I tend to be all over the place for most of the time. But one area where I am pretty consistent is on the green. When it comes to putting, I may not be sinking 50 foot birdies, but I do tend hit generally good putts. The right distance. The right line. They don't always go in, but they tend to get me pretty close.
My key to that has always been taking my putts really slowly. I think about them. I visualize them in my head. When I get up next to the ball, I don't just hit it. I stand over it, gauging my swing and the green and all the other variables that go with putting. I go really slowly. It sometimes drives people a little crazy. But I don't care. I take my time and hit my putt.
How often are we rushing our putts?
All the time? It kind of feels like it.
As I contemplated a typical day at work, it generally consists of rushing from one meeting to the next. Rushing to get emails sent out. Rushing to gather information. Rushing to have quick conversations with folks to check in on things.
Everything is a rush.
I get it. Everyone is busy. We have lots to do. We have tons of things to cover in our meetings. We have so many responsibilities that we have to rush from one task to the next in order to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.
But it's not just work. How often do we rush to get to work, or get home from work, or get to the store? We rush to have dinner in order to make it to evening activities, which can also be a flurry as we rush through them so we can get home in time for bed.
But how much are we missing as we rush?
I'd estimate that we're losing some of the most important details in our rush to get things done. This is happening to each of us individually as well as our teams and families and friends.
At work, I've noticed this in countless meetings I've been in lately. We have a packed agenda that we need to get through so we plow through as quickly as we can. There isn't time for a ton of conversation because we have items we need to get through. And if discussion starts to happen, it is generally shut down after a very short time as something that is better "taken offline."
And it isn't just other people. It is all of us. It is me. I don't think I could keep track of the number of days that I rush from one thing to the next, only to reach the end of a blurred day to wonder what had happened.
The cost of this kind of rushing is high. Recently another product manager and I realized that our teams had been working independently on very similar projects. Now there is certainly something to be said for process, coordination, and all of that. But I can't help but wonder if, as product managers, we had slowed down just a little and had some conversations in the various meetings we're in. Rather than sticking so tightly to agendas, what if we had just talked about things we had in the works. Would we have realized this sooner? I believe so.
And what about the cost to our families?
Are we missing the most important moments? When our son was born, I was working 70-80 hours per week. That continued for a time after that. I was constantly in motion, running as fast as I could to get ahead. It was pure chance I was home one evening around 5pm (early for me at the time), and was able to actually witness him taking his first steps. It caused me serious pause. What other moments was I missing out on in my rush?
And finally, what is the cost to ourselves?
How long can we keep moving at 100 miles per hour, rushing through life before it begins to take its toll? Another shot of caffeine to keep us moving. Not enough time for a decent meal, so we eat whatever is quick and easy. Not enough time to properly plan for our futures, so we have to take whatever comes because we don't have time to prepare.
So how can we slow things down?
I will be posting more about this soon, but I've started to block out time each day to slow down. To actually think. To work on important tasks that tend to get lost in the rush of everything else we have going on.
We can also start to take time in all of our meetings and interactions for actual discussion. Maybe even begin to plan for meetings that are just about discussion. I've been in meetings like this and found them to be the absolute most productive meetings I've participated in. No agenda, no bullet points to get through. Just discussion.
As we allow ourselves the necessary time to slow down, I think we'll find that we're able to get more done. More of the important things. We won't waste so much time being pulled in different directions. We'll be able to focus on thing things that are important.
I've started to find that as I try not to rush my putts at work, I'm actually getting much closer to the hole than I was before. I'm able to size up what I need to do and then execute better than ever before.
So take a minute, take a breath. Don't rush your putts.
My personal musings on a variety of topics.