5 ways slowing down boosts your effectiveness

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Lac de la Thuile

Freelancers live life in the fast lane. Our brains are “on” nearly all the time.

And it’s no wonder: we are our own marketing, production, administrative, and financial staff. Many choose to become solo entrepreneurs to have more time to devote to non-work interests and to achieve a better work-life balance. Passionate about developing our businesses, many of us end up sacrificing much of what means the most to us in the process.

Faster-better-easier becomes the mantra to overcome the 24-hour dilemma. The express lane is a danger zone, for your health and your business. Slowing down intelligently boots your effectiveness.

Focus and center:

Instead of rushing to make or return that important phone call, invest a few minutes in deep breathing exercises. You will be more likely to “hear” with your whole brain and respond appropriately.

Read the key words:

You’ve received an email with a fascinating project request and are itching to answer “Yes! I can! Choose me me me me because I’m sooo good and let me tell you why!”  Hang on for a sec’ and ask yourself some questions to try to decode the content first. For example:

– Is the writer asking What, How or Why questions? This could modulate the focus of your response (deliverable, process, qualifications).

– Is the writer seeking to move away from something (change service providers, save money, unsatisfactory deliverables etc.) or toward something (new communication or internationalization campaign for instance)? In the first case, you’ll likely be responding to a problem within an existing context and need first to reassure the prospect. In the second, you’ll have greater leeway to promote your full range of services and partner/brainstorm with the prospect.

Keep your blood levels steady and feed your brain

Often, my concentration is such I forget to eat and don’t even feel hunger or thirst – or don’t want to break the flow to make and eat lunch if my stomach does signal needing fuel. That’s the fast track to problems. Now, I keep an assortment of nuts and dried fruits on my desk to nibble on along with a thermos of herb tea in case I really can’t/don’t want to head for the kitchen. The brain burns 1.5 calories per minute, uses up to half of the body’s oxygen and is dependent on proper nutrition to for top neural function and neurogenesis.

Adopt power naps

Do you get drowsy after lunch? After exercising? In the middle of the afternoon? We all have our own biorhythms and tracking how you feel over a few days will help you figure out when you are most on the ball or not. Power naps are not just for those days when you did not get enough sleep the night before. Research shows napping can boost your skills and your performance. I’d never been able to doze off at will before and spent part of the summer training myself to do so. Even 10 minutes relaxing in a comfortable position with your eyes closed, attentive to your breathing, will help recharge your mental batteries.

One day a week, turn it all off

For some, myself included, turning it all off for one whole day is tough. Yet if you check email, work on your blog, or contribute to forums and various social media networks 7 days a week, you risk finding it difficult to achieve a meaningful work-life balance. Your family, your friends, and simply yourself deserve to have you 100% there at least one day out of the week! I’m working on this one…. (confession..my smartphone is email enabled…shush…)


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  • Wise words! I’ve always been absolutely convinced that I needed nine hours of sleep a night and that I was incapable of a nap any shorter than three or four hours 🙂 A new puppy (read: peeing schedule) has me down to seven and a half hours a night. I might just try the power nap thing (even if I don’t actually manage to fall asleep, just meditating for fifteen minutes in a comfy chair with my feet up might do wonders)!

  • Thank you! Thank you! Very well said. Especially the Read the Key Words part…..so important…..I have to get better at this myself.

    • Thanks, Melissa! What are some of the things you find you might need to slow down to be more effective and get more out of everything you do?

  • Over the past year, I don’t think I’ve ever voluntarily spent an entire day offline!

    After a few internet-deprived days in the countryside, I turned on the computer the minute I got home. No huge translation projects were lost, no colleagues or friends desperately called for help, no babies got born.

    “Turning it all off” from time to time makes perfect sense. I just have to get over the feeling that I might MISS something.

  • […] Giving up my wiggle room is not good for my creativity […]