“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much
as they are looking for the experience of being alive.”
– Joseph Campbell
When’s the last time you felt truly alive or were in the present moment experiencing life vs. hurrying, frantically trying to get it all done?
Most professionals today struggle to stay ahead of the game and are sacrificing the things that are most important to them in order to stay afloat. Especially in emergency services, we’re used to operating in emergency mode. The good news is: our lives don’t have to operate in the same emergency mode. 99% of the time we are not dealing with life or death situations, so why make our organizations or lives live in a state of chaos and overwhelm?
What if you could easily change that without any loss of productivity or performance? It sounds too good to be true… It’s not. Learning to slow down is the key to greater productivity and improved performance. It seems contradictory yet study after study shows this to be true.
“Space in the head creates space at the conference table”1, in an article titled Embodied Mind Knowledge in Leadership Practice: Creating Space in Patterned Thoughts and Behaviors. Evaluate your ways of being and acting. Are you open or closed to other insights, is your mind relaxed or in a constant state of distress? Read more on on this topic in our EMS self-care article, Are you taking care of you.
Why is is so difficult to believe and implement?
One reason is we are fighting our own evolution. When we get stressed or perceive a threat it triggers the flight or fight response known as the Amygdala Hijack. The threat can be a thought such as “I’m going to get in trouble if I don’t get this all done” or “They are going to find out I’m not good enough if I don’t …” or “I’m going to lose my job if I don’t…”
Once the Amygdala is triggered the brain goes into survival mode and rational, creative thinking goes out the window.
When you slow down and begin to examine your thoughts and fears, it allows the higher functioning parts of the brain to engage, enabling more creative thinking.
The most challenging part of this is when everyone around you is speeding up, it can look like the thing to do. When I catch myself falling into this pattern I remember what my Mom used to always say, “If everyone else jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you jump too?”
I am a firm believer of doing what works and slowing down truly works to become more enlivened as well as more productive.
How, you ask?
Here are a few ideas for productivity & performance that truly work:
- Set an alarm on your phone to go off several times throughout the day to remind you to take 4 to 5 slow, deep breaths. Count to 5 on the inhale and count to 6 on the exhale. This simple technique is a mini-meditation that will get you present.
- Focusing on clearing your mind for 5 minutes a day can have dramatic effects within just a few consecutive days. Another great resources is Dr. Scott Weingart’s talk on Mindfulness & Meditation for medical providers, via the EMCrit podcast.
- Do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is not effective. Your brain works at its best when it does one thing at a time. Work on one thing to completion, then work on the next thing.
- Make sure everything on your to-do list has a time assigned to it when you will get it done. Most people make the mistake of creating a to do list without scheduling a time to actually do it. This leads to overwhelm.
- Turn off your email notifications and check it twice a day. Constant notifications will easily distract and lead to overwhelm. If it’s that important, someone will call you.
Please share in the comments below, what has worked for you? We’re always looking to share how others have created positive results.
1-Journal of Management Inquiry, 2014, Vol. 23(3) 231–241, Karssiens, et al