THE BLOG
05/15/2014 02:12 pm ET Updated Jul 15, 2014

The Best Time to Slow Down Is When You're in a Rush

Reza Estakhrian via Getty Images

My father thought lazy people were careful and took the time and energy to do a job right the first time. Lazy people didn't take shortcuts and they didn't scrimp on effort. They never wanted to spend more time than was necessary to get something done.

Huh?

After watching me scatter textbooks, notes, paper and colored pens on the table, in a very obvious deadline panic, Dad would sigh, tell me to slow down and remind my teenage self that when you rush a job, you're likely to make mistakes that have to be corrected, forget things you'll have to go back and add or, in the worst case, start over from scratch -- making more work for myself. Lazy people didn't like to make more work for themselves. As I said, he was a patient man by nature and was never tired of explaining his theory to me. It was a message the teenage me just didn't want to hear at the time. No, it took a while to understand and appreciate his reasoning... a long while.

I have grown since then and have acquired the necessary organizational tools and attention to detail that befit my Virgo birth. Mostly, I'm well prepared, start projects with time to spare and nail it the first time. Still, with work and family and a lot to deal with, I have found myself sitting on top of deadlines woefully unprepared -- a work project, a dinner party that has to be planned and executed, packing for vacation, preparing for visiting guests or something promised to a child or friend.

Dad's words always come back to me when I'm rushing something important. It's so easy when you're stressed about having to finish something, to just dive into the task in a blind flurry of activity. Digging in hard makes you feel energized, with a stress-induced adrenaline rush that convinces you that you can do the impossible. Unfortunately, I've learned the hard way that when I was most stressed for time and in the midst of the chaos, blind activity didn't guarantee progress. I would waste valuable time moving from one unfinished task to another, leaving lots of parts in progress but incomplete. There was no sense of doing one thing and then moving on to the next. Nothing to measure how far I was from the finish line.

Let me suggest, when you're in a panic, unprepared and near a deadline, before you throw yourself up against the clock that you slow down, take a deep breath and then give yourself 10 minutes to make a plan and map out a strategy.

  • Jot down what you have to do and how you're going to do it. It doesn't have to be detailed and exact, but aim for at least a vague order of completion.
  • Check to see if you forgot anything, though you can go back and add things as you go along.
  • See if there are some things that someone else can handle for you.
  • Don't let yourself get too engrossed in the plan. The clock is still ticking and time isn't a big luxury at this point.
  • Finally, take a moment to let go of the stress. You have a plan. You're back in control.

After I make a plan and map out a strategy, the dreaded project most often doesn't seem as daunting on paper as it did in my head. It looks manageable. There is order, and I'm probably not going to go off in different directions. One step at a time, checking them off as I go along. Keeping track of my progress.

Life is much easier when I'm being lazy, starting projects ahead of time and working carefully, so revisions are few and little time is wasted. But when it doesn't work out that way, I have learned that when I'm stressed and in a rush, the best thing to do is slow down, make a plan and get it done.

Yes, do it the lazy way.

For more about making your life a bit easier, finding time to nurture your soul and keeping stress at a distance, visit my blog at http://www.bedcamp.wordpress.com

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