My team and I were rushing to get out of the office so we wouldn’t be late for a client meeting. And as we hurried out the door, we forgot to bring the presentation books.

Fortunately, someone noticed just before we got into the taxi. Then it took another 7 minutes to go back up the elevator, grab the books and get going.  We ended up being later than if we hadn’t hurried.

Maybe you’ve had a similar experience?

Whether your reason for rushing is to meet a deadline or because you feel behind in your work or life in general, the desire to hurry up has become the norm.

Fast is a good thing in our society. If you can get there quicker it’s better. There are accolades for the youngest to start a business.

But when it comes to your career, fast isn’t necessarily better. Being in a hurry and trying to go fast can backfire.

There are some important reasons why you need to slow down to speed up your time to success. In fact, sometimes slowing down is what wins the race.

I know, it’s counter intuitive. And as the author of a book called Accelerate, you might think it’s odd that I’m talking about slowing down.

But while it goes against our instincts, here are three reasons why you’ll enjoy greater success by slowing down:

  • Better performance
  • Executive presence
  • Personal wellness

Performance is not always enhanced by speed

In fact, rushing to act can lead to worse results. Take the England Football (soccer to North Americans) team for example.

It turns out that their spotty track record of scoring in penalty shootouts can be linked to taking less time than other teams before starting toward the ball. This is important because penalty shootouts are how the winner is determined when the game ends with a tie score. So now they’ve formulated a strategy for each player to take time to prepare themselves mentally and physically before they start.

For the rest of us, slowing down means not rushing to do the task at hand. And instead, honoring the importance of preparation. Like with the England team’s penalty kicks, it pays to take a few moments to organize your thoughts and get your mental and physical game in place before you dive into the “doing”.

Whether it’s breathing work, saying your mantra or doing your “pregame/warmup” routine, what you do in those moments just before you’re “on stage” will make the difference between good and great.

Slowing down also allows you to prioritize the things that really matter instead of falling victim to the urgent or familiar at the expense of the important. Instead of getting swept along with the urgency of the moment, give yourself the gift of stepping back – even for a few seconds – to think first before you act.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend four hours sharpening the ax.”

– Abraham Lincoln

How could taking the time for preparation improve your performance?

Which brings us to the second reason.

Slowing down enhances your executive presence

So much of executive presence and gravitas are about your pace. This is where slow beats fast every time. For example, have you seen your CEO running through the hallway? Or gushing out words a mile a minute?

When you’re speaking, slowing down lets your words sink in. You’ll have the time to pause for effect. And people will be better able to absorb the points you’re making.

When you slow down, it also helps you make room to listen. To really listen to what the other person is saying, which requires being present in the moment. This allows you to have conversations based in trust, which is the bedrock of building relationships.

The same goes for how you move through space, whether that’s walking down the hallway or your hand gestures on Zoom. When you slow down, you’ll feel more calm, confident and in control. And that’s how others will experience you as well.

How could your personal brand benefit from slowing down your speaking style and movements?

Most important of all, your personal wellness will improve

Living in the world of urgency and ‘now’ can feel powerful at first. In my case, I love the adrenaline-inducing feeling of being in demand and getting things done. In fact, I’ve often thought I’d be a great short-order cook.

But operating in “emergency mode” as your default is costly. It burns a lot of energy. And when you’re constantly on high alert, it causes stress on your system… the negative kind. That’s how I came within a centimeter of burning out. And it’s hard to bounce back

So don’t wait until you have to slow down to slow down. If this feels challenging or you’re skeptical, you can start by applying the concept to one part of your life.

Like being present when you eat. Instead of reading, listening to podcasts or watching videos, savor the food using all your senses. Chew slowly and enjoy the sensation of eating something nutritious. And if you’re sharing a meal with others, enjoy the conversation.

This one small change made a big difference to my ability to enjoy life and feel less stressed.

What’s the experiment you could do that would enhance your personal wellbeing?

But what if everyone else is speeding ahead and you don’t want to be left behind?

Social pressures and natural human instincts are powerful, and I know too well the expectation of getting there fast. Like those lists of “CEOs under the age of 40” and people vying to be the “youngest partner” and so forth.

But as US President Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”

Life and careers aren’t a competition. But what if you are exactly where you’re meant to be? If you must compare, then at least recognize that every plan can look like a failure in the middle. It can feel that way, but does it really serve you?

As a mentor of mine says, “slow is smooth, and smooth is fast”. Like the story of the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady can give you the staying power you need to succeed in the marathon of today’s careers.

Just don’t make the mistake of running someone else’s race

You’re more likely to be successful if you’re doing something that’s in your sweet spot. And even if you do win someone else’s race, it leads to feeling empty once you get there.

So run your own race. Get clear on what success means for you. And allow yourself to take the time you need.

Sometimes you have to slow down to speed up

Now is a great time to slow down and make better decisions on what to spend your time doing and how you go about doing it.

So when you’re tempted to rush ahead, remember why slowing down is the better way to go:

  • Better performance – the moments you take to gather your thoughts before diving in will improve your results
  • Executive presence – the pace of your speaking and movements matters, and slow beats fast every time
  • Personal wellness – take time to be in the moment rather than operate on adrenalin

So how could slowing down help you in your career and life?

Leave a comment and let me know.