Remember the last time you benefited from being in a rush? Yeah, me neither.
Around the holidays last year I was really frustrated with a friend who kept pushing back plans with me, citing how “like, crazy busy” she was. My good friend Leslie, who seems to be a walking card catalog for helpful reading material, forwarded me a 2012 op ed from the New York Times called, “The Busy Trap,” wherein Tim Kreider describes the phenomenon of adult humans packing their lives full of imagined obligations, and then complaining about it.
It’s worth a read of the full article, but the gist is that the difference between having things to do and being “omg so busy” is a manic outlook that we construct, or perhaps, choose not to construct. The article really stuck with me (clearly), and I think this observation can be applied aptly to another, equally useless human behavior: Hurrying.
Back in my hairdressing days, I was paid on commission, which incentivized speed. I was always trying to shave time off my haircuts (so to speak), maximize efficiency, cha-ching, right? Except that wasn’t the result at all. Besides the bloody nicks all over my fingers from hasty blade work, any time I was saving by cutting corners (these puns are unintentional, I swear), I was using to check and re-check my work to make sure it met my standards of quality. In effect, I wasn’t working faster, I was just hurrying. And all told, I made the same amount of money, and really wore out my nerves in the process.
The difference, I learned, between hurrying and actual speed is that hurrying is just a state of mind. I liken it to my dog pulling on his leash, gaining no ground, just making himself increasingly anxious and aggravated. In fact, I would argue that hurrying serves no purpose at all.
“But I have to manage my time! I have a zillion tasks every day, and they’re all equally important!”
That’s not to say that efficiency can’t be gained in most tasks when we pause first to create a game plan. On the contrary, this method has the potential to be the David to your manic Goliath in the pursuit of kicking the hurry habit, but the operative word here is “pause.” That’s the hard part.
Why, though? Why is it so hard to slow down? For me it’s because I self-identify as a “doer.” I surround myself with other doers and we thrive on the thrill of efficiency. But how many times have I hacked, caffeine addled and over-empowered, into a new project half-cocked and ended up having to do it over again because I missed a critical detail or didn’t ask myself a few important questions first? A lot. The answer is a lot.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to deduce that haste is really just artificial efficiency. And the worst part is, once you figure out you’ve got a hurrying problem, un-learning it takes a lot of time and practice.
Take for instance easily my stupidest application of hurrying: My afternoon run. In an effort to always be improving, combined with precious little patience, I found myself without the actual physical endurance to run faster, and compensated by hurrying. Trying to scale a hill, I’d just mentally freak out in an effort to move my body faster. I’ll save you the trouble; it doesn’t work. It’s not a thing.
And while there’s no magic pill for it all, most of us can at least start by identifying the feeling – the heat that sneaks up your back and shortens your breath, making you at once impatient and determined. The sensation of being rushed can be addictive, but I guarantee you, nothing good comes of it.
So the problem is clear, but what’s the solution? In my case it started with letting myself off the hook. As self-indulgent as hurrying really is, it actually takes a lot of self-reflection and patience for doers like me to cut themselves some slack. So for starters, be a little more selfish with your time. A clear head goes a long way towards that time-saving game plan we talked about earlier. And practice makes perfect, so start procrastinating now! Don’t wait!
Kidding, but seriously – try actively dedicating some room in your own life to breathe. It’s really important, and you deserve it.