Secret 37 in Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading, Part 3: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Managing Ourselves takes a look at how we perceive and use our time. In this essay, Ari includes 15 practical tips on how to make better use of our time.
6. Move Forward Mindfully, Not Carelessly
This tip is really about pace—moving steadily forward, neither too quickly nor too slowly, but as a good marathoner would do, maintaining her pace throughout the race. It’s about staying away from the extremes of either abandoning something altogether or racing forward so quickly that you make more trouble than you might have had in the first place. Other than in extreme emergencies (when you want to go quickly, of course) or when dealing with compulsive behaviors (try to back off as best as you can), you’ll want to stay steady, measured, in the middle.
Being mindful of feelings—and frequently not acting on them—can help here. My experience is that the best pace to move at often runs completely counter to the one that we feel like we need to follow. If you feel internal pressure to act impulsively and in the moment, you’re generally going to do better to back off. If you’re a procrastinator, move more quickly. In either case, it’s about shifting away from unneeded extremes of action and back towards the middle.
Important work takes time to unfold, but getting moving more quickly than slowly helps—I can draft a rough outline or a preliminary write-up for most projects in under half an hour. And the risk of drafting—not acting, mind you, but drafting—is next to nil. The longer you put off that first round of action, the further you get from your true feelings, your creativity, and your insight. Mind you, this first shot at things is just a beginning—don’t race right out and send what you’ve done to headquarters, or trigger immediate action. But if all you do is draft, I think you can have the best of both worlds. You clear your mind by getting moving quickly and follow your intuition, but you integrate safety into the system by waiting a while to gather input before you pull the final trigger on anything too controversial. If in doubt, wait a day, talk to two friends, do a quick vision and values check, and then go with your gut. Steady as she goes might be a good motto for our work styles, as well as our ships.