Slow Down to Speed Up™: The sugar ants who weren’t just a metaphor
Liz Bywater, author of Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World, delivered the keynote address at the AIIP 2019 Annual Conference. AIIP member, Jan Knight, Bancroft Information Services reports on the key notes from the Keynote
Sugar Ants! What are they and why were we listening to Liz Bywater talk about them at our Keynote on a Saturday morning in Philadelphia?
Well, Liz began her session talking about the day she found actual sugar ants all over her kitchen. Not just a few but LOTS of them. In addition to many crazy things happening in her life at the time, Liz’s Uber ride was going to be there any minute to take her to the airport. Yikes! The audience immediately felt her stress.
After painting this wonderful imagery of a suitcase in the hall and ants in the kitchen, Liz proceeded to talk to us about thinking of those ants as a metaphor for a life that is too busy and has become a blur.
When we have a small number of things that we need to accomplish we can be effective, but when the numbers become unreasonable, we become overwhelmed and ineffective. A handful of sugar ants, ok. A floor covered with them and life suddenly feels very different and very stressful.
She suggests we “Slow Down in order to Speed Up” and gave us advice and engaged us in two exercises.
1. STOP chasing the sugar ants: Take a strategic pause.
A strategic pause is where you protect your time by blocking it out on your calendar. It could be 20 minutes, or it could be an hour. It can be creative, meditative, or just fun. Basically, it’s a slot to allow yourself time to just to think and prioritize about work or life or whatever you need to work on.
Exercise 1: Goals. Accelerators. Decelerators
Liz asked us to jot down two of our most important goals that we would want to accomplish in a future strategic pause.
We then noted an Accelerator (what might help us get us there faster) and a Decelerator (what might slow us down). For what it’s worth, mine happened to be ‘refreshing my website’ with my Accelerator being “working on it during my ‘Zoom focus time’ with a colleague” and my Decelerator being “wanting to finish watching all 153 episodes of the Gilmore Girls on Netflix!”
2. Is your life becoming a blur?
Is your life so busy that it’s like sitting in a train watching the blurred scenery zip past at such a rate that you can’t really see anything with any clarity? If so, you need to “get past” being busy so you can think bigger and think strategically. Slow down and remove some things from the blur.
Exercise 2: Make your “NO” list
This is where we look at when and what we say yes to, and when we can say no to things.
Some of us have patterns in this area and Liz was welcomed with nodding heads when she pointed out that not all opportunities are actual opportunities. They could just even add to the blur!
It’s up to us to say no to someone else when provided with an ‘opportunity’ or it can even be saying no to ourselves by choosing to take a social media break for example.
3. CIA: Control, Influence and then Accept & Adapt
Most of us have found ourselves spending precious time on things we really have no control over. Liz agrees that we can possibly ‘influence’ things in our business and personal life, but suggests we think in terms of CIA, her priority assessment tool she uses with her C-suite clients.
Ask yourself the following:
C – Do I have control over this situation/decision/issue?
I – Can I influence the situation/decision/issue?
A – If need be, can I Accept or Adapt?
A few reminders to Slow Down to Speed Up and Remove the Blur.
- Block out that time on the calendar for a strategic pause.
- Make your NO list.
- Ask yourself the CIA questions.
- Get past the busy and the blur and STOP chasing those sugar ants.
- Taking a pause gives you a sense of control.
Finally, if you need some help doing these things, think about getting an AIIP accountability buddy.
Liz Bywater, PhD is a strategic advisor and leadership expert who works at the intersection of business and psychology. She’s a Million Dollar Consultant Hall of Fame Inductee and author of Slow Down to Speed Up: Lead, Succeed and Thrive in a 24/7 World.