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Slow Down!

| May 30, 2017

by Jim Bruce

Today’s Tuesday Reading, Slow Down, is an essay by Jason Murray, Network Architect at the Washington University in St. Louis.  [He may be reached at [email protected].]
His essay first appeared as a program reflection earlier this year.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”         — Ferris Bueller
There is a never-ending dialogue of information swirling around within my head; the next idea, the next task, the next big project, the next MOR lesson to be put into practice.  The list of things that demand some amount of attention never seems to end.  Finding the time to focus on a single task seemed like an arduous battle that could not be overcome, until I realized that I need to do one simple thing, “slow down.”   In hindsight, this seems both obvious and simple, but for me it was neither.  It took a long time of self-reflection and critical feedback, to realize there was a problem.  I could no longer sustain the multi-tasking, context switching, never-ending-list lifestyle.
Understanding and implementing this simple concept, opened up time to spend thinking of ways to refocus priorities, solve the important issues, acknowledge the accomplishments, and thoughtfully plan for the future.
What follows are a few of the lessons, in no particular order, I believe have evolved since making a conscious effort to slow down:

  • IT is a very important function, but not the core mission of the university.  We need to realize this as we strategize and prioritize what is important within our departments.   We need to (re)Focus on the things that matter most to the core mission of the organization.  I refer you to this article to illustrate what I mean.  It is about Steve Jobs and how he was relentless on making sure to focus only on the core parts of the company and eliminated the distractions. 
  • Don’t try to boil the ocean all at once.   Start by setting small realistic goals that can be seen through to competition.   When working on large issues, these small goals should build upon one another, as a way to break the project into reasonably sized tasks.  As we have learned in the MOR classes, using the calendar to block out dedicated working sessions can be a valuable time management tool.
  • Going for a walk or run helps clear the mind for great ideas.  Some days I like to go out with an idea to ponder, other times I like to let my mind wander.  Great ideas come when uninterrupted thought and the rhythm of movement are working hand-and-hand.
  • It is OK to pause mid-sentence and collect your thoughts.   Pausing for one or two seconds feels like an eternity when there are dozens of people looking at you during a presentation.   It took me quite a while to understand this is not the case.  From speaking in public to speaking one-on-one, I have to remind myself to slow down.   I still struggle with this, but at least I am conscious of it now.
  • Life is short; family matters.   Spend quality time with those who you love.

Jason’s advice to slow down is very important and should resonate with everyone.  We’ve permitted our collective and individual worlds to become so fast paced that we neither have the time, no really take the time, to do our very best work or build and have the relationships that bring us joy and satisfaction with the lives we live.  So, take Jason’s essay as a “shot across the bow” and do some serious rethinking.
Make yours a great week.  .  .  .     jim
Jim Bruce is a Senior Fellow and Executive Coach at MOR Associates, and Professor of Electrical Engineering, Emeritus, and CIO, Emeritus, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.