Sometimes the same message comes at you from two or three different places at once. When that happens, I usually figure it’s something I’m meant to pay attention to. Not necessarily in a “the universe is trying to tell me something” kind of way. Just in a “hey, I’m noticing this, so on some level I probably need it” sort of way.
One of those messages lately has been to slow down when working. (Which is ironic because the “guiding word” I chose for the year is “slow down.” Yes, I know that’s two words.)
There are a lot of things I do fast.
I read fast. I tend to write fast — I even use a technique on most projects called fast-writing. I move fast when I clean, when I grocery shop, when I plan.
And there’s value in doing some things fast at least some of the time. When you force yourself to move fast, you can build momentum and you can remove barriers in your thinking, making connections you might not have made otherwise.
But you can’t go fast all the time.
Sometimes, you need to slow down and sink into your creative work in a different way. When you do, you give yourself the chance to explore the ideas and connections you’ve already made, to refine your writing, to consider what’s missing or what can be cut, and to enjoy the process in a different way.
So, a few of my thoughts this week on slowing down…
1. Breathe Deeply… and Set an Intention
Before you sit down to work on a project, spend a minute breathing deeply. Aim to take at least five deep belly breaths.
Most of us don’t breathe properly unless we think about it. We tend to expand our chest when we breathe in, rather than relying on our diaphragm to do the work. But when you use your belly muscles to breathe deeply, a lot of good things happen.
Your blood pressure and heart rate drop. Your level of anxiety and stress decreases. It becomes easier for your muscles to relax. And you get more oxygen into your blood, which means more oxygen to your brain.
This all adds up to clearer thoughts and easier focus.
In addition to breathing deeply, set an intention for the work you’re about to do. This could be as simple as saying to yourself, “For the next 25 minutes I will do research for xyz project.” Or it could be more demanding… “I will write until I finish the draft of this article.”
Between the deep breaths and the intention, you’ll find it easier to keep your mind on your project and to do your best work, at the pace that works best for you.
2. Give Yourself the Opportunity for Your Groove to Run Its Course
I’m a fan of working in timed blocks. Setting a timer can help you stay focused, knowing that when the timer goes off, it’ll be time to take a break, and then switch gears to another project.
But sometimes, it’s more productive to work without a timer. To open up a document, and to work on research, writing, and editing within a project for as long as you feel like.
Doing this allows you to work slower, which again, can give you a chance to really explore the connections and ideas you have and how you want to convey them. And doing this also allows you to move into the flow state, and then allows that flow state to run its course.
There is something wonderful about riding the wave of your groove all the way into the shore. When the opportunity presents itself, don’t rob yourself of that.
3. Rest Through the Resistance
When you’re writing, researching, or brainstorming, there’s often a natural ebb and flow. You’ll type away in a flurry, your fingers barely able to keep up with your ideas. And then there will be a pause in your thoughts.
Often, I find the space of the pause allows feelings of resistance and doubt to form. Do I know where I’m going next? The temptation is to switch gears, to go do something else.
Instead, pause and give yourself five minutes before you change your focus. Take a few more deep breaths. Read what you just wrote. But don’t leave the document.
Often, if you rest through that window of resistance, you’ll find you’re still in the flow state. You just needed a minute to reload.
Try these techniques for slowing down your work and see if you don’t find yourself actually getting more done with less effort.
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Coming Up on Digital Copywriter
Coming up next week, Andrew Murray’s latest Web Content & SEO column shares a neat trick to help you provide ready-to-go copy to your clients.
And on Tuesday, November 1, Suzanna Fitzgerald joins me for our next Reality Blogger live interview. We’ll be talking about pitching clients, landing retainers, and learning to use leverage in your business. Join us.
3 Things I Thought You Might Enjoy…
This article from CMI shares some insights into how Managing Editors work and can give you some good ideas for time management, too.
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That’s all for now. Enjoy your weekend!