Generally speaking, I'll agree with the common assertion that the world is too hurried and hectic. The push to do a lot in a short amount of time is one of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, why 83 percent of American workers suffer work-related stress. So I'm a big advocate of slowing down, reconnecting with yourself and others, and drawing clear boundaries to avoid overwhelm.

But rushing done with intention as an exercise? After considering a recent Psychology Today article by career coach Marty Nemko, that's something I can get behind. Here's why: 

It'll help motivate you.

Rushing is a little risky, so it can produce some adrenaline. This hormone initiates a variety of physiological "fight or flight" responses, such as getting your heart pumping a little faster. These responses can get you feeling energized, attentive and ready to quickly tackle whatever comes next.

It'll force you to look for what's critical.

When you have plenty of time, you might pour over details--and not all of those details matter. In fact, too many data points can paralyze you from making decisions. Rushing means you have to learn to pull out what's most important from a situation or job first. That can be a huge benefit when it comes to being able to put up an initial framework and actually take action on big problems.

It'll teach you about your strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, if you had to rush through a painting of a person, maybe your spatial reasoning might not be so great but your attention to color contrast could pop out off the canvas. Or maybe you can stay considerate as pressure mounts but you lose your lack of clarity in direction. If you step back and objectively identify what you did and how after a rush fest, you'll have a better sense of what you bring to the table and where you can grow.

It'll make you more accepting of failure and continual learning.

The goal of a rush session isn't flawlessness. At the end, you have to accept that some elements were spectacular and that others were...well, not so much. But if you examine these issues while at the same time acknowledging that you're on a positive, continuous journey of development, you can get over crippling perfectionistic tendencies. You learn that you won't ever completely choke, that you don't have to take yourself so seriously all the time, and to see yourself as someone who's always going to give it their best shot.

How to have a rush session the right way

To help you master rushing properly, I've put together a basic, six-point exercise. Each step was selected to transform typical rushing, which you usually do without thinking based on stress across many jobs as you multitask, into a focused practice. They collectively ensure that you move quickly within specific, preselected guidelines and take an analytic, controlled and educational view to the process. And while you can do the exercise solo, you can lead it as a group practice, as well.

  • Find a time during the day when you won't be interrupted, normally aren't stressed out and have a few extra minutes for some self-reflection.
  • Pick a physical, cognitive or creative task that has low risk (e.g., summarizing a book in one paragraph, organizing your desk).
  • Set your time limit for the job (one to five minutes).
  • Clarify other rules or limitations (e.g., no checking your phone while you do it, teams of only two people).
  • Complete the job. Worry about any messes or clean-up afterward, not as you go.
  • Take five to 10 minutes to evaluate your results by yourself or via discussion. Were you able to achieve your objective? Why or why not? What's at least one positive takeaway? One negative? What next steps can you take?

Although it's not a requirement, taking a few notes digitally or in a notebook you like can be a nice way to round out the exercise and formalize your evaluation. This allows you to see where you've made progress over time, or even to select some of the exercises as case study examples for presentations to share what you learned. Having a small reward to enjoy at the end of the session can make it more enjoyable and get others on board, too.

Published on: Nov 20, 2019
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