Throughout the quarantine one of the major lessons or themes that I have been thinking about is my day to day pace. The rhythm with which I work. The intensity and speed over the course of the day, and how I manage my energy levels throughout.
When the quarantine hit, with no one to hang out with and nothing to do, I said fuck it, let’s book my calendar full every single day. With that, for around 2 months I packed my schedule as full as I could. Took as many calls as I could fit into in a day.
I don’t have anything else to do, might as well right?!
And guess what?! It worked like a fucking charm. I shattered all of my records. More deals, better close rate, and overall I was having more fun. I was on a roll. I was living in flow and having a lot of fun while doing it.
Then one day we shifted things up. New product to launch, and I needed some extra time to learn what I would be talking about. Also wanted some more breathing room on my calendar to do these calls properly. Hour long calls, higher value, take more time and slow down.
Suddenly I was forced to pump the brakes. To slow down to a screeching halt. Almost like if you’re speeding and then see a cop and your nerves go through the roof and you slow down. Still going the speed limit which is fast enough to make great forward progress, but nowhere near as fast as you were going.
It was in that moment that something interesting happened. Once I slowed down, I felt really anxious. It felt like I had all of this time and I didn’t know what to do with it. The different pace was strange for me. Felt like I had all of this pent up energy.
Feeling anxious I took the weekend to calm down and take my mind off of things. Get some extra rest and recovery.
But then entering into the following week – for the first time ever – I bombed. I was stumbling and fumbling all over myself. Brain fog. Lots of filler words with like, um, and so on. This is something I NEVER do. I am a good speaker, a clean speaker. It’s fluid. There’s a cadence to it. For two days I sounded like a different person.
Don’t get me wrong either, while I say my performance was shit by all measures I was still solid – just not by my own standards. I was still closing deals and no one could really notice anything different – but I noticed. I didn’t feel on top of my game. I felt sluggish and off.
Halfway through day two I said fuck it, this isn’t working. I need a shift. I cancelled all of my calls for the 2nd half of the day. I took a nap. I spent a bunch of time in meditation, got a good night rest. When I woke up Wednesday morning I was back to myself.
While I was relieved to be back to myself, I was also a bit scared. Why did that happen? More importantly what can I do to make sure it doesn’t happen again?
When I finally had some time to reflect on this all, the answer was quite simple. I was moving at an unsustainable pace. The phrase that stuck in my mind was “sometimes you don’t realize how fast you are moving until you slow down.” It’s like when you go for a run and you’re in the zone, only once you stop and come to a halt do you notice how fast your heart is beating. Or when you do a yoga class and you finally lay down in shivasana and feel your whole body trembling and your heart beating into the mat.
The scariest part about all of this as well was that I wouldn’t have noticed unless I slowed down. THANK GOD for the catalyst which was me needing to pump the breaks. Because of that I only had 1.5 days of sub optimal performance instead of god knows how long or how many days. If I wasn’t forced to stop like that, I would have hit a wall – and I would have had no idea that the wall was coming.
I had such bad tunnel vision that I didn’t see the signs. Was living so much of my day in flow that I didn’t heed the advice of what we teach around the dark side of flow. I was heading down a path of disaster – and enjoying it every step of the way.
Since then I have been asking myself, “well, if that previous pace was unsustainable, then what pace IS sustainable? What is truly my pace for optimal performance?”
It’s such an obvious lesson if you think about it in the context of running, but it’s so easy to overlook in our daily lives. If you have to go for a 5 mile run, you will have to move at a different pace than if you are running for 20. There’s a big difference between a sprint and a light jog and training for your VO2 max.
I like to look at it as your VO2 Max – how long can you run at your limit before tapping out? And then use that to find the pace that you can sustain for an extended period of time.
What does the ratio of on/off look like? For every hour I spend working, how much time do I spend recovering? How many calls can I actually fit into a day? How many consecutive calls can I do before I find myself slipping? How many breaks should I take throughout the day and for how long?
These are the questions I’ve been asking myself. And they have helped a lot.
Interestingly enough, I’m still doing 10-12 calls/day, but the PACE at which I am moving is much different. I have longer breaks in the middle of the day. Take less calls consecutively.
As a result I go into the night feeling less drained, feeling calmer, less stressed, and ready to get to bed and start the next day.
Now what is fascinating and most important about this is that the only thing I changed was the pace in which I am working. It’s the same work every day, same amount of calls, but I am expending my energy differently. Whereas I used to do 6 calls break 6 calls, now I do three sets of four. The slight shift in pace has made all of the difference.
I’ve also slowed down my own speaking. I bring a calmer energy to the table. I slow the process down. I was running at a 7 whereas now I’m at a fast walk at around a 4-5.
What is really at the core here is energy conservation throughout the day. Wasting less energy. Intentionally conserving energy. Not giving more energy to a task than what it requires.
I genuinely believe that based on many of the people I talk to every day, may people have a very similar struggle. Most of us are moving at a pace that is way too fast. Worse, we’ve normalized that state of being to the point where it’s uncomfortable for us to slow down and we can’t move at that pace.
It’s almost akin to riding a bike. The faster that you go the easier it is to balance. Move more slowly and it’s harder to balance. For most people, this is what their life is like. It’s easier to feel busy all of the time, jumping from task to task, than it is to slow down and move at a calmer pace.
Then guess what – they are stressed, anxious, and suffering in their health as a result because they don’t have enough time off, don’t get enough sleep, and then use more energy than they need to everyday. This has a beautiful way of accumulating.
I’ve talked in the past about self created stress as the root of most of our problems. I think that pace is an interesting one to look at. Mismanaging our energy can be a good way of stressing yourself out. How quickly are you moving through the day, how much energy are you expending, and how tired do you feel at the end of the day as a result of that?
Take inventory of it. Ask yourself if you’re moving at the right pace. Maybe you’re like me and need to slow down, maybe you’re actually not moving fast enough. Figure out what you need to do and calibrate accordingly.
For now just sharing another step in my journey and the things I am thinking about and implementing into my own life. Hope you enjoyed 🙂