Befriending time

- 220317

I like to help. It’s a thing; it’s part of my identity, although I’ve learned to put some boundaries around that, lately. Also, I’m not the most patient person.

I don’t know about you but when I know what I want, I want it, like, yesterday. That’s true whether I’ve found a new pair of shoes, whether approaching a new project or gaining a new certification or skill (my new luxury). I nicknamed the alpha super-doer part of my brain ‘Speedster’ for a reason. She’s fast, she gets things moving, but however rational she may feel, she doesn’t always make the best decisions.

Because the reality is that in certain situations, for example when I make a hire, take on a new agency, or a collaborator, I’m really not as fast in my decision making as I’d like to think.

Suddenly, I recognised what I saw happen with my previous superiors, with my corporate clients. Ah, ‘need more time’, yes, that’s a thing I can finally relate to.

Yet for so long, I thought change had to happen fast. How wrong I was.

So here I am, debunking the myth, and introducing you to an alternative to…

Change has to happen fast.

As a consultant or coach, I can freely admit that I hate waiting around for a contract to start because I love nothing more than to dig into the deep; to get to work.

For corporate clients, from the first call to the kickstart project meeting, the timeline often takes weeks or even months, and actually, that’s good - despite the fact it may also feel slow.

For my clients who want to make big moves in the world, whether with a new job or creative project, I regularly encounter the same impatience I suffer from. Our whole Western culture (the one I know and can talk about) has increasingly conditioned us to be that way.

Yet, now is often not the right time.

Has that ever happened to you? When you think everything’s perfectly lined up for a launch, a holiday, a project, a team hire, or even a relationship, and boom, something falls from the sky (like a war, a pandemic, or your cat dies). It feels like you’re being sent back to square one, even if temporarily? It can feel depressing and disconcerting, and it slows everything down. But then slowing down isn’t always bad.

Outside of external circumstances, having built two websites, designed two sets of brand identities, launched a podcast and a weekly newsletter in the last couple of years, I cannot escape the fact that I’m so much slower as a client than as a consultant. It has proven true of my creative decision-making, including gathering and giving feedback, too. I suddenly become someone else. Speedster isn’t the one in charge any longer (to find out who is in charge, that’s another story).

I’ve come to notice that I quickly feel what is right or wrong about a project. FEEL, what is right or wrong about a project. But as I discovered last year, the (gut) feeling part of my brain doesn’t have access to language. So it takes a while for the various connections to be made, to process from gut to pre-frontal cortex, so I can use my words and express myself from that place of honesty and understanding.

I reckon we could all benefit from this exercise: take a moment to feel our way around issues but wait a bit before we express our thoughts, feelings and opinions.

We can all use this shift in perspective in our marketing, design or communication efforts. Putting ourselves in the client's shoes, making it an in-depth strategy, even - if possible - adopting their worldview, for an hour, for a day.

In my interview with writer, editor and journalist Manfreda Cavazza (who copy-edits this blog for me), she explains how she benefitted from working as a reporter and describes the “a-ha” moment when she connected to the needs of her audience - and what that brought to her:

“[...] The most important lesson I learned as a reporter was to focus on the reader, my audience.

Once I got that notion clear in my head, the work became easier. It wasn’t about me - impatient me - it was about the reader. My purpose was to serve them.”

Also, accountability means (more) work.

As ready as I think I am, and I believe this to be true for everyone else, I also have come to realise that when we get a coach, a consultant, a creative agency, they effectively double up as accountability partners: they are not people who are just going to produce work, but people who we will have to work with.

And working with new people inevitably (at least at the beginning) generates a higher workload, and often more than what we may have planned for.

So when I see corporate clients hesitate or individual coaching clients stagger their sessions, the impatient part of me, Speedster, gets annoyed. Because as I experienced myself, they are attempting to create change based on a calendar date, which may not coincide with a true readiness to transform.

So I have to remind myself that on occasion, I do the same thing and that being respectful of timing isn’t just smart, it’s essential.

Move slow to go fast.

The harder something is, the faster we want to go through it. Right?

Four months after my father passed away, I remember getting on a call with my own coach, Rajesh Ramani. I was worried for myself at that point. I’d been sick four times, with recurring chest infections, colds and lingering coughs that had sent me back to bed, over and over again. I looked and felt terrible, and I wanted this part to just be over with. What can I do, I was asking? How can I move through this faster?

Rajesh gently looked at me, over my Skype screen, and said: “Anne, it’s only been four months.”

We can’t speed our way through grief, the same way we can’t speed through turning that new startup into a unicorn. And sure, there may be exceptions, but generally if something has been achieved with speed there will be issues that need smoothing over at some point or another.

However uncomfortable and annoying that may have been for me to hear, I needed the reminder that some things take time. And if I allow myself to work with what is difficult, it will eventually pass.

One step at a time.

No hurry, no pause

So we can’t always race to overhaul a website, build a business, create that new product line, or have that big launch because circumstances (bugs, grief, pandemic, budgets, war…) may prevent us from it, but we can keep on working, steadily, and undeterred. What we can befriend is time. Or try to (WIP for me).

In doing research for another recent interview with experience designer and co-founder of Acro-Yoga Jenny Sauer-Klein, I read this article in Business Insider touching on how she had supported Tim Ferriss (author and podcast) by introducing him to the concept of "No hurry, no pause." It's one of the nine principles of Breema, another alternative exercise-therapy program that Sauer-Klein studied.

As it's explained by Breema Center director Jon Schreiber, "When you rush, time shrinks. When you're relaxed, time expands. This is true even though it's very hard for the mind to get. When you're relaxed and doing something willingly, you're participating in life."

So this is my tip of the week. Whatever you are working with, or working through, trust the process and befriend time.

Until next week.