When we slow down and are fully present to each moment, our focus and concentration is supercharged. In turn, while we perceive to be moving at a slower pace, we are actually able to reduce the time it takes to finish the task at hand. While at first it seems counterproductive to slow down or do only one thing at a time, you actually end up getting your tasks done in less time. In turn, you will feel more productive and happier. Slowing down doesn’t mean that we are doing nothing, it simply means we are more intentional with our time and whatever we are doing.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Theresa Lambert.
Theresa Lambert is the CEO and Professional Coach of Theresa Lambert Coaching & Consulting Inc., a coaching and consulting firm specializing in providing strategic guidance for successful career women ready to create renewed focus, leadership impact and greater balance.
Drawing from her nearly 20 years of experience in the hospitality Industry and most recently her 6 year tenure as the General Manager of Nita Lake Lodge she brings both a real world view and proven applicable tools to support her clients. Theresa has been recognized as a business leader in Whistler’s Profiles of Excellence, featured in Hotelier Magazine and Thrive Global, and spoken at Women in Hospitality Leadership events, including Empower Her. In her bestselling book “Achieve with Grace — a guide to elegance and effectiveness in intense workplaces”, she shares tools to help ambitious leaders who feel pressure to measure their success by validation or external results, to transform the way they work and live.
Thank you so much for doing this interview with us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
Owning and running my own company has always been a dream of mine, but my path to get here was not a linear one. As a woman in business I always felt incredible pressure to be ‘successful”. My drive to achieve came from the need to feel worthy, to show the world that I could do it. That I was capable of creating amazing results.
I totally believed that hard work, long hours, chronic stress and exhaustion were just the price I had to pay for the success I craved. I had bought into the myth that somehow, to succeed in life, we needed to make sacrifices in other areas of our lives. That having a fancy title and earning a really good salary would actually make me happy.
I set out on a path to achieve greatness in my career and I wanted to get there fast… and, I did, but I paid a price for it!
At age 29, I became the General Manager of a luxury Resort and in an effort to prove that I was capable, poured my heart and soul into this business; it became my greatest obsession. While I was incredibly successful in this venture, the high intensity environment combined with the pressure to perform that I had placed on myself was enough to drive me to exhaustion. Hitting burnout only 3 years into this role, I knew I needed to find a way to achieve greatness but in a way that felt more graceful. I call it graceful because nothing elegant was ever accomplished in a rush.
My growth and success have always been very important to me. After deciding that I could not let the “roadblock” of burnout tear down everything I had worked so hard for, I started to study human performance and behaviour. Realizing that what I was experiencing was not an isolated problem, I combined my hospitality and leadership experience with a coaching framework that would help others achieve a state of balanced energy and elegant results. I founded my company as a side-hustle while still running the Hotel and after doing both for almost 3-years, I decided it was time to dedicate my time to my business full-time. In January 2020 I embarked on this new journey and haven’t looked back since. So far, this year has been a wild ride, but it’s also opened up the time and space for me to fulfill another dream of mine which was to write and publish my first book “Achieve with Grace: A guide to elegance and effectiveness in intense workplaces” which became a #1 Bestseller.
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
I’d dare to say that in 2020 that number would be much higher. We’ve all felt it. The need to keep up, that constant motion in our body that says, “keep going” or that loud voice in our head that shouts, “you’re not there yet”. In a world where we are always connected with constant buzzers, reminders, clocks and messages to prompt us to keep going, to know what’s next, it’s become part of life. Somehow along the way some of us decided that “being busy” is a sign of success, that doing more is what will get us ahead, and so in an effort of creating success, wealth and providing for our families we are always on-the-go, always doing something. That decision that we always have to do something, that being busy somehow makes us more important and more valued, that’s the cause of so many of us feeling rushed all the time. And we reinforce this message by constantly talking about how busy and rushed we feel; in return our brain is wired to find proof of this to be true, and so we make sure we say yes to all experiences that support how we feel — in this case “rushed”.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
The human body and mind weren’t designed to be always switched on. Being rushed on a constant basis can lead to being chronically stressed, a state in which our body is on constant alert. This stress is harmful and can lead to burnout, extreme fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, headaches and difficulty sleeping just to name a few side effects. While so many of us believe that doing more things and faster is what makes us more productive, the opposite is true. By rushing we are never fully in each moment, we are disconnected from the present. A recent article released by the AAAS suggested that “a wandering mind is an unhappy mind”. Based on their study, our mind wanders 46.9 % of the time, so almost half our time we experience we spend doing one thing while thinking about something else. For example, eating lunch while thinking about that report we need to submit. Or sitting in traffic thinking about the meeting we need to get to. In turn the study showed that people were less happy every time their mind wandered versus being present in the moment (including for unpleasant tasks). When we rush, we are not in the present moment, ultimately making us feel less happy.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
When we slow down and are fully present to each moment, our focus and concentration is supercharged. In turn, while we perceive to be moving at a slower pace, we are actually able to reduce the time it takes to finish the task at hand. While at first it seems counterproductive to slow down or do only one thing at a time, you actually end up getting your tasks done in less time. In turn, you will feel more productive and happier. Slowing down doesn’t mean that we are doing nothing, it simply means we are more intentional with our time and whatever we are doing. Another improvement you may see is that you feel you have more “control” over your day. Instead of rushing from one place to the next, you make a decision each time, fully giving your attention to each moment. It’s empowering and motivating. When we feel this way what we do starts to energize us. This is critical, because we may finally find ourselves getting back to old hobbies or taking that yoga class, we had promised ourselves because we also might feel we have more time. Slowing down shifts our perspective in huge ways, it’s certainly been live changing for me and my clients.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
- Stop checking your phone first thing: Most of us have done this, myself included. We wake up and before we are even out of bed or have our coffee, we are answering emails or responding to what happened while we were sleeping. This puts us in an instant reactive mode. Instead of rushing to respond, choose to not check your messages until you start your workday. And just like that you are back in the driver’s seat.
- Practice just BE-ing: One of the tools I have used and that I share with all of my clients is something I call Silent Minutes. It’s 30-min of YOU-time, right after you wake up and make yourself your coffee or tea, you simply just sit and do nothing. Just be in your energy and with your thoughts. No TV, News, Podcasts or reading. This time is an opportunity to check in with yourself, your needs, how you feel.
- Set the Intention: Once you have had some time to sit and reflect, set the Intention for your day. How would you like to feel today? How would you like to show up for yourself and others? What is one thing you could do today to feel more energized? Answering these 3 questions, will give you clarity and focus for the day.
- Plan your work: I am a huge fan of planning. The reason for this is that if we have the clarity of what to work on each day and have our priorities in place, it becomes much simpler to manage your time and expectations. The easiest way to do this is to think about what your long-term goals are. Then write down 3 priorities for the day (things that will move you closer to achieving long-term goals). Once you have your priorities, write down your tasks and you are set.
- Make it feel easy: If you have big projects that take a lot of your time, think about breaking these projects down into small micro steps. So small until it feels easy for you to do. When we make our work or task feel easy, we get them done much faster and more efficiently.
- Take breaks: A lot of professionals don’t take breaks, eat their lunch while answering emails and schedule back-to-back meetings. I used to do this myself and we set ourselves up to feel rushed. When we schedule breaks and actually take them, we are able to give our brain the rest it needs to “unfocus”. Sit down and enjoy your lunch. Go for a walk around the building. Sit by a window and take 10 long deep breaths. This will help you reconnect with the present moment, reset your focus and get you moving forward in a way that feels more productive and beneficial
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
Mindfulness is being consciously present to what is happening in the exact moment of time we are in.
It’s easy to always rush off to the next thing, slowing down and bringing mindfulness into my life was not an easy thing for me to do. It seemed like slowing down would mean I would waste a lot of time doing nothing. My journey to mindfulness really began when I started to practice what I now call Silent Minutes. I had to start with 5-min because not checking my phone right away after waking up was agonizing to say the least. I recall circling my phone, checking the time, just so desperate to check those emails. Roughly 7-days into this, I started to feel calmer and so I increased the time by 5-min each week. As I sat and sipped my cup of tea, I started to really tune into my energy. I started to think about my day, how I wanted to feel, how I’d like to feel, and I noticed a change in my day. I felt more focused, calmer and my creativity went up. The more I practiced this way of starting my day in this calm and focused way, the more productive I was at work, the better I handled the stress that came my way. I started to be super connected to what’s happening right now, to be in the moment rather than 2-steps ahead or reminiscing over past events. Absolute Game Changer!
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Of course, the silent minute practice I spoke about is a big part, but other than that I make sure I take breaks. During those break times I reset my focus and try and notice small things, such as how the ground feels beneath my feet. I engage my senses, what do I hear, see, feel and smell. Prior to every client call or task, I think about my Intention and how I want to show up. This keeps me super grounded and in the moment.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
I like to do a body scan. It’s a great way to come back into the present moment because we focus on our physical body. If you work in an office with others, nobody would even notice you do this. Just start to scan your body, going from head to toe. Ask yourself what does it feel to be you in this moment right now? As you scan you may find tightness, perhaps feel a sensation, pause at any time and take a deep breath, breathing into the area of your body you feel it. Once you get to the feet, scan back up to the head. And just like this you’ve completed a body scan.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices.
The “Mindvalley” podcast by Vishen Lakhiani as well as the “Spiritual Smackdwon: for the wild woman ready to rise” by Robyn Savage and Jaclyn Shaw. As for books “Do Less” by Kate Northrup or “The Untethered Soul” by Michael A.Singer.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Listen to the wind, it talks. Listen to the silence, it speaks. Listen to your heart, it knows.” ― Native American Proverb
There have been many times in my life where I would rush from one thing to the next, living disconnected from the present and always looking ahead. It’s easy to be influenced by external forces, to make decisions from the head, to listen to all the noise. The journey inward isn’t an easy one, but it is a worthwhile one. This proverb is just a beautiful reminder to connect to the present moment, to bring your attention inward and to trust that you’ve got all the answers inside you already. It helps me to stay grounded, embrace silence and make decisions that are deeply aligned with the woman I am.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I’d like to inspire ambitious women to transform the way they work and live. To break free from the pressure to measure success by validation or external results. To stop comparing and instead owning their feminine powers, to achieve success with grace, ease and confidence.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!