Running Faster by Slowing Down: How Pacing Can Improve Your Performance in Business and in Life
Craig Hume - MD @ Utopia
We all want to achieve our goals as quickly and efficiently as possible, but sometimes, pushing ourselves too hard can actually lead to burnout and poor performance. That's where the idea of "go slow to go faster" comes in. I’ve come across it a few times, most recently in the book Unreasonable Hospitality by Will Guidara. By slowing down and focusing on the little things, we can improve our performance and ultimately achieve our goals faster.
This week at Utopia, the theme at our Repair and Sustainability Store has been just this. I noticed a few things that needed to be more polished. In our world, we like to overpromise and underdeliver, and while we were enjoying a massive uptake in local sales, the cracks in our service started to show. The team was trying to work as fast as possible to get computers back to clients - meaning that some errors were creeping in. The decision to slow down was met with a little resistance by the team, they didn’t want to disappoint their customers, but a week later, we are actually caught up and running ahead of schedule again - all achieved by slowing down!
In this blog, I want to explore the benefits of slowing down in business and how it can lead to better decision-making, improved focus, and increased productivity. I’ll also draw parallels between running and business and how pacing and slowing down principles can be applied to both. I will finish by sharing how I inadvertently slowed down my training and hit a new personal best at my local Park Run.
The importance of pacing in running
When it comes to running, pacing is everything! Have you ever started a race or a run feeling great, only to hit a wall halfway through and struggle to finish? - I’ve done this too many times to count! That's likely because you went out too fast (yip, that's me!) and needed to pace yourself properly. By starting too fast, you use up all your energy and have nothing left for the end of the race.
On the other hand, if you start at a steady and sustainable pace, you'll be able to maintain your energy throughout the race and finish strong. As they say, it's a marathon, not a sprint.
Pacing is also important in training. You risk injury and burnout by training too hard and not giving yourself rest days. By pacing yourself and gradually increasing your intensity and distance, you'll be more likely to stay injury-free and see improvements in your performance. My wife Katherine, also Utopia’s Finance Director, firmly believes in never adding more than 10% to your run distance or training effort. I sometimes push against this, feeling like I have more in the tank, but my best gains come when I follow her advice! (Thanks, Kaz!)
It's also important to note that pacing doesn't mean you have to take it easy. It's about finding the balance between pushing yourself and not overdoing it. It's about finding the sweet spot where you're working hard but not so hard that you can't maintain it. What is your 80% effort level? This is the sweet spot we should all aim for in running and business.
The benefits of slowing down in business
So how does slowing down and running relate to business? Like running, I’ve found that slowing down in business can lead to better performance and, ultimately, achieving my goals faster.
When constantly rushing around, I’m more likely to make mistakes and miss important details. When I slow down and take a step back, I can better evaluate my options and I make more informed decisions. This gives me improved focus and increased productivity. It’s all too easy to feel that I need to rush through things when I have a lot on, but time and time again, by taking a step back and slowing down, I can see ways to complete the task at hand that turns out to be more efficient, kind of like when you can't see the wood from the trees!
Slowing down can also help with stress management. I’m more likely to feel overwhelmed and stressed when I’m constantly rushing. I reduce my stress and improve my overall well-being by slowing down and taking a more measured approach.
It's also important to note that slowing down doesn't mean you have to take a break from working altogether. It's about finding the balance between working hard and taking time to recharge. This can mean taking a break for a few minutes throughout the day to clear my head or taking my next meeting as a walk and talk in the local park. Whatever it may be, taking the time to recharge will help me come back refreshed and ready to tackle my work with renewed energy. At Utopia, we have a motto: "Take time to do something that excites and energises you.” This is critical. We all need time to recharge by doing something for ourselves. Find that thing and make the time.
My new PB
So how did I end up with a new PB? Over the last few weeks, my 11-year-old son has taken up Park Run and has been coming with me. This has meant I’ve spent way more of my running at a slower pace - a technique that can improve performance, recommended by coutless fitness books and blogs. However, I’ve always struggled to run at that pace as I tend to enjoy running faster. Skip forward to last weekend and, when running on my own for the first time in a while I was able to knock 30 seconds off my 5K best time for that route, and the only thing I can put it down to was that I had slowed my previous training runs. Happy days.
In short, taking a step back, slowing down and focusing on pacing can lead to improved performance, better decision-making, increased productivity, and ultimately, achieving your goals faster. My advice, let yourself have that space and time and you might just be surprised at how much you get done!