The Myth of Rushing is Killing You
Rushing creates significant stress for marginal benefits
Hurry-sickness, or what psychologists call Excessive time-urgency, has many negative impacts not just on our performance, but on our overall health and well-being. Research shows that by doing things too fast, or even just trying to do multiple things at once (e.g. multitasking), will have detrimental impact on your performance by as much as 40% reduction in productivity!
In other words, you are willing to do significant damage to your health, well-being, productivity, and quality of life for a 4% increase in speed when you choose to rush. Are you willing to risk your life to go 4% faster?
Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.
- Soren Kierkegaard
At its core, rushing is simply old, preprogrammed physiology that operates mostly on three stress chemicals: cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine. The act of ‘rushing’ creates excess amounts of anxiety in our body which, in turn, throws our autonomic nervous system out of balance by constantly activating the sympathetic nervous system – the ‘flight or fight’ or ‘freeze’ response. When these stress hormones are being consistently stimulated, we become addicted to them, craving the feelings they promote.
At this point, we increase the size of our amygdala and become even more hyper-vigilant, aggressive, and closed down to connecting with other people.
Over time, the rushed mindset becomes our new normal and we forget what it feels like to do things in a calm manner. At the neurological level, excessive rushing or excessive time-urgency constrains several cognitive processes, including attentional processes, decision-making, judgement and even our capacity for creative thinking as well as novel thoughts. When we rush, we are impatient, deploy local and linear thinking, and become emotionally reactive. It has been proven that multitasking not only lowers your IQ 15 points, but also damages your brain.
To give you an idea of how significant 15 points is – multitasking is DOUBLE the hit to your IQ that smoking cannabis (marijuana) is. Meaning, you can get stoned and be more intelligent than when multitasking.
As for your brain, MRI scans show that high multitaskers had less brain density in the anterior cingulate cortex, a region responsible for empathy as well as cognitive and emotional control.
Signs you've fallen into the rushing trap
Rushing can become such an automatic, ingrained habit that it can be difficult to even realize you’re doing it. Here are some signs that may suggest you’ve fallen into the rushing trap:
The Rushing Remedy
Thankfully, your habit of rushing can be broken by gradually shifting to activities which produce more feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. These feel-good neurotransmitters are responsible for the feelings such as calmness, contentment and happiness, all of which enable you to move through life more present to the moment in front of you.
How do you begin to be a calmer, less emotionally reactive leader in the work you do and life you live? You begin by understanding what hurry-sickness literally feels like in your body in order to become consciously aware of it when it is happening:
Eliminate Rushing from your Life
Once you have identified how it feels, next is to label and eliminate rushing from your life. Here are a few ways you can go about it.
1. Identify and address rushing hotspots
These are the periods where you are most often late. We want to eliminate, if possible, or highly reduce these scenarios in order to change the behavior of constantly rushing. First, be mindful of when you’re most likely to rush – for many of us this is in the mornings or evenings (rushing to get to work, or home for dinner, or other activities). Regardless, identify those periods where you do a disproportionately large amount of rushing in your daily schedule. Once those are identified…
2. Double the time
This is super simple – but not an easy habit for many of us to break. Wherever you find yourself rushing, double your time allotment for that activity. Rather than being optimistic about what might be possible if you hurry, such as trying to squeeze in a workout before nine other things. Just prioritize what is most important for you in your life and then give yourself double the time for that block. However, in order to do this you are likely going to have to learn the art of…
3. Saying No
Most people think strategy and planning is what you say yes to, and that you have to say yes to everything to be successful. The truth about peak performance is that what separates the average performer from the most successful are that successful people know that their success came from their ability to say no to anything that was outside their most important priorities. Think about what is most important to you, plan for solely those activities and say no to everything else. This is a crucial step, although it’s necessary to note that in order to be successful you need to have focused attention on whatever activity you are committing to in that present moment. Multitaskers are 40% less productive than focused workers and multitaskers who are also constantly interrupted/distracted by technology are also 85% less productive than people who can direct their attention in intentional ways by…
4. Batching technology and extreme monotasking
Get religious about doing just one thing at a time. Check technology (text/email/etc.) just once or twice a day. Multitasking is abysmal to our performance, productivity, quality of work, quality of life and our brain’s health. Know that when you are multitasking you are not only less productive but creating significantly lower quality work and debilitating your brain. This means that when you are eating, just eat. When you are working on a proposal, the only dialog box on your computer open is the proposal. When you are walking outside, you are just walking and listening to the birds – not a book, podcast, music, etc. Just be with you and do nothing else. The brain is MOST productive and creative when you stop thinking (prefrontal cortex) and start mind wandering – which requires you to also…
5. Give yourself a break
Another simple task that can be fairly difficult to implement. It’s not an easy habit to wean yourself off of the addiction to stimulation that rushing provides. Giving yourself little breaks, even just five minutes throughout your day, can help recharge your brain and improve your productivity according to recent research from Cornell. Allowing your mind the opportunity to wander opens up to so many possibilities that are not available when rushing from task to the next. Often, you’ll find you have your biggest breakthroughs and creative discoveries in those gaps. Rather than thinking breaks are not productive, guard them as the very most productive thing you can do for yourself throughout your day. Last but not least, if you have to be late, then…
6. Be late like a stoic
Don’t spend time focusing on the possible consequences of your being late. If you are going to be late, focus your energy on making sure you’re completely prepared for when you do arrive. Psychologist Gabriel Goodman says people use excessive mindshare simply getting anxious about the possibility of being late before they’re even late, or when they can’t prevent the fact that they’re already late. The essence of Gabriel’s argument:
Rushing and being late are two sides of the same coin. You can't have one without the other. When we are in rush mode, we believe we have to not be late in order not to rush. The truth is if you stop rushing, you're far less likely to be late.
The bottom line? If you never want to be late again and desire to live your life as a calm, non-reactive, and mindfully productive leader – then it’s time to stop rushing.