The Productive Nature of Slowing Down

Since serving and empowering women who are overwhelmed by All The Things is literally my job, I am often asked how I manage to get All The Things done with all of the hats I wear. I work hard to cultivate a space of openness and vulnerability, so I’ve decided it’s time to share a one-week snapshot to paint that picture for you. I hope you enjoy (and possibly laugh a bit at) this honest summary of my adventures as a wife, mom, friend, daughter, sister, business owner, women’s ministry leader, colleague, writer, speaker, coach, and chronic pain warrior.

Let’s scroll back to the beginning of September 2022…

When the Saturday after Labor Day rolled around, I went into the day knowing I had a ton of work to get done. I don’t typically do client work on the weekends, but things just got away from me as the week went on. 

Since Monday was a federal holiday, no one in our household had to go to work or school. We intentionally forced ourselves (yes, it takes effort) to take advantage of the holiday and have some family time with an impromptu trip to the Memphis Zoo. We enjoyed the two hour drive over to Memphis, saw our favorite animals and exhibits, and spent as much time as we wanted at the splash pad. Unexpected bonus: Nana (my mom) was able to take some time away from work and join us for ice cream before we headed home!

*Please take this moment to remember that it is still close to 5,000*F in the southern USA in September as you question why on earth we were at a splash pad & eating ice cream on Labor Day. Thank you.

Tuesday was business as usual with everyone trying to catch up on all the things after an extended weekend. It was school picture day for one kid, the first after school play rehearsal for the other kid, and back-to-back meetings for me with work and ministry. 

Wednesday was another “wasted” day as far as work was concerned because I had an MRI and doctor’s appointment scheduled in Little Rock. I did make myself get up earlier so I could have a little time to get a few things knocked out before we had to leave. My husband drove me all over creation, so he missed most of his work day, too. It was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting, and we both knew there would be plenty of work to catch up on. 

The appointments on Wednesday resulted in me needing to go back to Little Rock for another doctor’s appointment with a different specialist on Thursday, but my husband couldn’t miss another day of work. We also needed someone around to pick up kids from school, so that left me going it alone. I woke up early (again), got one kid off to school, took another kid for a meds management appointment and then to school, had one meeting, knocked out a few more work tasks, and then drove myself for the one-hour trip back to Little Rock for that appointment… which was horrible and left me in ALL of my emotions, bawling the whole way home. The prospect of another neck MRI was just a little more than my already overwhelmed self could take, thank you very much. Also, crying and driving don’t go together well, so that was fun.

Friday started early with getting one kid to a youth group gathering before school, and I cranked out as many tasks as possible between all the other morning meetings I had. I had previously agreed to drive a friend to and from a medical procedure, so that was the majority of my afternoon before picking kids up from school. Walmart, dinner, and our first high school football game finished off the day, and it was around 9pm when I realized just how much client work was still sitting in my Asana queue. Looking through the eternal list, it was just overwhelming how much needed to be accomplished before Monday rolled around.  

Weekends have plans of their own - birthday parties, football games, teaching ladies class, worship time with church, a meeting for small group leaders - so it’s still a game of WHEN WILL IT ALL GET DONE?! 

I’m a productivity specialist. This is literally the thing that I do. I coach other people on how to make sure they’re living within their capacity and not running themselves into the ground. I can handle this - it’s a matter of looking at all the things, prioritizing them, and putting them in slots of time where they can get done. I CAN DO THIS. 

Saturday morning rolled around, and what did I do? 

  • I stayed in bed a little longer than usual because it’s a weekend, I’m freaking tired, and there are boundaries here.
  • I took a long shower after making sure the kids were getting food and meds.
  • I got my own meds, made coffee, and sat on the couch because I knew I had 30 minutes before a kid needed to be taken to a birthday party.
  • Then I realized I needed gas before heading back home to get some work done…

When the level of anxiety starts creeping up before you’ve even opened the laptop or looked over the to-do list, that’s your red flag. It's time for a different approach.

I could have gone to the closest gas station after dropping my kid off at the birthday party, filled up the tank, and then headed back home on my normal route. Get it done. Move on to the next thing on the list. This is how we get things done.

But I just couldn’t do it. 

Everything in my mind/heart/gut/whatever-you-want-to-call-it was telling me that I needed a few minutes for ME that would fill my cup. I took the longer way to a gas station on the edge of our small town, and it was a lot less crowded than my normal stop. I turned on a podcast of Ally Fallon interviewing Mary Marantz about writing, and I just soaked up their beautiful, gentle, encouraging words as I drove the long way around town on the bypass. No traffic, lots of green hills and trees, blue skies with white clouds… fill me up, Lord. 

My husband called to see if I had gotten lost, and I informed him I had stopped for gas and would be home soon. I finished my podcast, arrived back home, and knew I needed to get these thoughts out before jumping into the eternal list that was waiting for me. 

We talk a lot about systems and strategies, but do you know what else increases your level of productivity? Intentionally slowing down and taking the long road home.

The dread wasn’t as intense, my focus wasn’t as stretched, and I was ready to do a few more things for other people who were counting on me. 

⭐ Sometimes being productive means you have to slow down a bit.

⭐ Sometimes getting things done means you take the long way around.

⭐ Sometimes giving your best work to others looks like spending some time to fill your own cup first.

Bottom line: Productivity and Hustle aren’t the same thing.

Let’s get real: I didn’t go from dragging the bottom of the barrel to functioning at 100% after one extended drive. But I am definitely more equipped to focus on the needs of others when I take the time to create some breathing room and rest for myself. 

So how do I get All The Things done all the time? Honestly, sometimes I don’t. But if I want to come even a little bit close to being really productive, I know I’ve got to make sure I'm allowing that time to slow down and rest. 

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