by Kaitlyn R. Swicegood
The power to walk away is an amazing tool. For many of us that work under deadlines, whether self created or not, feel the pressure to get things done. When I start a task, I want to get it DONE. It’s the mentality of the checklist: for some reason it feels so good to take something off the list. Perhaps it is that I lack a little patience as well. Sometimes it is good to buckle down and get things done, but sometimes it comes at a price.
When we work under time constraints, whether it is because we have procrastinated and face a deadline, or you just hate to have things lingering, things can end up messy. They are messy in a physical and mental sense. My anxiety ramps, and sometimes my work is sloppy. It might be a positive that I am eager to get something done, and at the same time my work can lack quality in my urgency.
According to an article in Entrepreneur by Joe Robinson:
Time urgency kills attention spans, rational decision-making skills and, at its most acute, the body itself by contributing to factors that lead to heart disease. People who feel chronic time pressure are twice as likely to have high blood pressure–even those in their 30s, a Northwestern University study found.
The other night I was working on my taxes, and wanted to get them done so that I could check that item off and no longer think about it. Unfortunately, I was missing information I needed and couldn’t figure out how to access some things electronically. Part of the reason I couldn’t find what I needed was that I had initially rushed in the original record making task. Now, I wanted to rush through my taxes.
Earlier that day, I had made a plan to go to yoga. In my time urgency, I skipped so that I could sit there and finish my taxes. At the end of a few hours, I felt terrible. I was yelling, cursing, and even getting teary. I did not feel good my taxes were done. I was more stressed than ever.
Tommy (my smart boyfriend), suggested several times that I take a break and go to yoga or just walk away and come back later. My response: "WELL OF COURSE I CAN’T! I HAVE TO GET THESE DONE!" No, I didn’t. My urgent desire to FINISH the task at hand and take it off the list ended up ruining my attitude, and making me miserable. My taxes would not have been any different, had I walked away and taken a break for myself: in fact I might have had an easier time and done a more thorough job had I put it down and come back.
I accomplished nothing by forcing myself to finish with a sense of immediacy: except to create stress.
So here’s my suggestion: walk away, like I should have.
An article on Harvard Business Review about the Nine Ways Business People are successful includes taking five or ten minutes to do something you find interesting.
It doesn’t matter what it is, so long as it interests you. Recent research shows that interest doesn’t just keep you going despite fatigue, it actually replenishes your energy. And then that replenished energy flows into whatever you do next.
Whatever you walk away from will be waiting for you when you come back. When we are under extreme amounts of pressure, our work is often no good anyways. Then, we are creating stress for no reason.
The next time you feel pushed to the limit to finish something within a time frame, walk away. Walk away, whether its for 5 minutes, a few hours, or a couple of days. It’s not really the length that matters, but the act of giving yourself time for you.
In the words of Kelly Clarkson, "Hey, hey, hey, hey. Just walk away"
Kaitlyn R. Swicegood is an attorney in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. This blog post was originally posted on her blog at Legally Ohm.