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December 21, 2014

Setting the Pace

December 21, 2014

Have you ever had a discovery come to you in a very surprising way? This year, I had a big epiphany, and it all started with cleaning at home.

I'll be the first to admit, I'm a pretty terrible housekeeper. Efficient cleaning schedules, secrets tricks for taking out stains – all of that kind of stuff completely eludes me. In the past, I've simply tackled what I think needs to be done (after having put if off for too long), and tried to go as fast as I can.

Earlier this year, I was at home, cleaning, and I must have been very tired. I went a lot slower than my usual I-can't-wait-to-be-done pace. I was surprised to discover I loathed the chores much less if I took my time and didn't feel rushed. I had assumed I should be quick and just get it over with, but in the end, doing it fast meant I missed stuff and made myself more tense in the process. It seemed counter-intuitive to me, but it was a great a-ha moment to be intentional about what pace is right for different situations.

It reminded me of a similar discovery I'd had a couple of years ago about running. I went from hating every minute of any jog I ever took, to finding great release and outlet in it. One of the key pieces to the shift was letting go of pace. Before, I'd always tried to run as fast as I could. I'd get all worked up, gasping for air and think, This is the worst! Why am I even doing this? And so I ran rarely, and my assumptions about running being the worst thing perpetuated. Once I realized I should just find a rhythm and natural pace, I fell in love. I went from being barely able to run a couple of miles, to finishing full marathons. And while I'd made that discovery, I hadn't yet learned to apply it to other areas of life and work.

The universe reminded me of this lesson once again at Factory Week, when I had the opportunity to dive deep into just one project for a whole week, a rare occurrence in my career. I used to think I preferred more time to get things done, but realized that sprinting fast and furious on a project felt exhilarating and gave a huge sense of accomplishment, much more rewarding than drawing things out. Maybe that wouldn't work for another project, but it was perfect in that situation.

Between these a-ha moments I thought more about pacing this year than I ever have before. We can't all run at the same pace all of the time. Different tasks require different speeds, and every person is unique in what they prefer. Some projects require sprinting in a matter of weeks, while some need such in-depth research and planning, they need the space of many months to unfold. It's a huge challenge when you have a team of people collaborating across many different projects.

Since all of our work at SmallBox is custom, every project has it's unique milestones and timeline. Sure, we can pull from our past experience to scope and plan, but we also need to adjust to the differences of each project and client. It is quite the dance.

When I think back on it, I realized how frequently I've had to navigate disconnects in pace, and not quite realized why or how a project had gotten out of sync. I find it's helpful to think through these things, to ask questions:

Is this pace going to be a challenge for you?
Is there a way to plan around that?
To re-scope?
To divide and conquer?
To accelerate deadlines?
Does the pace we originally set still work given new circumstances A, B and C?

It's still a bit surprising to me that cleaning was the catalyst for my awareness. I'm looking forward to tackling all of the to-dos and projects ahead in the new year with this new awareness around setting the pace.

This post is part of Think Kit by SmallBox

Prompt: “Ooh! Aah! What surprised you this year? Was it a jump-out-of-your-seat shocking moment? Learning something new that really flipped your wig? A moment in time that left you speechless? A friend or stranger’s actions that really blew your mind? Leave us slack-jawed and standing silent…or at least thoughtfully quiet for a few seconds!”

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