Continuously feeling rushed can impact our levels of positivity, especially the depth and quality of our relationships. Everything is interrelated when it comes to our energy. When we feel stressed, overwhelmed, or are experiencing negative emotions our energy can be felt by those around us, as energy is contagious! When we are rushed our interactions with others can feel inauthentic. We can seem distracted, which in turn can be interpreted as not caring. When we are stressed we have lower levels of tolerance, causing reactions that we may later regret such as being argumentative or snappy with loved ones. All of these can cause issues in personal relationships and foster toxic workplace environments. From an organizational level, it can also impact customer satisfaction. We all know the difference a positively energized employee has on our experience!

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Sarah Deane, the Founder of EffectUX and the creator of EMQ — a research-based system that rapidly and accurately pinpoints de-energizing behaviors and transforms them into positively energizing habits through informative content, coaching, and behavior modification. Sarah uses her background in A.I., experience design, and human behavior to help brands deliver positive customer and employee experiences, and to cultivate energizing behaviors, producing higher levels of satisfaction, engagement and productivity. She has been recognized across the industry, most recently winning The 2018 Human Resources Today MVP Awards in the Leadership Development, Analytics, and “What’s Next in HR” categories and has been featured at conferences and events such as SXSW, America’s Women Leadership Conference and Executive Presence for Women at Stanford, as well as platforms such as the Huffington Post, CIO Magazine, Next Concept HR Magazine, Training Industry, Thrive Global, Business2Community and more.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

What really triggered my move into this direction, was seeing the increase in the number of people experiencing burnout, stress and toxic workplace environments. Seeing the results of our organizational diagnostics, leadership assessments and hearing people’s stories and realities, I realized that the world can’t continue to go on this way. It was clear that something had to change — and fast.

To really create meaningful impact, my business partner and I recognized that we would need to make sensitive topics around beliefs and behaviors more comfortable for people to talk about, as well as make it easier and faster for people to understand exactly which actions would yield sustained results. This inspired a mission to make feeling good and having an internal harmony accessible, achievable, and approachable.

We set out to find out exactly what made people feel positively energized so that they could perform and feel their best. After using our data modeling process on over 1000 sources of data across psychology, mindfulness and neuroscience, we identified 12 factors and 74 critical success attributes that help people live, work, and play in an energy-rich state. A state in which they can thrive and progress…not just maintain or survive.

Mindful practice was one of the 12 factors identified and I myself have been on a journey in which I have realized the positive benefits of slowing down to my own productivity, positivity, and relationships.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

If you ask people how they are, typically people respond, “ok, but busy”. People are moving from task to task, often without pause. From our EMQ diagnostics, we see patterns that indicate a majority of people go to sleep feeling as though they should have achieved so much more, feel that they cannot cope with all of the demands on their time, and feel that they regularly are unable to produce their best work due to being busy.

With advances in technology and the increased number of devices, personally and in the home, we are rarely unreachable and there is an expectation that we need to be available. There is always some message or notification which creates a constant feeling of needing to check and respond, feeling panicked because you may miss something, or feeling bad because you let something slip.

People have seemingly never-ending to-do lists, often treating every task with the same level of urgency or feeling as though they have to say yes to everything asked of them. The reality is that not every task is created equal. Not everything is critical, urgent, or provides the same value. This lack of effective prioritization increases stress and overwhelm.

Thirdly, often unintentionally, we waste so much time. A large contributor to this is “meeting mayhem”. Days are filled with unproductive or ineffective meetings due to reasons that span from unclear objectives to fear of declining. This takes away from time for more valuable tasks, creates a sense of being behind in your work or a need to “catch-up” later in the day, and increases worry about what you still need to do.

Lastly, we find that many people tend to not give themselves permission to take a moment. A moment of silence is often seen as a waste of time that could be used on some other task on their list. Some even feel guilty to take a pause or break.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

People repeatedly sacrifice their own self-care in an effort to create more time. Based on what we see with our clients, and from our research, people with lower levels of mindful practice experience decreased performance, wellbeing, and positivity.

When we are overstimulated or overwhelmed we can experience a sensory overload. When we are stressed out and worried, we may not be able to sleep due to our ruminations. When we are rushed, we may grab something quick to satisfy that salt or sugar craving, rather than be mindful of nutritional value. All of these, poor diet, stress, and lack of sleep, can work against a healthy immune system and have health implications.

When we are rushed, and our minds distracted, we do not spend quality, focused time on the task at hand. In this state, it is easy to miss something or make mistakes, causing unproductive, repeated work efforts. This can lead to a negative cycle as when we do not produce, or perform, at the quality that we want to, there is a decreased feeling of accomplishment and often feelings of guilt. Additionally, a busy mind has no space for creative thoughts or clarity, which lowers our situational awareness and decreases our ability to respond in the most effective way.

Continuously feeling rushed can impact our levels of positivity, especially the depth and quality of our relationships. Everything is interrelated when it comes to our energy. When we feel stressed, overwhelmed, or are experiencing negative emotions our energy can be felt by those around us, as energy is contagious! When we are rushed our interactions with others can feel inauthentic. We can seem distracted, which in turn can be interpreted as not caring. When we are stressed we have lower levels of tolerance, causing reactions that we may later regret such as being argumentative or snappy with loved ones. All of these can cause issues in personal relationships and foster toxic workplace environments. From an organizational level, it can also impact customer satisfaction. We all know the difference a positively energized employee has on our experience!

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

Like a car, we cannot keep going pushing past our capacity, overheating, or simply running out of fuel. We too need to keep our energy tanks replenished and invest in maintenance to stay in peak performance.

As humans, we naturally work in cycles, expending our energy and then needing to restock it. Our bodies give us signals when we need to renew our energy. However, when we are busy, we miss them or ignore them. Instead, people tend to use short term fuel sources, such as sugary snacks and caffeine, or they simply keep going. While this may suffice for the moment, the truth is, they are still running on fumes and that crash is inevitable.

When we actually slow down to notice the signals, take pause to replenish our energy in a healthy way, and focus on the particular task at hand clear of distractions, the quality of that work is higher, the conversation is more meaningful, and the experience we have is richer.

When we take pause and shift perspective, we gain clarity. This allows us the time to purposefully respond to situations and people in the best way, in alignment with our values. This strengthens the quality of our relationships, makes us more collaborative, reduces regretful or snap reactions, and helps us make more rational, better decisions.

When we quiet the mind, space is created for ideas to flow freely. There is a reason so many people have ideas in the shower! When noise and interruptions are removed, new thoughts are inspired and solutions to problems materialize.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

For me, it is about figuring out those daily hacks and infusing them in a way that works for you. A couple of strategies I use to increase productivity, clarity and stay energized include:

  1. Taking detachment breaks. Making sure that I generally have 10-minute breaks, every 90 minutes or two hours, to shift task, take a walk, go outside, or drink some water.
  2. Limiting distractions. Closing my emails when I am trying to concentrate on work that requires higher levels of thought.
  3. Slowing down the morning. So often the alarm goes off and we can’t help but check our notifications and emails. The problem is, now your mind is clouded with thoughts and responses. I set a limit that allows me to have some quiet time when I wake up. I won’t look at any emails until I have had my first morning tea or coffee, typically at least for the first 15 minutes.
  4. Fitting in natural moments for silence and reflection. I am all about achievable methods, so to create space for silence, I looked to the moments in my day that I could extend just a little. For example, tacking on an extra few minutes to my shower.
  5. Practicing gratitude. I like doing this each evening before bedtime so that I am mentally in a good space for a peaceful night of rest. The key is to be specific and to spend a few minutes thinking about who and what you are grateful for, why, and to express it.
  6. Self-prioritizing across tasks. I try and focus on the top 3 critical tasks (across professional and personal demands) that I have to complete each day. Anything else that comes is compared to see if it is more critical or a better use of my time and energy, and if so, it gets swapped in.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Being present in the moment — where moments can include eating, relaxing, working or being in a conversation. Being present means being engaged in the moment, without distractions, focused on how the moment feels, the actions you are taking, your feelings, what others are doing, and the environment around you. It includes being mindful of our responses, of our language, and of how our behaviors impact others.

For example, take being mindful in conversations. This could mean listening to the words someone is using, looking at their body language, and feeling their energy. All without judgement, without thinking of a response and without distraction. Think about when someone says something you disagree with and you immediately start thinking of how you much you disagree and how wrong they are. You may miss their next few sentences in which they explain their perspective. Now, you have missed the opportunity to expand your understanding, see their point of view, and respond purposefully.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

There are many ways to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life. However, if you think you can’t, try doing some time analysis to see how you are spending your time. Often, we find that people can locate adjustments that creates more space in their lives.

A couple of ways to try include:

  • Not having your phone on during dinner so that you limit distractions and can be engaged in the moment with loved ones.
  • Carefully select what you say yes and no to. For example, be mindful of which meetings you accept. Start by asking yourself, what is the objective of the meeting? Do I need to be there? What value do I contribute?
  • Find a daily activity that you can extend by 5 minutes, to be alone with your thoughts. This could be the shower, in the car before you walk into the office, or during a walk.
  • Spend 10 minutes journaling your thoughts and feelings at night time. This can help you process your emotions, clear your mind, and bring peace and clarity.
  • Be mindful of your responses. Pause on that email, message, or take a moment, so that you can be mindful of how you respond to situations, communicate with people and limit reactions.
  • Stop and notice nature. The next time you are outside, stop and look around you. Notice the shapes of the clouds, the colors of the leaves, the shades of the sky, or the brightness of the stars. Or, the next time you are somewhere with an amazing view, before you take that picture, stop and really see it. Taking in nature re-energizes us and the beauty and vastness of it puts everything into perspective.
  • Have a success partner. Someone who you respect and trust, someone who cares about you, who can tell you in a caring way when you are distracted and seeming overwhelmed.

I could go on, but it really comes down to start by taking one action. Once you see the impact, the momentum will keep building!

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

There are a variety of applications out there that you can try. For me, I find calendaring in breaks and focused time helps me to create space for it during the day.

I also find that having a focal point helps. For example, focusing on the colors of the leaves on a tree. This helps me limit intrusive thoughts and within a few moments, the mind begins to clear.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

A great read that broadens your perspective and provokes thought is “Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow” by Yuval Noah Harari, which explores the history of humans and the future.

I also enjoy reading “snackable” curated content. This can be the stories of others journey’s, research in the domain, or tips from experts. I love the variety and how easy it is to spend a few moments daily consuming inspiration or actionable content. Some great sources of information include Tiny Buddha, MindBodyGreen, the Ladders mindfulness section, and Well + Good.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I love life quotes! These ones remind me to stay mindful!

“Your tombstone won’t say ‘you wished you worked more’” This reminds me to be mindful of work-life harmony. As someone that loves my work, it is easy to get carried away, but this keeps me thinking about what is actually important to me — my loved ones.

I listen to a lot of music. It helps me work, be creative, and relax. I actually listen to a lot of reggae, Latin and soca music. One of these is Tarrus Riley’s “My Day”. Which includes phrases like, “it’s my life and I’m responsible for every action”, “give thanks for life”, and, “it’s my day, to do anything I want to”. It reminds me that I am in control of which actions I take. Yes, there may be a lot going on, yes, sometimes things feel overwhelming, but, I am in control of how I choose to respond and responsible to take charge of creating the changes I want to see.

And lastly, “three things you cannot recover in life: the word after it’s said, the moment after it’s missed, and the time after it’s gone.” This one reminds me to be mindful of what I say, the power of words, and that life is short. That it is important to invest our limited time and our energy in the moments that matter.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Start with finding 5 minutes. Find 5-minute slots in your day for yourself, your thoughts, silence, and being in the moment. Just start there. It will make you happier and calmer. With every single happier and calmer person living and working in the world, the more positive and productive workplaces will be, the healthier and more collaborative relationships will be, and the better place this world will be — for us and for the future generations.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

About the Author:

After 15 years working in Commercial Real Estate in New York City, Ashley Graber changed the coast she lived on and the direction of her life from Real Estate to the worlds of Psychology and Meditation & Mindfulness. Ashley came to these practices after getting sober and in the decade plus since, she now runs a busy mindfulness based psychotherapy practice at Yale Street Therapy in Santa Monica, CA where she see adults and children and speaks on the benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices.

Ashley is an Owner and Director of Curriculum for the next generation meditation app & mindfulness company ‘Evenflow’ and launched the company’s one to one online mindfulness mentoring program. Ashley also educates teachers and administrators in schools and presents in businesses across Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

Ashley was trained in Meditation and Mindfulness practices by prominent teachers; Elisha Goldstein, Richard Burr and Guiding teacher at Against the Stream Boston, Chris Crotty. Her Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) certification was done through The Center for Mindfulness at UC San Diego. Additionally, Ashley is trained by Mindful Schools to teach Meditation and Mindfulness practices to children and families. Ashley’s unique combination of psychotherapy, trauma reprocessing and meditation and mindfulness practices make her a sought after therapist and mindfulness educator and speaker. Her passion for the benefits of mindfulness practices as well as her enthusiasm for helping young kids and adults is the drive to teach these very necessary, life long skills and why she wrote and runs the Mindfulness for Families program at The Center for Mindful Living. This is where she teaches groups of families with children ages 6–12. Ashley was featured on Good Morning LaLa Land, presented on Resilience at the renowned Wisdom. 2.0 Mindfulness & Technology conference, and presented at the TED Woman conference offering an in-depth look at the profound psychological and physiological consequences of chronic stress, and how meditation and mindfulness practices can alleviate these effects.