In Praise of Slowness...at Work

(Inspired by a slow day on the job)

By Our Finance Contributor, Olivia Sielaff

The hum of the espresso machine. The whir of the traffic outside. The slow wave of the American flag across the street. But not a customer in sight.

This was my experience the other day working that dreaded 3p.m hour at the little café in my town, the hour in which no one ever seems to want a coffee.

At one point or another we’ve all experienced slow days at work. You wipe the counter and organize the shelves for the umpteenth time. You check and re-check your emails. A customer hasn’t come by or called in what seems like ages (really, only 15 minutes).

Slowness at work has its drawbacks: less business for the establishment, what seems like longer work days, etc. But it can also be an opportunity for creativity, inspiration, pacing yourself, and remembering that not all things should be done quickly. (Rome wasn't conquered in a day, nor was, well, anything worth conquering).

Slowness fosters creativity

We often think we have to be busy or rushed to feel like we’re doing our job, working hard, or even making an impact. But the reality is that we can do even more and work better in the slow times. In fact, some of our slowest days at work can encourage some of our most creative moments.

On a slow day you can think of innovative ways to improve your efficiency and effectiveness at work. Take that time to get to know your co-workers or brainstorm collaborative efforts on a new product, service or campaign for your business.

If there’s nothing to do, you’ll find something to do. And more often than not, creativity will lead the way.

Calm and quiet is a good thing

Carl Honoré, a journalist and ambassador for the Slow Movement, says there are certain things that need slowness: strategic planning, creative thought, building relationships. In a recent interview with Kinfolk magazine he said, “Human beings need moments of silence and solitude – to rest and recharge; to think deeply and creatively; to look inside and confront the big questions...”

When there’s a lull at work, don’t begrudge it. We must praise God in our busy times as well as in our slow times. Take the chance to refocus and prioritize your assignments or duties for the day. And realize that the things that require slowness are often much more valuable than the fast-paced tasks.

Set the pace – for you and your customers

St. Francis de Sales said, “Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset.”

Even the saints advocate an unhurried lifestyle. When you’re not feeling rushed or pressed for time you’re more able to confront obstacles, challenges and busy customers. If you are collected then your customers will notice and be put at ease, knowing that you can help them.

Of course, much of this can be translated into other areas of our lives. But your less-than-hurried days at work can and should be used wisely. Remember, even though you’re bored, you’re still at work. Trying to pass the time doesn’t mean trying to make the time go by more quickly. It means finding ways to use that time as effectively, creatively and beneficially as possible.

Make the most of those still, quiet moments. Before you know it, the little bell above the door will jingle, the phone will ring, and customers will come. And you’ll be ready and willing to serve them after a slow interlude.

 

What are some ways you can use your slow moments wisely?

Do you intentionally make time in your day to slow down?