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Why rushing doesn’t “save” time – and how to slow down

by Meagan Francis on September 10, 2012


As we head back into a full week of school, work and all the rest, I wanted to share a previously-published post about how sometimes speeding up actually doesn’t “save” time at all. As we re-adjust to the busy fall season, I know I can use the reminder! Enjoy.

Slow down!” I remember my mom saying to me constantly when I was a kid. I moved too fast and was constantly whacking my knees and shins on end tables or catching a hip or shoulder on the door frame. I cracked my head on a lot of open cupboard doors because I was in too big a hurry to close them.

In general I am a pretty fly-by-the-seat-of–my-pants kind of person, and sometimes that works really well. I jump at opportunities others would ponder for months; when I put my mind to something I make it happen…and often in record time.

But this kind of get-up-and-go has its drawbacks.

I’m not always terribly deliberate in my actions. I leap, then look, and if I didn’t land on sure footing I usually hurry and move onto the next thing, sometimes before I’ve bothered to learn my lesson (luckily it generally sinks it at some point. Unluckily, “some point” is often years later.)

I’m inclined to avoid the slow route to…well, to anything. Yet often I just create more work and hassle for myself because I have to double back later or spend more time to correct something I didn’t do properly the first time.

Here’s a case in point: when I go to the grocery store I’ll often forget something on my list and remember only when I return to the car or worse, am driving out of the parking lot. Then I have that forehead-slapping moment when I realize the item has been forgotten. And I wrestle with that side of my personality that wants to keep momentum and forward motion going.

  • Going back for the forgotten item would take me–at most–15 minutes.
  • It would save me a return trip and all the time and hassle that would entail.
  • It would mean my pantry or refrigerator would hold some essential item that might make getting dinner on the table that much more easy.
  • And yet returning to the store once I’ve already walked out that automatic door feels like moving backward. I’m already in the car! I’m already headed home! I can’t go BACK now!

So too often, I just say “Eh, screw it” and leave–and then have another forehead-slapping moment later when I realize how much extra work I’ve caused for myself by refusing to go back.

This month I’m working on creating a new slowing-down ritual, using this five-step plan:

  1. Try to treat whatever I’m doing as a pleasant experience, rather that one more thing to check off the to-do list. In the case of grocery shopping, if I’m with my kids I can use the time to chat with them and teach them how to choose produce rather than murmuring “Mm-hmmm” distractedly while rushing through the store (more about savoring time vs. rushing at the grocery store here.) I can take time to read labels and inspect new cuts of meat or unfamiliar grains rather than just chucking the same-old, familiar stuff in the cart. Try samples. Notice the smells. Imagine dishes I’d create with this spice or that pasta. Use all my senses.
  2. Slow down. If I find myself huffing and anxious because the motorized cart in front of me isn’t moving quickly enough or because I managed to choose the checkout with the cashier-in-training, it’s a good indicator that I need to slowwww down. And slowing down physically, I’ve noticed, often encourages my brain to slow down too.
  3. Evaluate Frequently. In the grocery store that means that before I leave each department, check back over the list one more time to make sure I got everything I needed…and do the same thing before I enter the checkout line. When I take a moment to evaluate my progress I am a lot more aware of what I’m doing and what I need to do next.
  4. Be Willing To Put Myself In Reverse. If I get to my car, to the edge of the parking lot, or even halfway home and realize I still forgot something, I have to ask myself, “Do I really have anything better to be doing right this moment? Is getting home fifteen minutes earlier absolutely crucial?” If not–turn around, go back.
  5. Breathe And Do A Reality Check. If I feel overcome by that panicked, flustered feeling of having “messed up” and “wasted time,” take deep breaths. Remind myself that this time is not wasted. That my kids are fine. That nothing is going to fall apart at home in the fifteen extra minutes it’ll take me to go back to the store. That the time spent now will save me time and effort later this week.

Grocery shopping is far from the only example of things I rush in my life. I often rush through my work and then have to go back with a fine-tooth comb later, looking for mistakes. I can’t be bothered with instruction manuals, which too often leads to a screw ending up in the wrong hole or a deformed-looking Lego creation. And sometimes I even rush through pleasant conversations with my kids because I want to move on to the next thing.

I know some of my quickness is just personality, and I can’t change who I am. But I can work to be more aware of this tendency so that I can recognize when it’s working against me and create new rituals to help me live more slowly, mindfully and deliberately. Not only will it help me enjoy those moments more (instead of just wanting to get them over with) but it will save me from living that moment when I realize I really needed that extra butter I refused to go back into the store for.

The fewer those “doh!” moments I have, the happier a mom I am.

Do you ever rush to “save” time – and find that it actually causes more hassle, stress, and lost minutes?

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Tara@AMooseyMommy September 29, 2011 at 3:48 pm

What a thought provoking post! I often find myself rushing, and my mind whirling. I try to slow down, but I like the concrete steps this post provides that lead to doing that. Thank you!


Sarah Deveau September 29, 2011 at 4:10 pm

My mother used to quote Winnie the Pooh at me / “the hurried I go, the behinder I get.”. It’s true, but I still find it hard forcing myself to slow down.


Sarah@theAutoMomma September 29, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Did I write this post? Haha.

Seriously, though, I do this exact same thing. And I need to stop. I can be doing something I really enjoy, and I’m still rushing through it, thinking about what comes next. It makes me feel as though I never enjoy ANYTHING fully because I’m always on to the next. Drives me crazy!

I really need to focus on being more “in the moment.” Especially when it comes to my little boy. I don’t want him growing up thinking there are always things more important than he is.


Karen L October 1, 2011 at 1:04 pm

“I don’t want him growing up thinking there are always things more important than he is.” QFT.


SusanP September 29, 2011 at 10:22 pm

I’m the opposite… I’m an over thinker/ over planner. Sometimes it can induce it’s own form of stress! Sometimes I just need to get moving and let whatever happens happen!


SusanP September 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Oh but I have done the grocery store thing many times, even after checking over my list. Worse, there are times I get to the store and realize I forgot the list at home! Then I have to think back and try to remember what was on there, get home, and then realize I missed 5 critical things. I call it “Mom Brain”. Not to be confused with “Pregnant Brain” — which caused me to back into the garage door pulling out of the garage because I forgot to open the door. Maybe that was an instance where I needed to slow down! :-)


Katherine September 29, 2011 at 10:48 pm

This happened to me tonight! I was at my car and realized I had forgotten one item in the store. I was thiiiiis close to getting in my car and driving away. One reason? I would be embarrassed that the checkout lady would see me come through again.


I also didn’t want to “waste time” by going back in. Not sure what I was planning on doing for dinner without that vital ingredient, but whatever…


Jessica @ Quirky Bookworm September 29, 2011 at 11:01 pm

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve found myself in the exact same grocery store scenario you describe!

Thanks for the reminder to slow down. :)


Olivia September 30, 2011 at 8:20 am

I hate to feel rushed so I tend to go slow, but I also suffer from not wanting to go back if I forgot something. I do all my grocery shopping in one store because I know the layout and can plan a route that is most efficient and I even try to write my list according to that route (my husband spoils this usually because he doesn’t understand my system).


Briana September 30, 2011 at 11:11 am

I’ve heard that Napolean used to say to the man who tied his boots, “I’m in a hurry so take your time.” Good “mantra” to live by.


Karen L October 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Another one I like is: “Measure twice. Cut once.”
And my mom used to say that _her_ mom used to say about driving: “better late than THE late.”


Adventures In Babywearing September 30, 2011 at 11:55 am

I am such a rusher that usually I just keep going like a madwoman until I CRASH. Then I have even more of a mess to clean up.



Karen L October 1, 2011 at 1:14 pm

This post has been percolating in my head. I’m definitely a rusher, which is also _related_ to (but not a necessary part of) some of the things I like about myself, so I need this message. I find that my rushing, oddly enough, leads to some putting things off, e.g., I’ll deal SO immediately with one piece of mail that the other pieces of mail get tossed aside and neglected. I might make it part of a “Mindful Saturday” or something. My plan is to use the old trick of always leaving a room better than you found it as a tactic for your strategy #3: evaluate frequently. I feel like that might ground me in my surroundings, rather than the whirr in my head.


Chaunie@TinyBlueLines September 11, 2012 at 8:46 am

I LOVE #1! It’s a great reminder, although with my three, including a newborn, grocery shopping sometimes feels akin to going into battle! It’s a great reminder though–I can tell that the more I’m stressed, the worse they act out.


Cory September 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm

This was a good reminder. I’ve been better at the “no worries, no hurries” in the past than I have been this month. For some reason, sending my first born to Kindergarten has put me in a full-blown tailspin. Everything seems off kilter. Today was actually the first day I felt a wee bit calmer. And as soon as I realized that I was feeling calmer, I felt even calmer! It was like a giant exhale.

Your ideas are great. I also like to give myself ample time to get places with my 3 kiddos. They are young and still need help in and out of the car. I’d rather be early and sit in the car for a few minutes, than be late and have everyone hollering/feeling anxious.

Thanks for the reminders! I really do appreciate it!


Jean March 23, 2013 at 10:45 am

Times when behind schedule, seems under a higher power & works out being able to help someone or have to take another trail. Saw the USA this way and we met many wonderful People. (Before GPS)
When or if winning, another small RV Motor Home will be “On The Road Again”


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