This is what my mentor said to me several years ago, “Cara, can you slow down a bit, because I’m in a hurry.” Anyone who knows me well, would be able to tell you that slowing down at anything is definitely not in my DNA, so I was a bit shocked when he said it to me. Over the years I have been able to reflect many times on this, and the important lesson my mentor taught me here.

One of the key challenges I witness when coaching entrepreneurs and senior leaders is the vast amount of information they are retaining, and the huge amount of workload they are carrying which must be achieved quicker than ever before. As we approach the Christmas season, I would encourage every leader to take some well-earned R&R, as well as taking the time to slow down both physically and mentally.

When I compare running a business and being a leader today to say 20 years ago, two key things stand out to me. The vast amount of information and complexities impacting business today, combined with the speed that everything is moving at. Although that has its positives with progress happening, I often reflect it creates a lot more challenges for both leaders and organisations. The human mind doesn’t work as efficiently when it’s overloaded with information or complexities, and a confused mind just says “no”, when faced with any problems or challenges.

When I coach entrepreneurs and senior leaders one key area of focus is helping them to slow down their mind, so they can get clarity, take time and focus on what’s really important to make the most effective decisions to improve their business.

Whilst training as a coach I was lucky to properly understand the importance of the lesson my mentor had taught me years ago. This training, and my own coaches have given me lots of opportunities to slow down my mind, and during this time I have solved some of the most difficult challenges or come up with the best ideas to grow and develop my business. Bob Proctor interviewed Brian Biro, one of America’s top swimming coaches who said the most important stroke for a competitive swimmer is not the resistance stroke going through the water, but the recovery stroke bringing their arm back over getting ready to go into the water.

Throughout the years as a Director, I often heard leaders say to me, “but Cara I don’t understand why I’m not achieving more, I’m working more than 60 hours a week.” It often goes against the DNA of successful leaders to slow down, but in my opinion now more than ever leaders need to take time to reflect and get clarity, to be able to make the best decisions and direct their teams and organisations with a clear focus and strategy. I was once told, no one ever makes a great decision when under pressure.

Now don’t get me wrong, I continue to carry out things with the same speed I always did, but now I’ve learnt the importance of building in reflection time. This is not only essential to make good decisions, think of new ideas to grow my business, but is so important for my overall health and well-being. But rather than thinking of it as slowing down, I think of it as a Formula 1 racing driver. To achieve peak performance, I need to regularly come into the pit lane to get refuelled and maintain the engine.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the impact of taking time to reflect or what you do to build in this time and how effective it is for you.