Has it ever happened to you that, after a period of really intense work or study, once you finish that critical project or exam, or maybe at the start of a holiday, your body says “that´s it” and you fall exhausted or ill?
That´s how life lets us know when our current pace is not sustainable.
This has happened to me several times, thankfully in a much less dramatic way, as I´ve been learning to read the signs. Signs like, for example, a head cold or a sore throat that interestingly start showing on a Friday evening, when the work week is over and my body knows it´s allowed…
In the software development world, and increasingly in other work environments, many companies follow Agile methodologies, which are based on moving forward and getting results quickly by leveraging an iterative work process, while continuously adapting to change. And a key success factor for those methodologies is that the “moving forward” happens at a pace that can be maintained in the long term, in other words, that is sustainable, in theory indefinitely. Because it has become clear that moving too fast for too long ends up negatively impacting the team.
This sustainable pace that companies seek for their employees also applies to each person individually, and it´s our own responsibility to achieve it for ourselves. At the end of the day, at work as well as in life, the to-do list is infinite, it never ends… In reality, it´s a long-distance race, more like a marathon than a 100-metre sprint, so the best strategy is to economize our energy, and if at one point we need to run faster for a little while, then later on we´ll have to slow down for another while, or even stop so that we can properly recover.
But even though this seems pretty easy to understand, we often forget about it. Why? Maybe because we don´t realize it´s a long-distance race, and we only see the 100 metres in front of us. Or maybe because we´re so engrossed in the race that we forget to stop for a moment and listen to ourselves, pay attention to how we feel, and what our body is trying to tell us.
I love this quote that says that life first whispers to you, if you don´t listen, it talks to you, and if you still don´t listen, it screams at you. Setting aside a little time for ourselves every day, without distractions, and really listening to ourselves, will help us to identify those whispers before they become screams.
What about you? How are you making sure you maintain a sustainable pace?