Speeding up to slow down to speed up

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Do you ever have days where you do nothing but sit at your computer and answer emails and at the end of the day you’re completely exhausted and you still don’t feel like you got anything done?

In my early days as a salesman, somebody told me, “Massive action solves every problem.” That has to be one of the worst pieces of advice I ever got from anyone.

Did you know that it’s possible to be productive without being frantic and rushed all the time?

Lots o’ people are celebrating the US 4th of July by taking today off. Today is the perfect day to slow down for a minute and see how you can get more done with LESS effort and less stress.

A few weeks ago I did an interview with RC Peck about the “Critter Brain” or “Lizard Brain.” It’s the part of our brain that hijacks our best intentions when we most need to be strategic and deliberate. The lizard brain takes over and we do stupid stuff.

RC said, “The way to speed up is to slow down. Rarely is a rush of frantic activity helpful.”

If you’re a spontaneous person like me it’s hard to slow down and really think. I don’t know about you, but I get excited about new things and generate a whirlwind of activity. A lot of energy gets wasted.

TIP #1:

The worst place to get REAL thinking done is with your hands on your keyboard. The best place to think is in your favorite quiet spot with a pad of yellow notebook paper.

TIP #2:

Get up and go for a walk.

Physical motion switches your brain on. I guarantee you, you will have more thoughts, better thoughts, more creative thoughts when your body is active than when your butt’s on a chair.

If you play a sport, run, ride your bike or play music, that’s even better.

When I put on my shoes and head for the door, I say “Time to go give my head a shake” and my family knows exactly what I’m talking about. I go for walks even when it’s freezing cold outside. It stimulates my brain.

"So many options for growing my business, but what should I do NOW?" Tell me your most pressing business problems and I'll show you your BEST next step.

TIP #3:

Learn to recognize when you’re stuck in reactive mode. If you can’t get your mind to focus and all you seem to be able to do is react to emails and click on things and surf, it’s a good sign you need to bleed off some excess energy.

Yes, there are times when you just need to answer emails and phone calls and take care of miscellaneous things. Much better to do that stuff within a deliberate time slot instead of all the time.

My formula is:

Speed up to slow down to speed up.

Which means:

Stop the frantic activity and plan your work. Plan your work by physically speeding up (a brisk walk or run gets your juices flowing) then (slow down) write down your plan on your strategic yellow pad of paper. You’ll speed up getting more done.

You’re an entrepreneur, which means the world does YOUR bidding. YOU are the person who organizes resources and moves things from low value to high value. You don’t just sit there and let your day get nibbled to death by a thousand mosquitoes.

There has never been a time when one person could accomplish so much in so little time. But you need to run the world, not let the world run you.

If today is a day when the phones aren’t ringing and people aren’t demanding your time, then it’s the perfect day to go for a walk, figure out what you want to accomplish in the next weeks and months, map out your plan and EXECUTE.

Seize the day – and start by going outside and getting a breath of fresh air – right now.

Perry Marshall

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

44 Comments on “Speeding up to slow down to speed up”

  1. Sweet article! This may sound like a weird question, but weird is good! You mentioned in this article to use a pad of “Yellow paper” does this color mean something?

    Thank you kindly for the eye opener article!



  2. Very insightful Tip summary. I have been a John C. Maxwell fan for many years. He proposed a “thinking chair” where you purposely sit to quietly “THINK”. Once, however, you have gotten your thoughts on your ‘strategic yellow pad’, I go to my computer and get the thoughts transcribed and translated into readable english sentences. I fill in the details and let the document sit for a Day before I go back and see if what I did still makes as much sense as it did when the thought was fresh.

    Of course not all of these ‘thoughts’ are worth much more time. There are those gems that end up being Very worth while.

  3. Helpful insight Perry. Most people don’t realize the restorative power of being in nature.
    Go for a short walk outside after an intense work session, rather than heading to the break room for that 5th cup of coffee. You’ll recover 2 X faster.
    Our society thinks that it’s problems can be solved with medication, Merlot or M&Ms. Let’s add another another “M” – Movement.

  4. Great article, thank you Perry!
    Tip no. 2 reminded me of the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche who once said, “Never trust a thought you came upon sitting down.” :-)

  5. This is a very powerful post to me.
    Speed up to slow down to go faster.
    For me even at 55 I must get out side daily to clear my head ..then I can think much better.
    Now I have a fitness blog because I started teaching fitness at 55 so for me it’s what I do now.
    But while learning SEO and marketing …etc…for the last 4 years from zero I absolutely had to get out,no matter what the wheather.
    I’m in Canada so the winters are brutal but I still get out daily to walk or skate.
    I’m not a good cubicle person as I seem to have the blood type or something that I must work out daily which is why I went to my passion of fitness to market my “stuff.”
    I think your strategy Perry should be used by everyone.
    Maybe folks would actually think more before they put their frenzied maesseges of “HEY BUY FROM MY LINK!!!!
    even though I have nothing to offer you of value.

  6. What you wrote above applies to everyone, not just to entrepeneurs, in their getting on with life. No doubt you are well aware of this. Many of us, including pshchologists and psychiatrists, lack this understanding of others as well as of ourselves. Thank you for your words.

  7. Man, you have such great advice, you should live on the top of a mountain so people can come up to see you

  8. Good article.

    I think we often forget just how much physical exercise is good for you. Particulary when you’ve been sat in front of the PC all week.

    I often get most of my best thoughts and most of my best ideas when out walking, sat in the garden or just relaxing.

    Often the most productive day you can have is to do nothing at all.

  9. So true Perry, great practical yet simple advice. I always make time in the afternoon to go mountain biking to get blood flowing. It helps me stay energized and is a great escape/stress reliever.

  10. I don’t agree with that thought entirely. To me this is more of a resource management or planning concept then anything. Psycho-Cybernetics is a visualization technique tied to self help (as I understand it).

    The critical element here is “visibility” not vizualization, you need to have a firm grasp of where you want to go and you can lose that sense of focus under stress or high activty levels for an extended period.

    Finding technques that enable you to reset your mental compass is a key to success.

  11. “Speeding up to slow down to speed up” is an awesome article. It all makes perfect sense! I love to run, one reason why is that it is a great time to meditate.

  12. What a great article, as a recruiter (25+ years) you’ve hit on my single biggest challenge. By it’s very nature it’s a reactive multi-tasking environment. Your proactively engaged in “pinging” on one hand but entirely dependent on the return echo for progress. It’s absurdly easy to get distracted, frustrated on placed on information overload…often all at the same time.

    Tip #2 has been my longterm stand by, I normally take a spin around the block twice a day.

    I’ll add another option that has worked wonders for me over the years. The mid day movie break. My work days are often 10-12 hours when you include early morning and evening calls. Occasionally you reach a point where you’ve absorbed so much that your on overload and your mind needs time to process it all.

    I’ve found a 2 hour “movie break” often breaks the stress cycle and gives your mind time to catch up. Very often I get back to the office at 2:30 or so (typical 11:50-12:15 start) and have a magically generated “to-do” list in my mind. Very often I get 2-3 hours of exceptionally productive “post movie” time when I hit a rut….


  13. Thank you for this. I was just reading “The 8th Habit” by Covey and it was talking about focus and execution…and here are some great strategies for execution!

  14. I have been hearing more and more about how multi-tasking doesn’t work nearly as well as we would like to think! I have to say that I get the most done when I consciously tell myself to sit my butt down in a chair for an hour or two, set a timer and ignore everything else! Nice post to start this shorty week off with focus!!!

  15. Thank you! Needed this… Wish I’d have read it all the way through when I received it yesterday–while I was instead sitting at my keyboard doing exactly what you recommend here NOT losing time doing.

    Time to seize the day!

  16. What a brilliant article Perry, thank you. Living in North London and going into town I see lots of people living that ‘too fast to think lifestyle’. I do it all the time now. I had my epiphany last year when I was overweight and borderline diabetic and a busy online retailer.

    I thought “life should be better than this”. I changed my focus to me – not something working mums are used to doing! I now plan my business time around my ‘me’ time and guess what I am fitter, weigh less due to doing more fun exercise, no longer a borderline diabetic and making more money for the family. The ‘me’ time gave me space to read some fantastic books – Your Google Adwords one was one of them – life changing! Thank you again Perry for guiding us.

  17. Gracias Perry por todo, dime como debemos comenzar, estoy listo para dejar todo y subirme a tu barco, por donde comenzamos, espero tus ocmentairos,
    Luis Flores
    Mexico DF

  18. Perfect time to read this . . .

    I just got off the Hammock for a quick 45 minute nap. Last week I finished re reading “The Power Of Full Engagement” and your post is a powerful remind that it’s energy we manage not time.

    We muster up energy by moving, we increase our ability to do more by pushing past our limits, and we recharge our engines by not DOING more longer, but by resting.

    Good mental nugget. Thanks.


  19. This is why I’m a proponent of ‘Walking the Dog Fixes Everything.’ As someone who prefers the great indoors I find the dog’s eagerness to go out reason enough–if only to avoid the consequences of the alternative.

    Once outside and moving the ideas often start to flow and develop. More of my fictional characters and worlds probably owe their ‘existence’ to Liberty than she’ll ever know.

    Something else happens too. Frustrations and irritations from interpersonal relationships tend to come into perpective. Of course many of my favorite people still have four legs and fur.

  20. I coach my clients who tell me they are too busy to slow down not to confuse activity with productivity.

    Perry, what you have here is a “work on your business, not in your business” approach.
    I agree 100% with you that the so called time out is the most valuable activity you can do to grow your business.

    Certainly, when I am working out in the gym (mind switched off), the ideas pop up.

    Another great method is to meditate daily. Believe me, it is in the stillness that my right (creative) brain gets to present ideas and solutions. The left (thinking) brain shuts up!

  21. It’s so true that the worst place to get real thinking done is with our hands on the keyboard…there are too many ways to get distracted.

    What would happen if we limited our time on the computer to just those times when we’re actively working on our most important goal(s) for the day?

    A good question to ask ourselves any time during the day, but especially when we’re on the computer, would be “Am I working on the most important activity for my business right now?”, and if we’re not, we need to stop whatever it is we’re doing and get busy doing what we should be.

    Thanks for some great advice!

  22. A perfect advice, that matches 100% my experience. Sometimes you let emails and worries pile up and it paralyses you just as much as it makes you feel frantic inside. A good walk or a ride on my bike, even if have to convince myself to get up and go, is the perfect cure. The mind gets appeased and suddenly creative thoughts start to flow again. Great idea, gonna take a walk right now.

  23. Excellent Advice.

    One very interesting thing you mentioned is realising when your in reactive mode. Thats the key isn’t it? And one of the hardest things to realise, especially being as when your in reactive mode, you lose the observer effect and get caught up in a web of nonsensical thoughts and actions.

    I loved the metaphor of the mosquitoes also. Its soooo true!

  24. Thanks Perry – Great article! So true about taking a break through the day and going for a walk (my dogs are pretty happy about it too), but I come back to the office with an added calmness and a renewed sense of direction, ready to tackle ‘the world’ again. I get alot more done in a lot less time.
    Great stuff Perry!

  25. Thanks Perry;

    But trying to remember a good idea is like trying to catch a dandelion seed in a windstorm.

    It is key to have paper and pen about you at all times. The most practical locations are by your bed, in the car, and in your pocket when you are walking. Those little dollar memo pads will capture your million dollar ideas.

  26. Man… Perry… with all the junk floating into my email every day…. it is such a pleasure to know that when it goes into my PM folder (My Perry Marshall folder)I know there will be something worthwhile in there. Not ALWAYS a sales pitch for an affiliate product.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the guys that flood my with offers, heck I usually buy 1/10 of those offers (at least when I’m in that mood)… But some of those guys send NOTHING but the sales letters.

    They don’t understand the whole concept of GIVING value.

    In my opinion you and Terry Dean and maybe Glenn Livingston are the only ones that actually give value via emails. I will give an honorable mention to George Brown, not that he gives value, but he has such a great video presentation every time (he is so likeable) even when i know he is pitching a product and even when I know he doesn’t give real value like you guys, something about the calm no-pressure (really total opposite of pressure) presentation, it;s like listening to soothing relaxing music or something.

    Anyway, thank you again for the great VALUE, it gives you permission to sell me (even if you’re not as good as George Brown at calm talking) :-)

    If I had to pick only one product and you both made a pitch, I’d choose you becuase I know that you always GIVE value.

  27. Very good advice. And we need to be reminded about this from time to time. Unfortunately we get in this rut, thinking that emails must be opened immediately or they will vanish, the voice mail might not catch the call….

    I have a saying I often use with people, “run your business don’t let your business run your life.”

  28. Perry,
    I can tell from the passion in your words that you too struggled greatly with this, and breaking free from it was the path to your success as an entrepreneur and business coach. Seth Godin devoted his last book to this topic – Linchpin – and all of us can appreciate how true this really is.
    Totally inspiring…

  29. Great advice. I would add that most people don’t end up learning how to make the most of this planning and thinking time, though.

    This is where simple tools like mind maps (for organising your thoughts) and a “system” (for organising your tasks) come in handy. Personal favourite for the latter is Getting Things Done (disclaimer: not a shareholder, just a fan).

  30. Hey Perry, great post! I’m not in the US but this makes perfect sense!

    I dig “You’re an entrepreneur, which means the world does YOUR bidding. YOU are the person who organizes resources and moves things from low value to high value. ”



  31. Earlier this morning I was thinking about getting away from my computer to do something thinking and planning with a pen and pad of paper. Then I saw your Tip #1 above. I’m not sure why it’s much harder to think at the computer, but I’m convinced that’s true for me. So…I’m heading to a table with my pen and pad of paper.

  32. Perry this is the most useful, most pertinent piece of advice you could possibly give me at this point in time. Also one of the best emails you’ve ever sent.

    You excel at making what seems difficult become simple and easy to accomplish.


    PS. If I were you I’d whack this email into your ‘maze’ pretty early on.

  33. Hi Perry.

    I spent the 4th reading your book on Google AdsWords and planning my escape from the horrors of Corporate America run amuck. Your info is the light at the end of the tunnel I’ve been searching for.

    Now that was truly an “Independence Day” celebration…I will keep you posted on what happens next…

  34. As simple as it may sound – the brisk walk (or even not so brisk) is a goldmine tip. BUT, bring something to write/type your ‘ideas’/thoughts which come to mind (small pad or digital device).

    THEN – take those notes back to your ‘drawing board’/yellow pad. (NOT the keyboard… not yet). Flesh them out enough so you have a plan in front of you…

    THEN – take it to the keyboard where you can take deliberate action.

    Joey Atlas

    1. Thanks for the reminder, Perry. We know better, but sometimes we just need a kick in the butt.

      Great advice from Joey Atlas on how to capture those ideas when we’re away from our desks.

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