How learning to swim has helped me in business

I know it sounds corny, but allow me to briefly explain:

I’ve pretty much always been able to swim. The first time in the pool I still wore nappies, and have frequently pretty much all through my life.  These days, I like to get my mile in first thing in the morning, before breakfast or even a coffee, and over the last 2-3 years have spent time and effort on improving my time over the mile.

According to British Swimming, my current timing (for my age and preferred stroke) is between intermediate and advanced, but still around 10 minutes slower than ELITE. However, recently I’ve chosen not to concentrate of becoming quicker, but more efficient.

I’ve stopped looking at the stopwatch, and spending time perfecting every aspect of each stroke. The kick, the pull, the streamline, the breath, the glide.

What does this all mean?

The ‘average’ stroke per length is 16+, before I began reviewing and amending, mine was 13, this morning it was 8! (Adam Peaty did each length in 5 at the European Championships!)

My heart rate, SWOLF (a score that combines the number of strokes you take and the amount of time it takes you to swim a lap into a single figure) and recovery time have all dropped, which is great. But, here’s what has really surprised me, my average speed hasn’t.

How does this relate to business?

We can all, easily get caught up in the BUSYness of Business. And it’s ruining your longevity, sustainability and productivity. As Mike Vance famously said;

You have to slow down, in order to speed up

Business executives may want to work as quickly as is feasible. Although it may seem like the most effective way to maximize productivity, it might actually have detrimental effects. When you “slow down to speed up,” you give yourself permission to proceed slower in exchange for more control and concentration over your project as a whole.

Let’s see why leaders need to slow down to speed up.

The phrase “slow down to speed up” says that the greatest approach to increasing productivity and efficiency is to choose to move at a steady pace rather than operating at top speed.

Think about this in conjunction with another well-known proverb regarding effectively finishing a variety of initiatives: “It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” In other words, when you prioritize speed and downplay taking breaks, you actually make it harder to finish the task at hand. This is why leaders need to slow down to speed up.

The Drawbacks of Speeding Too Fast

Moving too quickly can hurt your job and compromise your well-being in life, business, and leadership. If you are tempted to stay on the go, consider these three drawbacks:

  1. High stress
    If you approach every work at a blazing pace, you will almost certainly experience higher stress levels than someone who approaches things more methodically and steadily. Inhibiting your ability to stay devoted, focused, and upbeat about your work, high stress is a barrier to attaining your goals. Slowing down reduces tension and makes it simpler to continue with the activity at hand in a collected and efficient manner.
  2. High chance of mistakes
    When you move too quickly, you fail quickly. When speed is the top priority, accuracy, quality, and workmanship are ignored. But by doing this, you get more work than if you slowed down. You’ll have to spend time fixing mistakes you made while speeding through rather than producing a high-quality product steadily. This can result in you having to complete two or even three times as much work as you otherwise would have.
  3. Difficulty in communication
    Your team’s ability to communicate effectively with you will suffer if you rush through things. In the near term, you might neglect to tell them pertinent information, which would impede the project’s progress. As these misunderstandings multiply, everyone’s workload increases. Hence it is important for you to learn how leaders need to communicate in the virtual world.

The Benefits of Slowing Down

You should choose a steady pace over an intense sprint when slowing down to speed up. If you follow this advice, you might benefit from three things:

  1. Better Decisions
    Slowing down, mitigates the need for ‘fire-fighter’ management and allows you the time to make bigger, bolder, better decisions. By not always playing ‘catch up’, enables you to plan and work to a strategy you have considered before execution. This in turn, enables you to:
  2. Improved communication
    As you take it slow, you’ll probably find it easier to speak clearly with other team members. Instead of rushing to finish the job on your own, you can collaborate to ensure everyone gets the resources they need. In the long run, better communication results in more productive work.
  3. Increased output
    The first time you slow down, you might be concerned about how less productive you’ll be. Strangely, allowing a break allows you to re-energize and focus on quality and productivity. Increased productivity increases sales and increased sales increase operating profitability. As you can see, taking it slow to get faster has a lot to offer.

How to Slow Down to Speed Up?

Slowing down to speed up can seem paradoxical if your default behaviour is to work quickly. To put this advice into practice, consider the following suggestions:

  1. Communicate with your team
    For advice on how to time your work to prevent overburdening anyone, consult your team members. The work of the entire team will suffer if each day is experienced as a creative exercise rather than a frontline conflict. Have a “playback” or retro meeting after a project is finished to determine how you may reduce your responsibilities and lessen the urgency to finish quickly.
  2. Keep an eye on your stress levels
    Remember that working too quickly and feeling stressed out will significantly impair your creativity, ability to make decisions, and overall job capability. Pay attention to stress signs when they appear since they mean you need a break. Take a few moments to meditate. Use your phone to play a game. Go outside. You’ll be better equipped to start each day strong and avoid burnout if you give yourself time to recover.
  3. Strive for balance
    The key to moving faster while moving slower is striking a balance between efficacy and efficiency. You could prioritize speed over quality and self-care if you’re overwhelmed and exhausted. As an alternative, you might want to work more productively if you feel like you’re always putting things off or doing things slowly. The key is to always strive for balance, readjusting as necessary, and taking breaks when necessary. This will allow you to work as constantly and effectively as you can.


In order to accelerate, we must first slow down. By taking regular reflection breaks, we can ensure that we are responding appropriately, fully utilizing our leadership vision, and working efficiently. This is rather than reacting and becoming overwhelmed by hectic work.

Keen to learn more?

The Business Rollercoaster

FEAR – Facing FEAR, so you can do it anyway!

The cost of doing nothing

Are you a firefighter?

13 reasons you NEED a coach