Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

The first Monday of each month, I dust off a favorite post from the Bennis Inc Blog archives and give you another chance to enjoy the wit and wisdom that’s been shared. Enjoy this month’s treasure – and if it inspires you – be sure to share it with family and friends!

“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Lao Tzu

Taking a Cue from Mother NatureSo often in life, nature is something we first try to change and then try equally as hard to replicate. I might be among the worst offenders of this. I’m always looking for ways to be more efficient with my time, cut-out the waste and cram in just one more hour’s worth of work somewhere, somehow. But time and time again, this haste has led me to mistakes, accidents and set-backs that in the end required more of my time than if I had just tried to do things right in the first place. Just a few days ago I was inspired by the Lao Tzu quote, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” Ancient philosophers have quite a knack for making the most obvious statements while lining them with an intensely deep meaning that changes your world in a matter of seconds. And with this quote, I began to reexamine the perceived benefit of rushing through life’s tasks.

I can recall countless instances where rushing has cost me valuable time and caused unnecessary frustration. In the morning, I always feel like I’m saving time by multi tasking while brushing my teeth, but when toothpaste ends up on clothes and carpets, I spend more time cleaning up a mess that would otherwise have not been created. One specific morning, I was reaching for a canister of oatmeal with one hand and opening a drawer to grab a spoon with the other, when the entire canister came crashing to the floor. I lost about 20 minutes that day sweeping up oatmeal all for the possibility of saving a few extra seconds. Aside from a few messes here and there, rushing while driving to a meeting, proof-reading an important document or balancing my finances could lead to consequences far more severe. I suppose the underlying point is – how much time could I really be gaining by overloading myself with unnecessary multi-tasking?

In looking to nature for examples, I realized far more important tasks are accomplished every day, moving at the exact same pace they have been for all time. There’s something to be said for steady and consistent progress. Flowers bloom, animals migrate and weather changes just as it should to keep everything else moving in harmony. Could you imagine if just one piece of this puzzle were to rush its role? Everything else would be thrown off to create repercussions almost unimaginable. Most interesting of all is that we might be the only species inclined to rush. Where does this pressure come from? Why do we feel like what we accomplish in the time we’re given is never enough? I’m sure we can each answer this based upon different reflections, but what’s important is that we stop rushing long enough to at least ask.

In my own life, I can easily pick out the almost comical examples of how I try to change nature, just to replicate it. Our natural state is what we first try to improve upon, but ultimately use as our model for perfection. Just last week I spent a day rushing through my to-do list, feeling overwhelmed by everything I needed to get done. My reason for the rush? I wanted to have time to do yoga that afternoon so I could “unwind and de-stress.”  My new goal is to take a cue from Mother Nature and find a pace at which I’m making steady and consistent progress. For a serial multi-tasker this will be hard habit to break, but if it allows me to find more moments of clarity and contentment to appreciate the natural perfection of the world around me, it’s a challenge I’m willing to accept.

One of my favorite photos of Scott and me in front of Penn State’s Old Main Building. Every year, these flowers bloom in perfect harmony with spring and summer on campus.

5 thoughts on “Taking a Cue from Mother Nature

  1. Thank you for your insights, Stephanie. Yes, multitasking is often detrimental because it’s not natural . . . we’re not wired that way. If you Google multitasking and brain research, you might just slow down.

    As I think about and facilitate conversations on “Time Strategies for SUCCESS!”, it’s essential to choose to invest your time and energy in activities to achieve the results YOU desire.

    How are you Planning and Prioritizing to enhance Productivity?

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Thank you so much for your comment and you offer up some great questions! For me personally, I plan and prioritize my productivity by block-scheduling my work days for specific tasks. For example, right now I am checking emails and notifications during a small scheduled break. Before and again after this break I will resume working on an intensive creative writing project. This project requires a lot of focus and concentration to really “get in the zone.” By blocking out all other tasks (even muting my phone), I allow myself to become super-focused and thus more efficient with my time. Not to mention it also produces better results for my clients!

      I’m glad you found this blog relevant. Cheers to a productive Monday – and week!


  2. Finding one’s natural rhythm will be the key to productivity as indicated by the quote from Lao Tzu. Multi-tasking is not natural. At any given moment, you can only focus really on one thing. This is even true with machines, they just switch faster.

    1. I really like your point that even machines can’t multi-task…they can just switch faster between tasks. I won’t say I don’t ever sometimes forget that muli-tasking is a time waster. I still find myself with multi-tasking tendencies, but quickly see how ineffective they are. Finding your natural rhythm can be a bit of trial and error, but certainly worth it in the end!

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