The 4 R’s of Sustainable Pace

This is a lesson I’ve struggled to capture for over a year.  In that time, I’ve made a few changes both personally and professionally and, when asked why, my answer has typically been “sustainable pace”.  But it was difficult to explain beyond that.  After some time to reflect, I have a better answer to the question of “why” that I hope will provide a valuable lesson for individuals and for teams who are trying to continuously inspect and adapt.

What I have discovered is that there are four elements to sustainable pace: rest, reflect, reconnect, and re-engage.

Rest – No matter how hard we push ourselves, we need to rest.  As individuals, we need to keep up with sleep.  As teams, we also need a regular “rest” period as we push to deliver.  Anyone who pushes themselves toward a goal realizes; when they need to pause.  Failure to rest drains your “energy tank” which feeds, mind, body and innovation.  Without rest, we make mistakes.  We cannot think creatively. We can even do physical damage if we go too long without rest.

Reflect – We need to examine not only if we have reached our goal, but how we are reaching it.  Are you noticing what got you closer to your goal?  Are you looking at what took you further away from your goal?  Are you considering if you still have the right goal?  Do you have conflicting goals?

Reconnect – When we re-connect, we intentionally and temporarily break our focus on our goal to check on our relationships.  Are we still moving in the same direction as our team?  Is our team moving in the same direction as the larger organization?   On a personal level, you could substitute “team” for “family” and “organization” for “community” as these are equally important relationships.

If we don’t detect misalignment in time, it can lead to significant changes in those relationships.  In our work, misalignment could lead to individuals becoming frustrated and leaving to seek other opportunities.  In our personal lives, it could lead to similar results with even longer lasting implications to our sustainable pace.

Re-engage – After we have had a chance to rest and clear our head, reflect on our goals and reconnect with our important relationships, it’s time to decide if we are ready to re-engage.  Are we still committed to same goals?  Are we ready to re-align with our important relationships in achieving those goals?  Or are we ready to set some new goals or new relationships?  Will letting go of some goals allow you to achieve other goals?

On an agile team, the ceremonies of review, retrospective and planning should be guided by these four elements of sustainable pace.  These four elements are equally important from a personal and career perspective to practice on regular intervals.  When I have failed to do so, I have found the pace unsustainable.  When I do practice these four elements, I find I do better on moving toward all my goals.

Do you see these four elements when you “pause” when working toward your goals?  Do you find other things you need to consider for sustainable pace?  I would welcome hearing about it.

4 responses to “The 4 R’s of Sustainable Pace

  1. Having experienced burn out in hot pursuit of goals, I am excited to have a simple model to guide me towards a more productive and sustainable pace. Thank you Mark!

    • KC: Ditto. Glad you liked it. That’s why I struggled to write this blog post. I didn’t want this to be a blog post about “why I left XYZ”. I really needed the time to Rest, Reflect and Reconnect to think through what was important. What prompted some of my changes was the Re-engage phase. Once I discovered what it meant to re-engage (or change what you engage in), I felt I had something worth sharing with the community. You might see more on the “sustainable pace” topic in future posts.

  2. I find this is true in all three worlds I live in. Trying to balance work, family life, and my own passions has been difficult and I have had to pause and reflect many times. Sometimes I choose to let something drop, other times I pause and reconnect when needed. Re-engaging is probably the most difficult because even though I have learned and adapted, there is hesitation that I might fall into the same pit falls that once pulled me in, in the past.

    • I emphathize Dina. Re-engage is an important step because thats where you decide to re-commit or not. You have already committed at some point in the past (family, work, etc.). It’s being able to re-engage that is key. Also, re-engaging is challenging when your different worlds have conflicting demands on your time and energy.

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