As I’ve been running my Unhurried Productivity experiment, I’ve been researching why we hurry. Here’s my summary of what I’m learning, and, if we want to change gears, some ideas for what we can do about it. Heads up – it’s a slightly longer read than usual. I reckon it’s worth it to give the ideas the space they deserve.


When I say ‘hurry’, I’m describing a state of mind more than a state of movement. A hurried mind is one that’s full of confusion and distractions. An unhurried mind is clear and calm. You can be moving fast yet feel unhurried. And you can be standing still and feel really hurried.


There are two phenomena at play that cause us to feel more hurried than is good for us: avoidance, and addiction.


Avoidance = what we push away from.

Addiction = what we’re pulled towards.


Our brains fear plenty of things. And we tend to avoid what we fear. Here are a few things that, when we avoid them, we get all hurried in our heads:

  • Disapproval and Negative Judgement: We can run around looking busy because we want to avoid the disapproval and judgement that may come from being seen to not to be busy. When what gets rewarded is the activity, not the outcome, we’ll be more likely to look for things to do. Most of us have a deep need to feel worthy and valued by others, and one way we try to get that is to show them how busy we are. 

Idea: cultivate two things: a) a healthy sense of self-worth that comes from knowing your value regardless of how busy you are, and b) a reputation for delivering high-value outcomes, not just for being busy. a) feeds b) feeds a).


  • Losing The Race: We might assume that if we slow down, either everyone else will get ahead, they’ll win, and we’ll be left behind. We need to stay in the race, right? 

Idea: What if you decided it wasn’t a race? Or, perhaps, that the only person you’re racing against is yourself? Or, if you decide it actually is a race, what if you made it a marathon, not a sprint? Let them be the hare. You be the tortoise.


  • Losing Control. This is one I’m guilty of. I have high professional standards, and I’m loath to let them slip. My avoidance of losing control of the outcome means I tend to do stuff that I could otherwise delegate. The story I tell myself is that it then gets done the way I want it. And of course, that means I’m more hurried than I want to be.

Idea: What if you (I) decided that it’s not about the pursuit of perfection and instead it’s about the pursuit of mastery? What if the story I told myself was that I’m here to help others be awesome, and that part of that work is to help them take ownership for things so they can learn and grow?


  • Facing the Truth: Some of us would rather get busy on things that distract us rather than examining some hard truths. For example, if we stop to ask ourselves “Am I really satisfied with how I’m spending my time?” we may get uncomfortable with the answer. Instead, we keep on scrolling through our Facebook feed, or find some other equally mind-numbing distraction. Whatever takes us away from the real questions and the real work. Rather than cutting through and getting real, we circle around and around the issues, and our mind gets full of noise. Yuck.

Idea: What if we committed to getting real? What if we committed to a life of authenticity at the expense of some comfort? What if we teamed up with someone who would help us be that way?


  • FOMO: We might have a story that ‘there’ is better than ‘here’. If we only have one life, maybe we’d better fill it with amazing experiences, and keep moving towards the next thing. Just keep moving, otherwise you’ll miss out on everything that’s on offer. We want to avoid missing out. Here’s the thing: ‘there’ is always in the future. If we rush towards a future that we assume will be better than the present, we miss out on being present. And the present is really all we ever have. What a paradox.

Idea: What if we unhooked from the future and learned simply to be present? What if, instead of FOMO – the fear of missing out – we cultivated JOMO – the joy of missing out?


OK, that’s Avoidance. Got you thinking? Great. Here’s a summary:

But wait, there’s more. Here’s Addiction:

  • Addiction

We get a rush from rushing. Being busy and getting things done helps us to get dopamine fix. That’s our brain’s ‘feel good’ drug. Dopamine reinforces enjoyable sensations and behaviors, and it motivates us to seek more of them. This can be an incredibly powerful driver, which can be hard to resist. That’s why feeling hurried can be so addictive.


But, as ever, there’s a cost to this addiction. As Daniel Kahneman has shown us in his Nobel-prize winning work and book Thinking Fast and Slow, our brains like to conserve energy. When we’re feeling hurried, our brains go onto autopilot, using minimal energy by simply responding to the next thing in front of us. It takes more energy to slow down, be intentional and to think strategically. It takes more energy to say ‘no’ than it does to say ‘yes’. And the cost is the ever-present feeling of feeling too full, too busy, too hurried.

Idea: What if we cultivated healthier ways of getting our dopamine without the rush? (Here are some starter ideas: diet, exercise, sleep, music and sunlight pretty much sum it up). What if we stopped driving for ‘more’, and settled for ‘enough’?


Together, avoidance and addiction are a potent combination. We can stay stuck in an infinite loop, continually moving between excitement, exhaustion, reflection and boredom. I’ve been there enough times to recognise that in the long run, it’s not sustainable, it’s not satisfying, and it’s not smart.


What ideas grab you?

What have you been trying in your quest being less hurried?

What could you try?