“How To Slow Down To Do More”, with Cheryl Gentry

Scheduling — I make sure everything that’s of importance is on my calendar. This keeps me aware of what’s going on, and it ensures I have time for everything happening that day. I don’t feel rushed because I know I’ve only committed to what I can handle. As a part of my series about “How […]

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Scheduling — I make sure everything that’s of importance is on my calendar. This keeps me aware of what’s going on, and it ensures I have time for everything happening that day. I don’t feel rushed because I know I’ve only committed to what I can handle.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Cheryl Gentry, the Founder and President of Glow Global Events, a full-service event planning agency that has led innovation in the events industry for over 20 years. Cheryl Gentry, CEO and Founder of Glow Global Events has made quite an impression in the $40 million-dollar event planning industry, planning, supervising and coordinating events all over the world. She was named 2018 Top People in Events by the leading event magazine Bizbash. She was named 2017 Top Influential Women in Meetings and selected as a 2017 Brava Award Winner Top Female CEO by SmartCEO Magazine. Andrecently named Chair of the MWBE Council for the Manhattan Chamber of Commerce. Celebrating their 20th Anniversary, Cheryl has led the success of the award-winning agency working with high profile clients that just happen to be a few billionaires. Cheryl understands the entrepreneurial landscape and the barriers women face. And that is why Gentry has taken on the responsibility of mentoring women entrepreneurs with New York City through their WENYC — Women Entrepreneur Initiative. Cheryl has been a role model and prominent voice on entrepreneurship. Committed to sharing her experiences, she is also on the board of Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE) in New York City, where she devotes her time and knowledge coaching, mentoring and encouraging students from disadvantaged backgrounds launch and expand innovative companies. Gentry was inducted into the YWCA/New York City Top Women Executives, received the Howard University Alumni Association Golden Bison Award, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund Outstanding Achievement Award to name a few. She’s been featured in The Economist, O, the Oprah Magazine, Black Enterprise, Huffington Post among others. Gentry continues to push herself and her company to lead the pack in innovation. As CEO of the company, she manages more than $10 million in event budgets each year while also always striving to deliver top-notch service and unrivaled solutions. Never one to be daunted by a challenge, while in Rwanda planning an event, Gentry headed to Tanzania and summited Mt. Kilimanjaro in 5 days, which only 27% of climbers achieve. A true testament to her going after a goal and achieving it, no matter how hard it may be.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thanks for having me! I realized early on that I was drawn to event planning. I was excited by all the moving parts, and I was always proud of the finished product. But I also realized the impact a well-executed event could have on the attendees and on the sponsoring organization. Events can entertain, they can raise awareness, they can raise funds for important causes, and they can educate. Regardless of who we’re working with, where we’re working, or the scale of the event, we’re always doing important work.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?

To some degree, driven professionals have always felt the pressure to succeed, and they’ve had to spend more time at work or on a specific project to deliver results. But today is different. We live in an “always on” culture, where we’re always connected via our smartphones and devices. Communication is flowing 24/7, and we often feel the need to answer emails as soon as they’re received, whether we’re at the gym or sitting down to dinner with family. The feeling of being rushed comes from work intruding on other aspects of our lives. The more time we take to respond to emails and tackle tasks after hours, the less time we have for the things that are important to us outside of work.

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

I’ve run a successful event planning agency for over 20 years, and one thing is for sure — event planning is a stressful business. In fact, a 2017 Forbes article reported that an Event Coordinator job is the 5th most stressful job in America. And in my experience, I’ve seen the detrimental impact of a person feeling rushed. On the surface, it impacts the person’s work performance. They spend less time on important projects, which leads to costly mistakes and jeopardizes client relationships. But constantly feeling rushed has negative impacts on that person’s health and happiness, too. A person who feels time-poor never feels like they can catch up. They have trouble sleeping, they withdraw from social activities and connections to make more time for work, and they view their overall life through a negative lens. If this feeling goes unchecked, it can lead to more serious mental health issues down the line.

On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?

In short, we can do more by doing less. When you feel rushed, you tend to keep moving and doing, often without stopping to formulate a plan. If you slow down and really prioritize, you’ll realize that not everything on the list is urgent and that you have more time than you think. This could be as simple as making a to-do list every morning and picking 3–4 items that have to be completed. If you can get to the others, that’s great. But it’s those 3 or 4 primary items at the top that need your utmost attention. The other things can wait until a different day. Once you understand that not everything has to get done every day, you start to reclaim your peace of mind.

We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?

1. Personal Meditation — I meditate three times each day, to ensure I’m taking time for myself to reflect, breathe, and unplug.

2. Team Meditation — Every day at 2:15, the entire team engages in meditation. This can be a deep breathing exercise or a walk around the block. The only requirement is that everyone steps away from work for 15 minutes, for their mental health.

3. Team Meetings — That feeling of being rushed often comes from not understanding the priorities. Our team meetings ensure we’re all on the same page about the urgent projects and tasks, and each team member can focus on 1 or 2 things instead of trying to conquer the world each day.

4. Adventure — I love new adventures. I’ve skydived twice, summited Mt. Kilimanjaro, and trekked gorillas in Rwanda. A new adventure allows me to give into a new experience and unplug from the daily grind. I return to work renewed with meaningful new memories and a fresh perspective.

5. Single-tasking — The speed of information and the abundance of devices in our lives demands that we give our attention to multiple things at once. But multitasking always leads to miscommunication and missed opportunities. Single-tasking allows me to fully understand the problem at hand, solve it, and move on to something else. I can get so much more done this way.

6. Scheduling — I make sure everything that’s of importance is on my calendar. This keeps me aware of what’s going on, and it ensures I have time for everything happening that day. I don’t feel rushed because I know I’ve only committed to what I can handle.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

I think of mindfulness as being present. When a team member steps into my office to discuss a project, mindfulness means listening to everything they say with intent and responding in a way that shows empathy and understanding. My daily meditation practice makes mindfulness possible for me. Because I’m more in tune with myself and I actively work to ensure I don’t feel overwhelmed, I can give my attention to the all the people and projects that require it.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

Mindfulness is a term that really scares people. It sounds complex but it’s as simple as active listening in a meeting. It’s taking in what your team is saying instead of just waiting to speak. It’s responding to emails with intent instead of just scrolling through your inbox. Mindfulness is making things count and staying present in the moment. It’s also reminding yourself to be present when your mind starts to wander.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

Meditation is the best mindfulness tool — it brings you back into the moment and brings you back to yourself. More than any specific tool, it’s this practice that is most beneficial.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices?

For anyone who’s just getting into meditation and isn’t sure where to start, the Headspace app is great. There are several guided meditation activities that target different purposes like better sleep or clearer thinking. It’s the perfect intro.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend 6 hours sharpening my ax.” — Abraham Lincoln

For me, this quote really underscores the need for preparation and drives home what we’re talking about here. If you take the time to adequately prepare, you won’t feel rushed. You can tackle what needs to be done with focus and precision.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would lead a movement to bring meditation to every office. I can see it now — a corporate America in which every employee and executive is present, focused, and time-rich. Every company would be unstoppable!

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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