“How To Slow Down to Do More”, with Mark Leighton of Medical Guardian

Mentally, if we slowed down, we’d feel more relaxed, less stressed, and less overwhelmed with everything we have to get done. Additionally, by managing our time well, we’d be more productive because we’d feel we had more time in the day. Work smarter, not harder! I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Leighton. Mark is […]

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Mentally, if we slowed down, we’d feel more relaxed, less stressed, and less overwhelmed with everything we have to get done. Additionally, by managing our time well, we’d be more productive because we’d feel we had more time in the day. Work smarter, not harder!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Leighton. Mark is the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Medical Guardian, a leading provider of personal emergency response and connected care solutions. With more than 25 years of management experience, Mark oversees the company’s Sales, Marketing, and Operations departments with an essential role in obtaining new business partnerships to fuel company growth. Under his leadership, Medical Guardian has been recognized in Inc. Magazine’s list of “Fastest Growing Private Companies in America” and as a “Fastest Growing Company” by The Philadelphia Business Journal and Philadelphia 100. Mark strongly believes that working together is the key to delivering exceptional results and is extremely passionate about motivating and supporting his teams.

Thank you for joining us! Can you tell us the ‘backstory’ about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve been very fortunate to have role models who have taught me the skills needed to manage and lead individuals. Early on in life, I was inspired to become a leader, as I grew up around my father and grandfather who achieved great business results from their unique leadership styles. I’ve also always had a genuine passion for helping others overcome obstacles and reach their goals. This passion has led me through different types of industries and career roles.

I started on my career path in the retail food industry following my father’s lead. He began as a butcher and went on to be a successful retail leader. After more than a decade in the retail food industry, I moved into the healthcare space. This move eventually brought me to where I am today in the medical alarm industry — providing safety and security for an older demographic. From starting out as a paper route boy in the sixth grade to my most recent role as a CEO, my various career paths have prepared me for my current, well-rounded role as Chief Operating Officer.

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?

There’s a variety of reasons why people always feel rushed — and I don’t feel it’s always been this way. In today’s generation, there is so much happening. With our smartphones and social media, it’s a lot easier to be accessible to people and respond to peers, that it creates this overwhelming feeling of never being able to get ahead. From work and meetings to spending time with family and friends and events, people often want to be everywhere and do everything. Personally, I feel rushed because I always want to be doing more, as there’s so much to be done. I jokingly tell people that I find sleeping to be a curse because it’s something humans have to do to stay healthy and productive, yet it’s extremely time-consuming!

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

When people are rushed to finish a project, they feel so overwhelmed they don’t even know where to begin. Once rushed work is complete, details are often overlooked, and more errors are made because not enough time was allocated to the task. I often relate being rushed to feeling like you’re on an ongoing wheel that is never going to stop, and there’s no way off. It’s uncomfortable, stressful, and impacts your entire attitude. That type of stress can make people feel very unhappy.

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?

Work towards organizing yourself (professionally and personally) and being more diligent with your calendar. When we share our calendars with others or when we constantly say “yes” and accept meetings, we often lose time for ourselves throughout the day. I recommend blocking time for yourself on your calendar. Whether that be to enjoy lunch on your own or to step outside for a quick walk for some fresh air, blocking time on your calendar can give you more time to slow down, take a quick mental break, and regroup.

Mentally, if we slowed down, we’d feel more relaxed, less stressed, and less overwhelmed with everything we have to get done. Additionally, by managing our time well, we’d be more productive because we’d feel we had more time in the day. Work smarter, not harder!

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 an example of each?

1. Keep a list of things that you need to do. Make sure this list is easily accessible and updated daily. Lists assist in organization and meeting deadlines.

2. Prioritize your to-do list. Prioritizing is key to getting things done on time without feeling overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to seek feedback from your manager to assist in prioritizing.

3. Allow yourself ample time to get your tasks done. Utilize your calendar for more than just scheduling meetings. Block out time on your calendar to finish your work without distractions.

4. Check your calendar regularly and make adjustments when needed. If you have to move meetings around to ensure you meet a deadline — that’s okay.

5. Be comfortable with saying no to things. While you may love to say yes to everything, sometimes you simply can’t be everywhere and do everything at one time. Saying no can be more beneficial than saying yes.

6. Plan ahead. Start prepping for the upcoming work week on Fridays, rather than Sunday nights. This will help you mentally prepare for the week and give you some extra time to knock out work before the start of the week.

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

I’d define mindfulness as being aware of your surroundings. When you’re mindful, you’re living in the moment and more appreciative of what’s around you.

A few years ago, I attended a corporate retreat that focused on health and wellness. Every morning, as a company, we’d go on a morning walk together. One morning, our wellness instructor advised, “I want you to recognize something on the walk. When we get back we’re going to talk about it.” The lesson behind this activity was that we all get so wrapped up with things going on in our lives that we often miss the little things right in front of us. I think of this activity often and practice it daily when I walk to and from work. As a result, I feel more alive and relaxed. I’m able to enjoy the little things and stop overthinking about everything little thing that needs to get done.

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

  1. Put your cell phone away when you commute to and from work. Slow down to recognize your surroundings including the environment and the people around you.
  2. Be present in meetings. Whether it’s a 1:1 or group setting, pay attention to what people are saying. Clear distractions, ask questions and engage with your counterparts.
  3. Be mindful of your health. Your health impacts your body mentally and physically. If you feel something is off — don’t ignore it.

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

Cell phones can be extremely distracting with calls/texts/alerts and more. I find putting my phone away (in a drawer or out of sight) and enabling notifications on my smartwatch (including calendar reminders) is extremely helpful in productivity. I’m also a big fan of the free task management app, Wunderlist. Not only can I create my to-do list through this app, but I can also share it with others and vice versa. This way, I’m always in-the-know of what my team is working on without pinging someone for project updates.

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

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie — highly recommend to new managers

“Made in America” by Sam Walton — the story of Walmart, written by its Founder

“Everything Store” by Brad Stone — the story of Amazon and its CEO Jeff Bezos

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

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” — Steve Jobs

To me, time is one of the most valuable assets because it’s something we never get it back. Use your time wisely.

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.

If I could inspire a movement, it would be to inspire people to be proud of the work they’ve done. I’d welcome people to take a step back to appreciate what they were able to contribute and accomplish. I’d also inspire communication and respect. As a leader, let your team members know where they stand, where they can improve, and where they excel — respectably. Communication is important in every aspect of life.

Thank you for all of these great insights!

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