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Slow Down To Do More: “Mindfulness is the act of being present and focused on the moment or task at hand.” with Jessica Vibberts

We tend to stay shallow: in our relationships we have hundreds of Facebook friends, and very few friendships that we experience with depth; in our work we are pulled in many different directions, and even more so with the digital distractions that surround us. This means we miss out on the deep connections to a […]

We tend to stay shallow: in our relationships we have hundreds of Facebook friends, and very few friendships that we experience with depth; in our work we are pulled in many different directions, and even more so with the digital distractions that surround us. This means we miss out on the deep connections to a person or task that leads to joy and satisfaction. Think about the high you get when you can lose yourself in what you are doing. There are literally different neurological pathways being stimulated and hormones being released during these deep states that allow for more creativity. Staying shallow doesn’t allow for this, and rushing doesn’t allow us to get to that place that actually produces a much better result and much more innovative solutions to challenges.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Jessica Vibberts, Founder & Chief Strategist of Full Potential Ventures, an innovative leadership catalyst, giving mission-driven professionals the edge they need to do the work the world needs. She has devoted her life to growing authentic and brave leaders and organizations, focused on the people who bring great ideas and powerful impact to life. Her two decades in roles as COO, CEO, and her favorite: Chief People Officer, in fast-growing, entrepreneurial nonprofits, readied her to launch her own venture to speak to the lack of effective resources available to grow and sustain the incredible talent and drive found in purpose-driven companies. Her leadership and people strategies have steered organizations through significant periods of change, market downturn, founder transitions, and culture makeovers, all while triumphantly landing them on the 50 Best Nonprofits To Work For list or gaining national recognition and funding for excellent programming.


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

I could have done a lot of things in life, and spent a good deal of my time in college preparing for a career as a physician. But, what I loved most of all about that idea was working closely with people and was drawn to college internships that put me on the frontlines with people, which wound up being nonprofits. My early “career path” was a combination of following desire and leaning in to opportunity. As I had a chance to identify and focus more on my strengths and skills, I got much more intentional about aligning my work with that.

According to a 2006 Pew Research Report 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?

I recently lived in Mexico for almost two years, where the concept of rushing is almost nonexistent (and can be very hard for many Americans to adjust to). This experience allowed me to observe this trend from a different perspective. In many ways, the cultural and social fabric is intact and critical to the lives and communities of Mexicans in a way it isn’t as much in America. You still borrow butter from your neighbor; saying “yes” to an afternoon potluck means saying “yes” to talking and laughing into the wee hours of the morning; there is a slower pace to the whole psyche of their culture. People spend time together more so than on individual pursuits. Many Mexican friends said to me that they “work to live”, but that Americans “live to work”, and they cannot understand that. The experience has completely shifted how I behave and exist in the world.

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

We tend to stay shallow: in our relationships we have hundreds of Facebook friends, and very few friendships that we experience with depth; in our work we are pulled in many different directions, and even more so with the digital distractions that surround us. This means we miss out on the deep connections to a person or task that leads to joy and satisfaction. Think about the high you get when you can lose yourself in what you are doing. There are literally different neurological pathways being stimulated and hormones being released during these deep states that allow for more creativity. Staying shallow doesn’t allow for this, and rushing doesn’t allow us to get to that place that actually produces a much better result and much more innovative solutions to challenges.

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?

First, if you are in a rush, you are much more likely to make mistakes, which means you often are doubling back and spending more time than if you had slowed down in the first place. Being in a rush also means that you aren’t going to see issues from many angles, so your outcome is not going to be as elegant. For example, one of the common tasks I see get rushed all the time is hiring. This happens most often when you are hiring someone you basically needed up and running yesterday. Rushed hiring frequently leads to poor hiring decisions, setting the wrong expectations for your new hire, rushed relationship building and onboarding which all create a potential recipe for disaster. You end up with the wrong person for the job, or someone who isn’t set up to succeed, and then you are stuck re-trenching, doing performance improvement, and have lost so much valuable time and money.

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?

Ironically, I think you first need to wrap your head around “doing less” in order to “do more”. When we do less, but better, we can get higher impact and ultimately create a bigger outcome with the energy we are expending.

I use a tool, that I now call a mantra, called the 4 D’s. For everything I do I ask if I can apply one of the D’s before I do it.

Delete- A few years ago I joined an organization as their Chief People Officer. My calendar was automatically populated with countless meetings. As a newbie I could see how redundant the meetings were and how many people were sitting in them. Most of this was because the organization lacked effective systems of communication and collaboration. Instead of joining the meetings, I worked with a small team to fix the systems, and ultimately deleted the meetings for everyone.

Defer- I am always clear on my top three priorities (my daily roll into weekly, that roll into monthly, then quarterly, then annual). If a task doesn’t support these but it still feels important, I try to defer it to a later time. Often, by the time it comes up again, it is no longer important and can just be deleted! For example, I was invited to participate in a flashy and fun invite-only conference last year. It was so tempting but it didn’t seem to support my top three personal or business goals. I decided to hold off a year. Doing so made it so much easier to say “yes” when I was invited a couple of months later to speak at a conference in Las Vegas. I had time and resources and could tie that directly to my priorities. That conference led to clients and another speaking engagement (and a beautiful day of hiking just outside of Vegas)!

Diminish- I believe in the 80/20 rule (20% of our efforts lead to 80% of our outcomes) and so constantly ask what I am doing that is having little to no impact. A couple of years ago I diminished my cooking responsibilities at home. Cooking is a chore that I only enjoy under certain conditions (that never involve being tired after working all day). While healthy living is a big priority, extravagant meals is not. I have found great pleasure in healthy 20-minute meals like a veggie burger and baked sweet potatoes. This means I have more time to spend with my daughter and husband after dinner, which we often use to go for a brisk walk and connect about our days.

Delegate-Speaking of cooking and daughters, my 10-year-old has found some joy in preparing meals. I am happy to delegate to her — even if it means I’m taking a gamble on what ends up on the table! Again, cooking is not my priority, but healthy eating is, so as long as I have provided the right raw ingredients (in this case, literally) then I don’t care if we are eating pancakes or pasta.

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

To me, mindfulness is the act of being present and focused on the moment or task at hand. I was not an early adopter of meditation. In fact, I once joined an environmental sustainability organization and was shocked (and a bit ticked off) to find that they started their board meetings with meditating together. The first meeting all I could think while we were meditating was that I was paying a babysitter so that I could sit and breathe with a group of strangers. Three years later, I was the chair of the board and holding space for those 4 minutes of grounding into the present moment, leaving behind our other jobs and priorities, before we dove in as a team to tackle big strategic conversations. I am a convert!

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

There are so many ways to do this and so many helpful apps and tools now. For me, the biggest thing I did was finally embrace the fact that multi-tasking makes you stupid (I needed to see research to be convinced, but then I began to recognize how true it was in my life). When you focus on one task that is a form of mindfulness. I also start my mornings with a 10-minute meditation, followed by “morning pages”, where I fill up three pages of stream of consciousness writing. For me, this clears the morning chatter, and gets me focused and grounded on my priorities for the day. It also has the power to sometimes unlock some really interesting thinking and ideas I wouldn’t otherwise tap into.

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

My husband is a professional musician and when we were in Mexico he wrote and recorded an ambient music album for the first time in his career. Soon our home was filled with ambient music from many different artists and I have adopted it as a way to really focus in. I have always loved classical music, but often get caught up in the music so much that it can actually be distracting. With ambient music, I find I can more easily drop into a flow state. I created 90-minute playlists that I listen to during my “deep work” time blocks.

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

I am really enjoying the Insight Timer app right now as you can use a timer with different chimes, or follow one of thousands of guided meditations.

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

I have a lot of beloved quotes, but the one that always speaks to me the most is Isadora Duncan’s

“You were once wild here. Don’t let them tame you.”

I was a dancer and the innovative, envelope-pushing life that Isadora Duncan led brought us some incredible breakthroughs in dance and art. As a leader, and a developer of leaders, this is what I always want people to remember: inside of each of us is a fire, and it is that raw and burning light that when given air, lights the way for others, and brings innovation and creativity to the forefront of our work. Tame just means status quo and boring. That is not the life or business I want to lead.

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. 🙂

Just one?! I would like to see leadership, in governments and companies especially, defined by how people are treated first and foremost. When we treat the people we work with as precious humans (not assets), then we reshape lives, families, communities. The employee who feels valued and cared for will give more of themselves to their work, and, will go home with more energy to value and care for the people they love. But most employees feel the opposite and so many statistics tell us how detrimental that is to business and the humans that make it happen.

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

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