One is to set digital limits and the other is to occasionally stop what you’re doing, take a breath and be grateful. It’s amazing how you can go through a whole day without taking a deep breath! I’ve also kept a gratitude journal for the last 7 years.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down to Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Lidia Varesco Racoma. Since 2000, Lidia Varesco Racoma of Lidia Varesco Design has been empowering organizations to make a change through branding and marketing design. Lidia is known not only for her ability to express a client’s message — but also for her friendly, approachable working style. She works with associations, nonprofits, higher education, and entrepreneurs and small businesses to create strategic, content-driven design that shares their mission. She can make you look good — and sound good. Lidia blogs about branding and creative marketing, and leads branding and marketing workshops for local small businesses and nonprofits. She is also a mom of two and founder of an online community for moms in business called Biz Mama.
Thank you so much for joining us, Lidia! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always wanted to be an artist and fell into graphic design early in college. Many of my family members are entrepreneurs, so I always knew I wanted to start my own business — which I did in 2000. I have worked with many types of clients over the years, however, after my kids were born, I decided to focus on branding and marketing design for organizations who are making a difference.
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’m a very motivated person by nature. I’m always busy and always working on some kind of project, but I never felt rushed. After having kids, I tried to keep up my pace, and found myself overwhelmed and rushed all the time. I fell into the bad habit of always responding to the question “How are you?” with “Crazy busy!”
As a small business owner, I do feel there’s internal pressure to always be “on” (marketing, networking, prospecting, etc.) in order to sustain and grow your business. However, having kids has inspired me to stop being crazy busy all the time and encouraged me to slow down my pace.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
When I’m rushed, I make mistakes or overlook details because I’m distracted. I think a constant state of being rushed can also create forgetfulness (I have to put everything in my phone as a reminder!)
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?
When I slow down and focus on one task at a time, I’m more productive and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. My best creative ideas tend to come when I make time to brainstorm, rather than rushing through the process.
My kids also provide a lot of inspiration and ideas (both for personal and work projects), so slowing down to focus fully on my family is beneficial to both my personal and work life.
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. I realized that heavy social media use was creating distractions, reducing my productivity, and sometimes draining me emotionally. After reading Ariana Huffington’s book Thrive, I was inspired to do a digital detox on vacation and set ground rules for my digital usage.
2. I make a “Top 3” every day, which is a list of the three tasks that I must accomplish that day, before tackling other items on my to-do list. Since my creative brain tends to jump around, this has helped to keep me more focused.
3. I leave the office early on Fridays. This not only gives me a reward to look forward to (and extra time with my family), but also forces me to not let distractions get in the way and to be more productive in the early part of the week.
4. I don’t schedule more than one meeting and one call per day. I find that pre- and post-meeting preparation can take up a lot of time and break up my productivity — as well as drain my energy — so I don’t overbook myself.
5. I schedule occasional “Art Days” with friends, where we escape our offices for a few hours and spend time in an art museum — or just sit in a café with our sketchbooks and brainstorm ideas.
6. I bring a magazine or book on bus rides, doctor appointments, etc. This helps avoid the temptation of mindlessly browsing email or social media, and also encourages me to be mindful and notice things around me — which often results in a new idea or an “aha” moment.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment. I’ve been interested in mindfulness since reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and have since made an effort to stop, recognize and be grateful for the moment I’m in.
Having kids has also helped, as kids always live in the moment (and they are good at telling you to put down your digital device and pay attention to them!)
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
One is to set digital limits (as I mentioned above) and the other is to occasionally stop what you’re doing, take a breath and be grateful. It’s amazing how you can go through a whole day without taking a deep breath! I’ve also kept a gratitude journal for the last 7 years.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
This is sort of a non-tool, but I removed social media apps from my phone to avoid the distraction of constant notifications and the urge to respond while I’m working.
I also started using a time-tracking app, which makes me more mindful and keeps me focused on work-related tasks.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices
As mentioned above, I love the books The Power of Now (Tolle) and Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom, and Wonder (Huffington), as well as Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh and The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra.
And I also love Chade-Meng Tan’s mindfulness exercise of wishing happiness to everyone you come across by saying to yourself “I wish for this person to be happy.” I practice this when I’m driving to pick up my kids from school.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
It’s from an art print I have in my office by one of my favorite designers, Italian-American designer, Louise Fili: “Segui it tuo cuore per trovare la tua voce creativa,” which translates to “Follow your heart to find your creative voice.”
I’ve always followed my heart in my creative and work life — and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to start my own business. After having kids, I also decided to focus on working with organizations who are making a difference — especially those that benefit women, mothers and children, since that is also now close to my heart.
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. 🙂
Start a new movement that embraces a more balanced life for working moms — removing the stigma that you have to be a workaholic in order to be perceived as productive and successful in the workplace.
I want to help make moms feel more comfortable about blending their work and personal life. One of the ways I’ve done this is by sharing interviews with working moms in my online community Biz Mama. I hope these stories encourage and inspire working moms and moms-to-be, and make them feel like they’re not alone.
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!
Thank you — I am thrilled to be a part of this series!