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Slow Down To Do More:”Strive for 360-degree happiness”, with Rune Sovndahl

Strive for 360-degree happiness — this is what we call our workplace philosophy. It’s essentially a way of gently enforcing the idea of slowing down to do more. Doing everything you can to keep yourself, your team, your suppliers, your customers — everyone connected with your business — happy makes for a more productive team who […]

Strive for 360-degree happiness — this is what we call our workplace philosophy. It’s essentially a way of gently enforcing the idea of slowing down to do more. Doing everything you can to keep yourself, your team, your suppliers, your customers — everyone connected with your business — happy makes for a more productive team who can get a whole lot done without losing their edge.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Rune Sovndahl. Rune is the co-founder and CEO of Fantastic Services — an online platform where clients can book professional domestic services providers such as plumbers, gardeners and cleaners. He has built his domestic services business from scratch to a point where they serve 330,000 clients in London, the South East and the North West of England.


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

When I was about eight years old, my parents bought me a desk. I used to play at organising it, imagining I was running my own company. That was my dream from that point on. All through my adult life, I was looking for companies to work where I’d learn specific skills. I was always on the lookout for the perfect opportunity. Then, one day at a party, I met my business partner Anton. The rest is history!

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?

Social media is speeding up time. At least, it feels like it is! We have a huge degree of interconnectedness and information at our fingertips these days. Social media keeps us always on our toes, always worrying that someone, somewhere is doing it “better” or “faster” than we are. It makes us either want to compete or feel like we’re missing something or have forgotten something in our own lives.

I’m sure it’s that sense of incompleteness which is a huge driving force behind that feeling of being rushed.

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

I’ve had two breakdowns in my career. After the second, I made it my mission to never have a third.

“The first one showed me that exhaustion is more than simple tiredness. I was laid up in bed for about a month afterwards. When it happened the second time, I came to terms with the fact that it was me that was causing the problem. I was trying to do so much that I ended being unproductive and unhappy.

It was this which really made me realise that maintaining your happiness is really the only goal in life. Money, career goals, achievements — these aren’t really measures of success. I think in business we need to start reorienting ourselves to the idea that success is happiness.

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?

About two years ago I ended up needing to take things a little slower for other reasons. I found myself needing to focus on my family and my own health. During this period I started seeing things even more clearly. By finding better employees and leaders and training and supporting them in achieving more I made it possible for me to step away from the day-to-day running of the company and see it become even more productive as result.

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?

There’s always a third option — when you’re facing a dilemma or crisis, remembering that there will always be a third option (you can walk away) can help you take the time you need to make the right decision. A good example would be when we rented our first office space. The lease was coming to an end and we found ourselves unable to afford the new offices we really wanted. Instead, we chose to go with a company who cancelled the contract on us when another client of theirs decided they wanted more space. This left us only with offices we needed to move out of at the end of the week. We decided to call the whole office search off, walk away and start working from home. In the end, it transpired that the offices we’d been renting in the first place suddenly became available again and we got a great deal on it because of the late notice. But the decision to walk away saved us from the feeling we were experiencing a world-ending calamity.

Take a break — when your brain starts spitting out the same answer again and again and you can’t see any alternatives, take a break. There have been too many examples of this being the best way to handle things over the years to mention.

Exercise — sitting staring at a screen for hours on end will not keep you productive. By going out and getting your exercise in you’re not only taking a break, you’re also doing something which will make you feel better (exercise does good things for your body and mind) and recharge your willpower to focus on the task at hand. Plus, achieving your exercise goals — deciding you’re going to swim 2k, for example — can help you realise that your other goals are achievable too.

Hire the right people, then train them — I mentioned it briefly above, but hiring the right team, training them and supporting them will let you do much more than you could ever do working 24/7 on your own while shouting out orders.

Focus on growth — there came a time when we’d expanded the number of services we offered to a level which was starting to become complicated. We thought this meant we were getting bigger. Yet we weren’t producing the profits we were expecting. What we needed was to focus, to slow down the service expansion and grow our existing work. In short, we needed to slow down to do more.

Strive for 360-degree happiness — this is what we call our workplace philosophy. It’s essentially a way of gently enforcing the idea of slowing down to do more. Doing everything you can to keep yourself, your team, your suppliers, your customers — everyone connected with your business — happy makes for a more productive team who can get a whole lot done without losing their edge.

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

I always think of mindfulness as a kind of focus or presence. It’s easy enough to lose it in the modern workplace. I vividly remember a meeting we were having which was dragging on for hours with no decisions being made — despite the fact that we had to decide by the end of the day.

In the end, I decided to make slightly unusual use of this timed cookie jar we used to have in the office. We all put our phones in the jar and just walked out. We walked to this bit of forest which was nearby. After about six or seven minutes of not talking, just relaxing in the fresh air, everyone was a whole lot more relaxed. We started laughing from the pressure release. It was genuinely funny how quickly being present, experiencing the woods and taking your focus away from everything else suddenly made everyone feel better.

When we got back to the office we made the decision in about five minutes flat. Doing something like this is now our go-to plan anytime we’re getting bogged down.

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

I’ve always found that the best technique is to concentrate on your breathing. When you find yourself feeling pressure, drifting away, forgetting to think properly or take action, remember to breathe and think about being human for a minute.

I also find it helpful to try to remember a place and time where you felt some measure of peace. Mine is a moment I had when diving when I found myself swimming with seven massive bull sharks twenty metres down. The memory of the sensation of awe overtaking fear, of not being able to do much more than breathe, is one which always takes me out of my current setting. It takes me to a place in my mind where I can calm down and focus.

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

10% Happier” is the app I currently use.

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

That 10% Happier is an app and a podcast. I like that it’s not too serious or too focused. It’s kind of like meditation for skeptics, so it’s a very easy way in.

I think a lot of people give up on meditation or mindfulness too early because they don’t manage it perfectly the first time, so anything which makes approaching it easy is a very good thing in my book.

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

Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy” — Denis Waitley.

It might seem like an odd one to choose for an article about slowing down to do more, but I don’t think it’s incompatible. Neither slowing down or practising mindfulness is the same thing as procrastinating. You can’t expect to procrastinate and still succeed.

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. 🙂

These days, there’s a big culture that’s built up around being an entrepreneur. Lots of people get into it to become “successful” or with the wrong kind of attitude in mind. I know I did. Looking back, if I could tell my younger self to stop working those incredibly long hours and try to concentrate on being happy more often, I would.

I think if I could get as many people as possible to concentrate on their own happiness and that of others, that would be great. Achievements don’t equate to happiness. Nor does “success”. Unless you define being successful as making yourself happy.

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

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