5 Ways You Can Pace for Performance and Peace

Published November 10, 2020

The demands of our work and life seem to require we work more and faster and better.

We see how fast others are running. We see the goals we’ve set or have been set for us. And we set our pace to keep up, or better yet, to win.

Add to this the reality that we can work anywhere, anytime.

Even in long lines at Disney World with the family. (No, I’m not proud of this.)

We can maximize every moment, checking a quick email, responding to the current need. It can all feel so urgent and important.

But what is the price of our pace?

We fall easily into the belief that working more and faster is the key to productivity. But studies (and our bodies and souls, if we will listen) tell us something different. Late nights, long days, vacation times not taken (and working during vacations) and productivity valued over rest—it all takes a toll on us and what we bring to the world.

“Companies are suffering from tremendous productivity problems because people are stressed out and not recovering from the workday,” says Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin by Deloitte.

Add to this a global pandemic, and the implications for our mental and physical health are significant.

According to a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted in mid-July 2020, 53% of adults in the United States reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the coronavirus.

The surprising key to navigating in this very complex world is PACE.

What if in slowing down, pacing ourselves and honoring the pace of others, we actually find energy for creativity, for productivity and for peace?

What if a global slowdown is an invitation to rest?

In his three years of public work, Jesus fully accomplished his mission on earth. In a sea of endless needs and demands, he frequently made space for rest and retreat. And he did this not just for himself. He did it for his people.

When the disciples returned from a long work assignment on the road (preaching and healing and doing all the disciple stuff), they came to Jesus to report what they’d seen and done. So many people are coming and going that they haven’t even had a chance to eat. Rather than looking at all those people with all their needs and putting the disciples right back to work, Jesus says these amazing words: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31, NIV)

Pace allows us to be present to our purpose and to people.

Success does not require ransoming our souls.

What if, in the economy of energy, there is enough? Enough time and enough energy to do the things that need to be done.

And what if, in the rest and the slowing and the pacing, something greater emerges? Something like productivity and peace together?

In my work as a spiritual director and guide, I’m privileged to walk alongside leaders as they develop practices that generate energy, creativity, productivity and peace. Finding the right pace and integrating these practices requires a series of intentional choices. The benefits are seen, not immediately, but over time.

Here are five transformative practices you can use to pace yourself for performance and peace:

1. Practice your “no” and focus your “yes.”

Revisit and refine your vision and goals, for yourself, for your team and for your family. Give your “yes” to the things that most honor your vision. Give your “no” to the invitations and opportunities that compromise your pace.


2. Develop shared language for capacity and pace.

Check in with yourselves and others, using a scale to help communicate daily a sense of energy and well-being. For example, “one” is a low energy, feeling depleted day. “Five” is a full tank, high energy day. Set expectations and priorities for the day accordingly and look for ways to recharge as needed.


3. Make rest normative.

Sleep, naps, sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, walks, short breaks—they all make a difference. In the high-productivity culture of Japan, managers are now encouraging employees to go for a hirune—which literally translates as “lunchtime sleep.” Companies like Google, Ben and Jerry’s and Nike are now encouraging and creating spaces for workplace napping.


4. Care for the soul and body through practices like prayer, meditation, play and exercise.

A few moments of prayerful silence, a short walk outside alone, taking a quick break to do something just for fun—even little breaks like this can make a big difference.


5. Listen to and accept your limits and the limits of those you lead.

It takes great courage to acknowledge the need for help and for rest. Make it normative for you and others to access mental health resources as needed.


Let’s start now. 

Take a moment now to listen. Literally. Right now.

Stop and rest. Sit back in your chair. Turn off your phone and computer. Take a few deep breaths and listen to your body and to your soul.

  • Where do you feel stress?
  • Is your mind clear or distracted?
  • Do you feel energized or drained?

Now (feeling brave?) invite those you lead and influence to do the same.

What adjustments do you need to make for sustainability and productivity over time for you, for your team, for your family?

What one practice will you put in place to pace yourself today?

About the Author
This is the author headshot for Susan Carson.

Susan Carson

Founder and Director

Roots&Branches Network

Susan Carson is an author, speaker, podcaster and pray-er. She is founder and director of Roots&Branches Network, a citywide listening and healing prayer ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. Susan’s new book, Rooted (IN): Thriving in Connection with God, Yourself, and Others, and her podcast, rooted (IN).ten.tionally , offers spiritual paths and practices for living more deeply rooted in love with God and your true self.