Slow Down To Do More: “Don’t be reactive, be reflective.” with Tonya McKenzie and Ashley Graber

Don’t be reactive, be reflective. — Don’t always have a knee-jerk reaction to circumstances or breaking news. Stop, breath, and think about the situation, all options and possibilities. This keeps you from having to walk back any initial statements or actions while also preserving your adrenal glands. Take the time to let a situation play out for a bit while you take it in, process it and make a measured response. Don’t rush to make a mistake. Take your time and get it right.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Tonya McKenzie, an author, child advocate, and public relations consultant. Tonya’s firm, Sand & Shores PR works with speakers, authors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses. Tonya attended California State University, Northridge (C.S.U.N.) and was later elected to the Oakley Chamber of Commerce as a Director. Tonya served as an appointed member of the Youth Council for Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover. She is now serving as the first African American women elected to the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors and serves on the City of Redondo Beach GPAC (General Plan Advisory Council) shaping the aesthetics of this beachside city for the next 20 years. She is also the Vice-President of the North Redondo Beach Business Association. Tonya McKenzie is highlighted in the pages of Amazing Moms: Parents of the 21st Century and is the author of a memoir titled, A Child’s Memories of Cartoons and Murder. Tonya has partnered with ACE Connections & Kaiser to increase awareness of the effects of childhood trauma and build more trauma-informed communities. She is the mother of 4 and married for 17 years.

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

As the Associate Executive Director for the Mt. Diablo Region YMCA, I was charged with developing programming for the youth, seniors and family in the community. I also had to hiring, train and manage my staff along with marketing the programming. If you know anything about non-profit organizations, you know that they have small budgets. Anytime something needs to get cut to save more money, marketing usually gets cut. So, I had to learn to market my programs successfully on a shoestring budget. I became a self-taught public relations professional. I learned to reach out to media to get coverage as opposed to paying for some advertising to save money and be most effective. 3 years ago, I started my own PR firm utilizing the skills that I have learned over time to help speakers, authors entrepreneurs and small businesses with their public relations and marketing needs.

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?

We are in a constant state of immediate gratification. We are always looking for everything to happen right now instead of acknowledging and understanding that the old saying is correct, good things come to those who wait. We even have tools that make being rushed even more essential and necessary. Before cell phones, you had home phones. If you were not home, you have the conversation when you got back home. Now, a cell phone gives you immediate gratification for that conversation. We have really inundated our civilization with the tools and the mindset that faster is better, delayed gratification has become time wasted and everything is right now. Information is available immediately now due to the internet. We continue to adjust. Even our laws change to accommodate “faster”. The speed limit on the freeway increases. Cakes don’t take an hour to bake anymore. They can be done in 10 minutes in the microwave. Faster is never fast enough. We are always trying to hurry up and keep up.

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

Some things were meant to take time. Biologically, we were not made to be on go, 24/7. We heal when we rest. A new story needs time to breathe and give people time to come to their own conclusions instead of knee jerk reactions in coming to conclusions without all the information. Always being rushed keeps us in a state of urgency. Urgency was only meant for emergencies. Are adrenal systems were not set up to be on Fast forward all the time. Always being in a hurry does not give our body the rest that it needs and it does not differentiate from when something is an actual emergency. Moving around with haste keeps our heart rate higher than it should be and our mind moving so fast that we are not able to focus on the details. Constantly being rushed does not allow us time to enjoy ourselves at the moment. Taking the time to inhale every breath in exhale all of the carbon dioxides and waste in our life is the healthiest way to live. Taking a long deep breath is healthy as opposed to constant short labored breath. It is important that we acknowledge what being in a constant state of rush in a panic does to us emotionally and physically.

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?

Procrastination is one of the elements that put us in a state of rush. When we are not organized and use our time wisely, we find ourselves trying to rush to get everything done. Time management is key. If we know that we need to be somewhere at a certain time, we also know what time we need to leave to get there on time or early, yet, we still procrastinate, leave later than we should a find ourselves rushing. We must stop procrastinating in use time management as a tool to live a better life. Physical exercise is another great way to slow down. Your body can only do so much in a certain period of time. You really can’t rush physical capabilities. That is the time that we can spend to increase our health and contemplate other things that we need to do. Workout time is a great rehabilitation time for your body, your heart, in your adrenals. Yoga is one of the best examples. You have to take time to do the exercises, hold poses and breath. There is no opportunity for labored breaths because the whole point is to take deep breaths and take the time for your body to get what it needs. I actually use my workout time to think about the other things that I need to get done and how I will go about getting it done in an allotted period of time. Everyone needs to have a fitting strategy of carving out their task and how they will get them done in the amount of time that decreases stress and doesn’t push the limits

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. Use time management to plan — You should have a to-do every single day. List what your intentions are for each day. I actually do my to-do list the night prior. It gives me a good idea as to my timing, when I need to get started, my breaks and meals and maps out my day in a way that I will not have to RUSH if I follow my own advice.
  2. Avoid time killers and distractions. — They cause procrastination. Social media, TV, unscheduled phone calls and visitors are all things that can cause you to get distracted and simply put the necessary tasks on the back burner. This leads to rushing and causing undue stress.
  3. Early is on time. On time is late. Live by it. — You always want to give yourself a cushion when it comes to timing because there is always something unexpected that happens that you didn’t plan for. Plan for the unplanned and get to your destination in time to rest and relax before you have to get started on your task or visit. Having a few minutes to rest your mind can make a world of difference and contribute to a higher quality of life.
  4. Workout & Get Good Sleep — You body needs both. The physical exercise makes the muscles stronger. People forget that the mind is a muscle. Sleep is your body’s recovery to rest, restore and rebuild for the next day. I workout first thing in the morning to get my blood pumping, take self-time to think about my intentions for the day and strengthen my muscles. My metabolism is high and my energy so increased. A minimum of 8 hours of sleep wakes me up refreshed and recharged. When I do not workout or sleep well, my day drags, I am easily distracted and my fatigue overtakes my intentions.
  5. Don’t be reactive, be reflective. — Don’t always have a knee-jerk reaction to circumstances or breaking news. Stop, breath, and think about the situation, all options and possibilities. This keeps you from having to walk back any initial statements or actions while also preserving your adrenal glands. Take the time to let a situation play out for a bit while you take it in, process it and make a measured response. Don’t rush to make a mistake. Take your time and get it right.
  6. Carve out time for self. It gives you clarity and healing to get going again. This is family time, non-work and non-busy time. Work is draining, physically and mentally. It’s healthy to stop and take a break. Pull back and let your mind relax and be placed in a leisure situation. Just like the recovery that you need for a workout, your mind will rebuild during downtime. Also, taking the time to enjoy the fruits of your labor with the people that you love most is motivational. At least one day of the week spent with people that give you love and support gives your mind the rest that it needs and your hurt the nurturing that it needs.

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

Mindfulness is the art of being in the moment. It’s requires you to focus in on what is going on with you at this very moment. It means that you can hear what is going on, you can feel, physically and emotionally what is happening at the moment. You are not allowing your mind to float back to past regrets or into your task list. When I attend any of my kids’ activities, I do with with mindfulness. I am able to fully enjoy what they are doing, motivate when they need it, cheer when they do well and be alert enough for the moment that they may need help. If my mind was somewhere else, it would be easy to to miss an important element of the moment.

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

In order to practice mindfulness, you first have to be willing to NOT be in a constant state of multi-tasking. You have to pick the things that are most important to you emotionally and be able to put everything else aside for the allotted period of time in order to get the maximum amount of pleasure and satisfaction out of the occasion.

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

Music is the most effective tool used to stay in the moment and practice mindfulness. The great thing about music is that there are so many genres that can apply to the mood of your work in progress. If you have busy work to do, there is upbeat music. If you are writing or working on a project, there is smooth jazz or classic R&B music. It keeps you moving. It keeps you focused and does not require you to be distracted or lose time. Music is soothing if you are working on something stressful. Music can be motivating if you are trying to push through a task that you are less than enthusiastic about. Music is my most utilized tool.

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

My favorite book that keeps me in the moment is by Patti LaBelle, Don’t Block the Blessings. This book speaks in depth about overcoming tragedy and being grateful for what you do have instead of focusing on what you have lost. Every moment is valuable and is worthy of your time, attention and appreciation. Girlboss by Sophia Amoruso is another book that I use as a tool to stay in the moment. This young lady did things her way, took chances and enjoyed her victories without letting her failures derail her. Lastly, my book, A Child’s Memories… keeps me in a state of mindfulness by helping me to always acknowledge how far I have come. I could be dead. There is a reason that I am still here and as long as I am here, working towards my goals and aspirations will be stronger than succumbing to my failures or day-to-day life. I listen to Angela Rye’s On the Ones podcast because it is funny, informative and current. She teaches us not to take ourselves too seriously while paying attention to the serious issues in our national politics. She also encourages us to get engaged and be vigilant. Mental Illness Happy Hour and Become She help to keep me motivated and progressive while not taking me away from my work at all. It also helps to have a great walking path around your work space. Sometimes, you need to take a break from the screen and keyboard, get physical, take a few deeps breaths of fresh air and reload. Yes, taking a break can help you get more done. You would be surprised how productive and mindful you will become.

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

“Do what others won’t so that you can do what others can’t.” The majority of people follow in the same patterns. They go to school, get a job, struggle and retire. Entrepreneurship is not the regular 9–5 grind. It requires you to take chances and bet on yourself. Many people believe that working for yourself will leave you with more free time when it’s actually the exact opposite. You work nontraditional hours, off the clock a lot to be prepared for the regular business hour tasks. You have to use all of your tools to stay focused, stay on task and be prepared. You have to have a higher level of mindfulness to be a successful entrepreneur.

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. 🙂

I would start a youth empowerment movement that emphasized quality of life and kindness to mankind. Adults continue to place importance on things that do not enhance the quality of life and our kids follow suit. It would be great to take it back to basics, spending quality time with loved ones, showing generosity to those that are in need, and being civic participants. Being kind, and learning to pay it forward seems to be a lost societal norm but can go a long way in strengthening the human bond and building tolerance if we can renew that in our youth.

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


Slow Down To Do More: “Don’t be reactive, be reflective.” with Tonya McKenzie and Ashley Graber was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.