Slow Down To Do More With Ashley Graber and Vic Drabicky

Plan your next day before you get there. Each day, about 30 minutes before bed, I quickly check my calendar and my top priorities for the next day. It is my first step in being prepared and it prevents me from waking up the next morning, seeing my schedule, being surprised at how busy I am and immediately becoming stressed.

As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Vic Drabicky. Vic is the founder and CEO of January Digital, an award-winning, data-led full funnel digital marketing agency and in-house consultancy for leading consumer brands including David’s Bridal, Kendra Scott and Peapod. A digital marketing and retail expert with more than 15 years of experience on both the client and agency side, Vic has led digital marketing strategy for myriad brands including Tory Burch, Nike, Cole Haan, J.Crew, NARS Cosmetics, Oscar de la Renta, and Vineyard Vines. Named 2018’s Large Interactive Agency of the Year by the Interactive Marketing Awards and one of Inc.’s Fastest Growing Companies, January Digital has been recognized by the Content Marketing Awards, Digiday Awards, Drum US Search Awards, Glossy Awards, OMMA Awards, and US Search Awards, among others. Equally important, January Digital was named a Best Workplace by Ad Age, Fortune and Inc. for its pro-employee policies and efforts to help those in need.

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

After graduating from college, I was deadest on being a newscaster. A quick career writing news copy changed my mind, so it was back to the drawing board. After a few freelance writing assignments, I was lucky to stumble into a job as one of the first employees at Range Online Media, a newly formed small paid search agency founded by two remarkable women: Misty Locke and Cheryl Pingel. I spent 9+ years at Range learning everything I could — personally and professionally- from these women. After Range was acquired, I knew that working for a massive agency wasn’t for me. And so I left without a plan. Cue: Panic!

Thankfully, I landed a consulting gig and with that, my own company was created. With the selfless help and support of former employers and colleagues, I was subsequently able to quickly sign Stuart Weitzman as a client and hire my former teammate/work wife, the incomparable Megan Jones, to help me both manage the work and figure out what to do with our quickly growing company.

Fast forward six years and I’m incredibly proud of what our team has built. We have offices in NYC and Dallas (Megan Jones, employee #1, runs the Dallas office), have been profitable every year without external funding, work with and are trusted by some of the world’s most incredible brands including David’s Bridal, DVF, Kendra Scott, Peapod and Vineyard Vines, to name a few, have received numerous industry awards and accolades for our work, and have been named a Best Workplace by Ad Age, Fortune and Inc. for our employee-friendly policies and commitment to helping those in need.

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?

While I think we have always been busy (people love talking about how busy they are), being constantly connected has made us all feel like we need to immediately respond or solve things. Whether it’s an email from a boss or a friend texting about dinner — we feel required to respond. It is that pretend sense of requirement that makes us all feel so rushed all of the time.

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

Not everything is urgent and not everything is important. When we forget that and treat everything as though it is important and urgent, we add significant pressure and stress to our lives — and that stress is harmful to our health and happiness. Treating everything as urgent also hurts productivity, as it conditions us to be bad at prioritization — a key skill required to be truly productive.

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?

One of my favorite sayings is “when things are fast, go slow. When things are slow, go fast.”

Quite often, when we slowdown in high stress situations, we are able to make a more educated, effective decision. Not only does this typically improve the outcome, it prevents the future stresses that come from making a quick, but less than ideal situation. By incorporating the “slow/fast” idea into our daily lives, we can become equally more effective and less stressed.

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?

5 Strategies That I Try To Keep In Mind Are:

a. Differentiate urgent and important.

This one is tried and true, but being able to really determine the few things that are truly urgent and important is an invaluable skill.

b. Prioritize based on impact.

Is the task you are rushing to do going to affect one person for one hour in a superficial way or is it something that will affect a larger group for longer periods of time in a significant way? This is an enormously important consideration not only for me in running January Digital, but for my team too. If we can properly evaluate situations and prioritize based on greatest impact for the greatest number, not only will our work be more impactful on our business, it will be more impactful on our clients’ businesses too.

c. Simplify your view.

We often allow ourselves to get worked up and overcomplicate situations by thinking of every single possible thing that could go right, wrong, backwards, forward, sideways…When we do this, our view of a situation becomes extremely clouded and complicated — which raises stress levels and typically slows down progress. Try simplifying your view to the three most important factors and make your decision on those.

d. Force yourself to take a break.

Whether it’s meditation or a walk around the block, taking a break allows your brain to rest, re-center and return energized for the next challenge. For me, I build in three breaks every single day. First, an early morning break where I don’t deal with any CEO-related duties, but instead catch up on research and reading. Second, religiously, I take 30–45 minutes for lunch away from my desk. I close my computer, I don’t take conference calls — it’s my time to share a meal with a coworker, play around on the Internet, or simply eat and people watch. That rest helps break up stress and provides a springboard for the back half of the day. Finally, in the afternoon, I either exercise or leave the office and spend my final 30–45 minutes working from a coffee shop. It provides me time to work independently, and changes up my environment, which is sometimes all my brain needs to come up with the proper solution.

e. Plan your next day before you get there.

Each day, about 30 minutes before bed, I quickly check my calendar and my top priorities for the next day. It is my first step in being prepared and it prevents me from waking up the next morning, seeing my schedule, being surprised at how busy I am and immediately becoming stressed.

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

Defining mindfulness is very difficult. There are all sorts of answers people can give, but for me, it focuses on being present and actively working on acknowledging when you aren’t. I am terrible at this, but working to improve. The hardest thing for me is to pivot from running a company to being home and immediately being a dad to my two young children and a husband to my wife. If I allow myself to carry over the good or bad stresses of the day, which is only natural, I am unable to be present for my family. That said, the more mindful I am of my current mental and physical state, the more likely I am to be present — which also means the more likely I am to be effective and enjoy where I am.

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

Unfortunately, there is no system, app or one size fits all solution. Mindfulness is a personal thing — something you have to make the decision to dedicate yourself toward. What I would tell people is that you can’t say “well I am sort of trying to be more mindful” and succeed longer term. Instead, you must first dedicate yourself to the idea of being mindful then build a system that holds you accountable. Enlist family or coworkers to hold you accountable and have an honest conversation with yourself each day or week on how you are doing. Understand you will never “accomplish” mindfulness, but rather always be building the skill of being mindful.

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

I do two things pretty religiously. First, I use an app called Stop, Breathe, and Think for a quick meditation each morning (usually less than 5 mins). I love that I can put in how my head is feeling and get a custom meditation for my current state.

Second, I do a very simply exercise a few times per day when I am feeling the most distracted or stressed. I simply take seven really long, deep breaths in through my nose and out through my nose while focusing on the air coming in and out of my nose. It sounds super hippy-dippy, but that short 30-second exercise can be harder than you think as your mind starts to wander. And if I do begin to wander, I start back over at one. Eventually, as I get through all seven, I feel re-centered and able to return to work or family.

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

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

There are so many. I really love “if it smells like shit everywhere you go, check your own shoes.” I think it does a great job of teaching the lesson of making sure you are looking at yourself before blaming others or blaming circumstances — it forces people to take accountability.

I also love “resourcefulness is your greatest resource” for a lot of the same reasons. Neither of these sayings put 100% of the onus on the individual, but they encourage the individual to look at themselves first and understand that they have the power to not only improve their situation, but own it too.

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 love this question and it is actually something we have built into my company. We started something called the Good Works Program, which consists of three pieces:

1) Community Days — Monthly all company community service days at local community-based organizations

2) Good Deeds — A program where anyone in my company can help anyone in need, at any time, at any cost. Simply put: If you see someone in need, you are empowered to help them with 100% reimbursement.

3) Good Money — We give our employees cash to go into the world and help or impact a specific person. For example, each Christmas morning, our employees head to tiny coffee shops or diners, order a coffee, leave a $100 tip and walk out. For someone having to wait tables on Christmas morning, it can offer a nice, unexpected pick me up and the idea that we are all doing it at the same time all across the country is a pretty cool feeling.

With all that said, the movement I would want to start would be to educate people that the smallest pieces can have a huge impact. You providing a coat to a homeless person affects that person, affects you as the giver, affects the people that saw you do that act, affects the people the homeless person interacts with and so on. We get so caught up on something being massive and visible to be impactful and that’s not the case. So, if there was a way for me to put our Good Deeds program further into the world and have more people understand the impact of small, individual acts, I would.

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

Slow Down To Do More With Ashley Graber and Vic Drabicky was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.