Just Noticing

Saturday morning I was on my bicycle, training for the Pan-Mass Challenge.  We were making our way through some back roads and I realized how out of shape I was as I struggled to keep up with by friends.  I had fallen a bit behind and was peddling hard to make my way up a short hill when I started noticing.  Yes, that’s all.  Just noticing.

I was noticing my breathing and my peddling when this beautiful farm appeared to my right.  It was early morning, and there were workers out in the field.  The farm was a horse farm and it looked like they were letting the horses out into a large field to run.  I continued riding past the farm and noticed a perfectly manicured home across the street.

I noticed how the lawn must have just been mowed and how the lines in the grass created a pattern.  As I continued my ride, I continued to notice…

  • I saw a rock that fell out from a stone retaining wall
  • Flowers lining a picket fence
  • House numbers on mailboxes on the side of the road
  • Spray paint on the street from the town public works
  • An owl flying overheard
  • A small boy riding his big wheel while his grandfather walked behind him on the sidewalk
  • The wind in my ears
  • Other bicyclists riding towards us
  • My breathing
  • A Dad fishing with his son by the waters edge

All of these images came into focus so clearly as I made my way through these beautiful back streets and that’s when I noticed something else: my speed.  My speedometer said I was going 17 mph.

Slowing down

I have driven on some of these roads before, but usually at the speed limit of 25 mph, and I never noticed the scenery like this.  Was it really possible that 8 mph could change the landscape this dramatically?  When you are driving in your car, even on these same roads, you are focused on driving. When you step outside and slow down, that’s when the magic happens.  That’s when you slow down and notice the world around you and stop thinking about the past or about the future.  You are only focused on right now.

I have been meditating (thanks Andy Kelley and www.Bostonbuddha.com) for about 4 years now, and here I was out on the road gaining the same clarity of mind as if I was sitting at home in my chair with my eyes closed.  It was an amazing feeling on this early Saturday morning.

As I caught up to my friends and started talking, I was brought back to the present moment of the conversation.  I was able to see the road ahead and some of the cars coming up as we neared the main street, but it wasn’t as clear.  My focus had changed.

Connecting the Dots

At work, my focus is to coach people on how to successfully deliver Software using the Scrum Framework.  I couldn’t help but draw correlations with what I was feeling on my bike ride and what I was teaching at work.  Is Scrum teaching us to slow down and notice?

If you are familiar with Scrum, you know that we focus on time-boxed events.  We focus on keeping change out of the Sprint so we can focus on what the team needs to accomplish.  Just like cycling, we have a roadmap that we follow, but for say, 2 weeks, we are just going to focus on what’s right in front of us and nothing else.  We are capable of driving 25 mph, but for this Sprint, we are going to slow down to 17 mph.

I have found that it is in these short, time-boxed, windows where the greatest productivity comes out.  Maybe slowing down is what we all need so that we can focus on the important things right in front of us.  Maybe, slowing down from the speed limit of 25 mph to 17 mph is much more than just 8.  Maybe it’s a whole lot more.

When was the last time you slowed down?  What did you notice?