We live in a world that praises speed. Everything in our fast-paced world changes rapidly.
And we’re constantly told we must be faster and even more faster if we don’t want to stay behind.
We’re preached that slowing down means missing out on life.
There is a secret bond between slowness and memory, between speed and forgetting. Consider this utterly commonplace situation: a man is walking down the street. At a certain moment, he tries to recall something, but the recollection escapes him. Automatically, he slows down. Meanwhile, a person who wants to forget a disagreeable incident he has just lived through starts unconsciously to speed up his pace, as if he were trying to distance himself from a thing still too close to him in time. — Slowness, Milan Kundera
Why do we always try to be faster?
After much thinking about slowness and slow living, I came to the conclusion that we kill ourselves to be faster because of four reasons:
1. We’re not aware that we’re living on the fast lane. Speed has become such a usual part of our lives that we don’t even recognize we’re hurrying and scurrying all day long.
2. We take on more responsibilities than we can fulfill and more tasks than we can tackle with in a given period of time.
3. We don’t allow large portions of ‘loose’ time and white space around our projects and activities. What’s more, we make the mistake of thinking that we’re managing our time well by living along the edges of our schedule.
4. We know that stress is not good, but we’re not fully aware how detrimental it is on our physical, mental and emotional bodies and don’t make stress relief a priority.
How to slow down
By paying attention to a few simple things, we can slow down and enjoy life more. After all, mindful change starts with a single decision.
1. Make the decision that you’re not going to let other people to bully you around.
When you slow down, some of the people in your life and circles will criticize you because being slow in today’s fast-paced life is labeled as a shortcoming. Don’t mind them. It’s your life, your health and your peace of mind.
2. Include enough ‘buffer time’ into your work schedule.
Especially when you’re submitting offers for any project for a client, don’t promise to hand in your work within a tight program. The deadline must extend longer than you think you’ll finish the project. Always allow for sufficient extra time.
3. When you have to go somewhere, leave earlier than necessary.
Drive slower. Walk slower. Don’t rush. Allow yourself enough time to linger on the way. Get out of your own thoughts and look around yourself. Observe. See. Feel. Breathe the life that’s buzzing around you. Enjoy the fact that you don’t have to rush. Enjoy your walk, ride or drive.
4. Eat slower.
Our brain starts thinking that we’re full only 20 minutes after we start eating. If we eat fast (I do it and I hate it), we can eat much more than our body needs. And extra pounds come along with chronic health problems. Slow down by putting the fork (spoon, chopsticks etc.) down after each time you put food into your mouth.
Chew your food very well. Chew it 30 or 40 times if you can. You’ll be bored and impatient at the beginning, but you’ll get used to it sooner than you think. Try to be aware of the taste and texture of the food. Enjoy it.
5. Stop multitasking.
This is one of the things I have to work on. The more I research, the more I realize that multitasking is totally against human nature (and health). We’re not computers.
Multitasking fools you to believe that you’re getting a lot of work done. Yet, I’ve realized that I’m actually less efficient when I’m multitasking. And in such moments, I feel worried and edgy. The work I produce doesn’t fully satisfy me because I can’t concentrate on one thing and enjoy the joy of creating. So, the so-called quantity harms the quality of the outcome. Instead, single tasking is a healthier and more efficient approach.
Keep in mind that setting aside bigger chunks of time in your daily schedule for a project gives better results because you don’t lose time trying to concentrate at the start-up each time you return to the same project.
6. Take a cat nap whenever you can.
Just shut your eyes and drift off for a little while. Cat naps, also known as power naps, re-energize you so that you feel alert, think, perform and handle stress better. They’re perfect opportunities to slow down and recuperate during the day.
7. Learn about kaizen, the Japanese art of making minor changes to achieve big success.
The idea is keeping all of your tasks in small portions and enjoying a sense of pride and accomplishment as each step is completed. At the same time, you also improve the process. This is much better than having to deal with a mountain of work causing stress for a long period of time while waiting for a payoff at the end.
With kaizen, your stress is lifted. You take your time and find a better way. You move more slowly, making sure everything is right in your world whether it’s how you manage money, deal with relationships or complete a task at work.
When a problem arises, you calmly address the issue in the most logical way and watch the results so that you can improve your life even more.
8. Reconnect with nature.
Go outdoors. Stop, look and listen. Stop your brain from running a ticker of your task list or imagining the irritating phone call you have to make. Look around you. Really look. Nature doesn’t hurry. Everything has its own graceful pace. A bird never tries to fly faster than it can unless there is imminent danger. It just soars. A bee takes its time around a flower.
When the work is done, it’s done. You can do many things to make nature a part of your daily life and enjoy its soothing rhythm. You can take walks by the sea, go on mountain hikes or learn to do gardening, an activity that changes the perception of time in our instant gratification world.
9. Simplify your life.
When you simplify all aspects of your life—home, business, finances, relationships—you’ll no longer have to spend time for tasks, activities or people that aren’t your priorities. If your life is simplified you have fewer things to do, but you do them in a finer way. So, quality overrules quantity. Leo Babauta says that there are really only two steps to simplifying:
- Identify what’s most important to you.
- Eliminate everything else.
To learn how you can simplify your life read Leo Babauta’s Minimalist Life. It’s a great resource I have and refer to from time to time.
10. Join the slow movement.
You can find numerous resources online and offline. Research about the slow living movement and integrate into your life the stuff that resonates with you and your values. Here are two good ones:
Slow Food is a non-profit, eco-gastronomic member-supported organization founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life. They have over 100,000 members in 132 countries. The Slow Food Manifesto states that we’ve been enslaved by speed and succumbed to the same insidious virus: Fast Life, which disrupts our habits, pervades the privacy of our homes and forces us to eat Fast Foods.
Slow Down Now (aka International Institute of Not Doing Much) is a great site with a humorous approach to slowing down. The site has a tremendous manifesto you’ll love reading.
This is how it begins: “There are those who urge us to speed. We resist! We shall not flag or fail. We shall slow down in the office, and on the roads. We shall slow down with growing confidence when all those around us are in a shrill state of hyperactivity (signifying nothing). We shall defend our state of calm, whatever the cost may be. We shall slow down in the fields and in the streets, we shall slow down in the hills, we shall never surrender!”
If you’re a solopreneur, practice Slow Marketing, which requires taking the time to figure out your core platform or branding message and understanding that finding your voice takes time.