I’ve always managed to get quite a lot done in a short period of time. I’d often worry that I wasn’t paying enough attention to detail or had missed something. Eventually, instead of berating myself for this, I decided that I was lucky to be efficient. Being organized and finding the quickest way to do things must have helped. But once again, I’m starting to re-think this. Whilst it’s great to have good time management, I’ve realised that I don’t seem to be able to slow down. Even when I’m relaxing or doing self-care, my eyes are always on the clock.
I need to slow down. Perhaps not always. Time is not a luxury many of us feel that we have. What with all the chores many of us juggle. On top of working and family, friends and the list goes on. But I’m determined to slow down when I have the chance. I’m sure I do reap some benefits of relaxing or exercising even with my eyes on the time. But there’s probably a lot I’m missing too. Because when I’m rushing through I’m losing something in the process. I’m not able to fully relax and I definitely forget to enjoy myself.
Recognize the Need
First things first. We need to recognize when we’re falling into the habit of rushing. And it’s all too easy to do. Many of us are juggling so many things. We are always running from one thing to another. Simply just to get the bare minimum done. For many it doesn’t seem like we have time to do the added extras. The things that we’d ideally like to do but never get around to. So, as hard as it may be. If you find yourself unable to slow down or pause we need to recognize this sign. If that’s how we feel than that’s exactly what we need to do. Not only do we need to slow down. But we deserve to.
Once we’ve recognized the need to slow down. We need to ask ourselves this follow up question. When can I slow down? Or when is it best for me to slow down? If we can slow down in all areas of our lives that’s great. Go for it. But for many of us that’s not an option. We need to make slowing down work for us, not against us. By slowing down too much we may find ourselves more stressed about getting things done. Or having to rush around even more to get things done after we’ve had a break. Neither of which is very relaxing!
So ask yourself, which parts of my day can I take slower? The times which may spring to mind might be walking somewhere when usually we would rush. Or when we have a shower or bath. Any time we do exercise or anything self-care related. As mentioned before, these habits are good for us. But we lose something in doing them if we’re rushing through.
Steps to Slow Down
If like me you find yourself consistently looking at a clock. Challenge yourself to go without it. This may seem like a step too far. And I’m not suggesting not ever checking the time. That’s the surest way to incur more stress by missing deadlines etc! But think about those times you’d like to take slower and put the clock away. For example, if you’re having a relaxing shower don’t time yourself. Accept that hygiene is important for both physical and mental health and it will take the time it needs for you to feel better.
If not looking at a clock will only worry you more then experiment with setting timers. Decide how long you’ll spend on an activity and set your clock accordingly. Then put it out of sight. You’ll be able to absorb yourself in the activity knowing you won’t miss anything or go on too long.
Mindfulness often gets confused for meditation (more here). But the root of mindfulness is about being in the present. Simply by slowing down we will become more mindful. We don’t need to take long amounts of time out of our day to meditate; unless we want to. Small acts we do can be done mindfully provided we’re grounded in reality.
A great way to think of mindfulness is “be where your feet are”. Think about how you can build mindfulness into your day – you may find you can do it without it taking any time at all! For example, when walking to the bus or train, don’t stare at your phone or get stuck in your head (if you can help it!). Instead look at the world around you and notice the changing seasons, the weather etc. It’s not just about what you see but about using your other sense too. Likewise, we can eat mindfully by noticing the colours of the food, feeling the textures, experiencing the smells and eating that bit slower. Just by being in the world for a few minutes can help us find a slower pace.
Acknowledge the Benefits
Sometimes slowing down can’t be done any other way than actually slowing down. And yes, this will suck up some more time in your day. It’s understandable if we’re hesitant to do so if we’ve already got a busy schedule. But there’s two things that might motivate us to do it anyway. Firstly, recognize that we deserve it and it’s beneficial for us. I know I’ve mentioned this before but it’s important so it can’t be said too many times.
We rush around, usually to do things for other people, and we don’t acknowledge or appreciate ourselves. This can often lead to conflicting feelings (more here on empathy fatigue). Feelings which are often inconvenient – to say the least – and will have a negative impact on our mental health. Thereby impacting motivation and productivity. Just by pausing in our day and finding time to look after ourselves will boost our mental health and help us stay efficient. The maths might not seem like it adds up. But within reason, a bit less time doing and a bit more time spent relaxing and investing in ourselves can actually mean getting more done.
Find a Reason.
It’s hard to slow down but having something or someone to slow down for can make a difference. When we have things we’re looking forward to, or really want to do. We’re more likely to take a step back from everything else we’re supposed to be doing. It may be a long time since we’ve asked ourselves ‘what would I like to do?’ or ‘what am I looking forward to?’. Perhaps its spending time with people which is important. We all need to feel connected (more here). Or having a hobby we’d like to try or some new materials to read, watch, get arty with.
We can use these as a reward for doing x, y or z if simply doing them without reason seems like a step too far for us. But have a think, what would motivate you to slow down and take a breath? Try think of things which will distract you and stop you overthinking or looking to the clock.
Sometimes we may need a helping hand to take that step back. It may be that we’d love to do some exercise. Or we’d like to try a new hobby or art class. As per the idea above, having something to look forward to is a great motivator to slow down. Or doing something for our mental health will help us be more productive. So think about who you can get involved. If we’re doing something with someone else we become accountable. I’m more likely to go to the gym if I know someone is expecting me to be there. The intention here is not to add more stress. But to find ways to encourage us to take a breath and look after ourselves. If you think this could work for you, I’m sure you can find someone else who desperately needs a reason to slow down too!
There are so many words in the human language but somehow I feel like I say should a lot. More than I should (irony!). Without even realising this choice in wording subtly puts pressure on me. It guilts me into pushing harder and faster to get everything done. Should will persuade me that it’s selfish to slow down and that I don’t have the time to. It hangs over my head like the sword of Damocles. If this is something that resonates with you, then let’s replace should with could.
There’s many things on our to-do list that have to be done. That’s fine. They can stay, they are our priorities. But what about everything else. Do they need to be done? And if so, who says? If we feel the need to do them that’s fine. But if someone else or society makes it feel like we should do them? Then they can fall a bit further down the list. And perhaps some of them can be could instead? For example, I could make an Instagram worthy fancy dinner or I could do something far easier but equally delicious. Or I could push myself to do an exhausting high impact cardio but today what I need is some slower paced yoga or a walk outside.
What do you think about these ideas for slowing down? Do you fancy trying any of them out or do have your own ideas to share? Let me kn