If you could put a speed dial on the pace of your life, where would it be?
At my most frantic, I was probably going close to 120 miles per hour: Go, go, go. Hurry up. Hustle, hustle, hustle. The more the better. You can sleep when you’re dead.
The problem with living at warp speed is that you can only keep it up for so long before something starts to give out.
I my case, it was my sanity.
Sure it felt great to earn more from working 3 jobs (one full-time, 2 part-time), but I also felt like a machine operating at maximum output with minimum downtime.
I slept an average of 4-5 hours a night, ate only when I had time to think, which was barely, and the only people I saw were the ones I worked with.
A nervous breakdown in a puddle of tears on the floor after one too many unreasonable deadlines later, I knew things had to change.
So I made a pact with myself to turn the speed dial down several notches.
When the pandemic hit, I was forced to turn it down even more, and the funny thing is, I can’t say it was a bad thing.
In fact, it was a welcome respite from our relentless culture of toxic productivity that still made me feel guilty for wanting to do less.
If the thought of slowing down and how it can help make your life better has ever crossed your mind, I thought I’d share my hard-won how-tos that I’ve learned over the years.
SLOW DOWN TO THE PACE OF LIFE.
1. Spend some time being close to nature every day. Stand still in a forest and you’ll quickly notice how quiet, soothing and serene everything feels. This is because every creature, plant and atom in it is moving as quickly or slowly as it needs to, not to the speed of some man-made construct whose goal is to always go faster, harder, higher. In the wild, ‘productivity’ simply means being as you are — not more, not less. Being closer to mother nature helps me get in touch with this calmer, lighter side of myself whenever I struggle to feel balanced and grounded.
2. Be in the moment as much as you can. I’ve realized that almost half the time when I’m doing something, I’m actually not. As in, I may be physically watching The Queen’s Gambit, talking to someone or trying to fall asleep, but my mind is so very often, somewhere else. Distracted, undisciplined and unruly. It’s taken me an embarrassingly long time to realize that this meant I’ve spent a lot of my life being a living, breathing but essentially empty vessel that’s obsessed with the past, future or even the unreal. If you’re doing something, be in it, not outside of or away from it.
3. Disconnect when necessary. While I appreciate the ease and convenience of technology, having too much information and too many highlight reels (of others) at my fingertips often makes me feel like I shouldn’t be slowing down, that I should be keeping up with everyone else. To keep my life and technology in balance, I’ll disconnect for a day to two every now and then, sometimes even weeks, outside of what’s necessary for work. The absence of urgency this routine ‘disconnection’ brings helps me enjoy the little things in my everyday life all the more.
4. Slow down, literally. When you can, slow down your steps to a stroll. Take the edge off the gas pedal. Wake up with less hurry. Take smaller bites and your time savoring every single one. Really listen to the friend who’s telling you about her day. Cook a meal leisurely and with appreciation. Sit in your garden just a little longer. This is my favorite thing to do right now because the more I make an effort to slow down, the more of life I get to actually live.
5. Be a single-tasker. Screw multi-tasking. Juggling too many things at once messes with my focus, creativity and productivity, so now I put down no more than three work items on my to-do list daily and do only one at a time. This lets me do my best work on a healthier timeline and has me ticking off those checklists consistently (they’re kind of a thing for me).
6. It’s all about quality, not quantity. What’s priority for you? As the former Queen of Busy (ya know, being busy doing some important things but mostly things that didn’t really make much of a difference in my life), I appreciate my new-found ability to better focus on the things that do. Once you figure what these are for you at work and in life, be as ruthless as possible when it comes to weeding out the things that don’t.
7. Meet resistance with self-awareness. The more you try to slow down and make your slow-living boundaries clear, the more push-back you’ll feel from other people. Do yourself a solid favor and don’t mind them, will ya? You’re on your way to living your calmest (and most peaceful) life yet.
LEAVE THE HECTIC BEHIND…SLOWLY.
It’s one thing to know that you want to slow down, but actually doing it is anything but easy.
Take it from the former Queen Of Busy: It takes a lot of mental adjustment and even more baby steps to slow down to a point where it feels natural and good.
Trying to downgrade from hectic to taking your time overnight can trigger feelings of guilt and a desire to do more — clearly not the result we want.
Aim for one to two days a week (weekends are perfect) where you can start slowing down by scheduling fewer things to do on those days.
Be as present as possible and just enjoy having nothing to do and nowhere to go. Or just cook a slow meal while sipping on a glass of wine. Have a long, leisurely conversation with a friend. Go for a long walk.
The time is all yours, so do what makes you feel like you have the space to breathe, think and feel good about life.
RESOURCES YOU MIGHT FIND HELPFUL
(*Note: Some of these suggestions contain affiliate links, which means that I’ll earn a small commission if you decide to buy. Buying via these links won’t cost you anything extra, but it’ll allow this blog to earn money―thank you if use them!)
Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways To Slow Down And Enjoy The Things That Really Matter by Elaine St. James I got my hands on this treasure over 15 years ago, way before simple living and minimalism became popular, and it was the first resource that introduced me to practical, everyday steps I could take to ‘un-complicate’ my life. I didn’t have enough life experience then to ‘get’ everything that St. James presents in this book, but when I revisit the pages of Simplify Your Life now, they make perfect sense. If you’re just starting out in your simple living journey and are exploring your possibilities, I highly recommend giving this a read first.
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: A Simple, Effective Way To Banish Clutter Forever by Marie Kondo Being able to pay attention to the little things in your life starts with decluttering — not the easiest thing to do if your living (or even work) space is disorganised and drowning in stuff. This is my bible as far as tidying up my space and keeping it that way goes.
Think And Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill This classic is so much more than what its title implies — it’s also a guide to taking control of the biggest driver behind everything you do and the reality you create for yourself: Your mind.
The Simple Living Guide When life feels overwhelming, this guide-and-workbook-in-one will help you gain clarity with your values, well-being, career, relationships and money.
The Good Morning Guide If your mornings are typically rushed, chaotic and stressful, I made this guide to help you start your day calm, sane and strong.
Lose 4 Pounds in 4 Weeks Without Going On A Diet Struggling with constant overeating and uncontrolled weight gain? In this email course, I show you how to get started with the exact steps I took to stop feeling like a slave to the food around me, lose over 22 pounds of fat and keep them off for almost a decade now.
Tribe Of Mentors: Short Life Advice From The Best In The World by Timothy Ferriss Nothing beats having a mentor in your life who can personally guide you from day one. But not everyone does, and if (like me), you don’t, it doesn’t mean that you can’t learn from the best virtually or through books. Take what you need from the likes of Ray Dalio, Ben Stiller, Bear Grylls and more in this varied but comprehensive compilation of bite-sized advice on life, work and purpose from some of the best minds in the world.
The Filofax Personal Organiser I’ve been using my trusty, old Filofax to plan and organise my life for the past 18 years and don’t see myself being tempted to replace it with a digital one any time soon — there’s something really comforting about putting my to-dos and ideas down on paper. When I’m not at home, my hardcover Moleskin pocket journal goes everywhere I do (well, almost).
START FEELING CALMER, HAPPIER & HEALTHIER…NOW.
If you’re too busy surviving, chances are, you’re not thriving. You’re feeling tired, unhealthy, unmotivated and just plain worn-out from life. I created my FREE Daily Self-Care Ritual Workbook just for busy folks like you who want to take back their health, peace of mind and happiness. Get your very own copy of the workbook HERE. No spam. Just helpful, good-for-you stuff. Pinky swear.