Take it slow

07 Aug 2014
POSTED BY Y Magazine

If your life is always on fast forward, perhaps it’s time to put the brakes on and take it easy, says Kate Ginn

Are you one of those people who is always on the move, dashing around with 101 things to do and not enough hours in the day to finish everything in time? Me too. At least, I was.

Once, I was a slave to my smartphone. There was a constant stream of work emails to answer and send, endless lists and tasks occupying my mind. Hours blended into one another and weekends disappeared under a mound of work. It was like being on a roller-coaster ride that never stopped. 

Until one day I got off. Or rather I was forcibly removed after fracturing my wrist. Suddenly, I had to slow down whether I liked it or not. 

Physically, I wasn’t able to cope with the same workload – my left arm was in a cast for six weeks – so my demanding schedule had to take a backseat for the first time in a long while.

For a week or so, I was climbing the walls in sheer frustration at “doing nothing”. 

And then something funny happened. I began to unwind. Like a spring that has been coiled in a box for years, I slowly unfurled and found my own shape and space again. I luxuriated in having time to appreciate everything around me. In essence, I began to enjoy having nothing to do.

“It’s an irony of our modern lives that, while technology is continually invented that saves us time, we use that time to do more and more things, so our lives are more fast-paced and hectic than ever,” says Leo Babauta, the author of The Power of Less. Do Less. Get More Done.

“Life moves at such a fast pace that it seems to pass us by before we can really enjoy it.”

The key, he says, is to “rebel against a hectic lifestyle and slow down to enjoy life”.

Babauta practices what he preaches and learnt to reduce the pace of his life, finding a new sense of purpose in the process. 

The secret? It’s all down to simplifying things, apparently.

“It’s a matter of placing limits, and focusing on the essential,” according to the father of six, who decluttered his house and his life.

I understand where he’s coming from. With my arm out of action, I had to use my energy and time wisely, prioritising tasks and sifting out what had to be done from the leftovers that could wait.

Rather than multitasking, the mantra of the busy, I discovered the art of single-tasking. As everything slowed down, my brain, ironically, seemed to speed up. Instead of being crammed with thoughts, lists and demands, it was free to focus on less and was sharper as a result.

“A slower-paced life means making time to enjoy your mornings, instead of rushing off to work in a frenzy,” agrees Babauta.

“It means taking time to enjoy whatever you’re doing or who you’re with, instead of always being connected to an iPhone or laptop, instead of always thinking about work tasks and emails. It means single-tasking rather than switching between a multitude of tasks and focusing on none of them.”

Now that my wrist is on the mend and I’m back to work full-time, have I slipped back into my wicked ways? No, is the simple answer. 

While I have to work as hard as ever, I’m approaching things in a different way – I’m less frenzied and more focused. I’m also making sure to take time out during the day and at weekends. 

Breaking my wrist, it turned out, was a blessing in disguise. I learnt that living is precious and best enjoyed at a slow pace.

As the great Mahatma Gandhi once said: “There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

Tips to help you slow down

  • Do Less. Focus on what’s important, what really needs to be done that day and let go of the rest. Put space between tasks and appointments, so you move through your days at a more leisurely pace.  
  • Be Present. Don’t spend time worrying about something that has already happened or something that might happen. Focus on what’s going on right now.
  • Disconnect. Leave your smartphone at home and go for a walk.
  • Eat slower. Stop cramming in food as quickly as possible. Be mindful of each bite, appreciate the flavour and texture. Eating slowly has the double benefit of making you feel fuller with less food and making the food taste better.
  • Drive slower. Speed is a prevalent habit in our fast-paced world, but it’s also responsible for a lot of traffic accidents and stress. Make it a habit to slow down when you drive. Make it a peaceful time to contemplate your life. Driving will be more enjoyable and much safer.
  • Single-task. Focus on one thing at a time. When you feel the urge to switch to other tasks, pause, breathe and pull yourself back.

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