How to Slow Down in our Fast Culture
Our culture values fast. However, in our haste to ‘keep up,’ we have almost forgotten the art of doing one thing at a time. Carl Honoré’s book In Praise of Slow (Orion, 2005) challenges us to slow down and live better amidst the hectic pace that surrounds us. If not for every moment in our lives, then at least striking a balance between living fast and living slow.
With our ever-present smartphones, we have blurred the lines for when it is and when it isn’t appropriate to be reachable. However, it is not the same everywhere in the world. This graphic based on data published by GFK, a market research firm in the UK shows…
…the UK is in the middle with 30%. I am afraid I must count myself amongst them. One area I struggle with in my effort to ‘be fast’ is switching off my interruptions. A flight used to be the one legitimate time when I felt comfortable being unconnected during business hours (or maybe even waking hours). After all, you didn’t have a choice about it; mobiles simply weren’t allowed.
However, that is no longer the case. On British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and even Ryanair, you can now carry on using your handheld devices during take-off and landing (albeit in airplane mode). However, these airlines all have Wi-Fi, too. Some airlines, like Norwegian, even offer free Wi-Fi, so once the captain gives clearance, you can get right back to work straightaway.
I really miss the unconnected time a flight used to provide. I used it as thinking time. Thinking time is an important part of work. With so many demands on our attention, we rarely have quiet moments to think, although that is what each of us needs to do to do our best work.
Many of us are addicted to our devices. Our response is practically Pavlovian to the flashing red light of a blackberry or the reassuring ping notifying you of a message or email. Involuntarily, we glance down at the beckoning device to see who or what needs our attention. The moment we find ourselves in a queue, in a lift, or waiting for a train, we begin scrolling and swiping away, anything to avoid being unoccupied or, perish the thought, bored. It’s a self-inflicted, manic need to be entertained. Without it, we feel restless or cross, like adults with a device-induced ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).
Slowing Down and Living Better
How many times do you hear someone complaining about how ‘crazy busy’ they are? Better yet, how many times do you complain about it?
But what are we really busy doing? For all the joys and challenges with being permanently connected are we really any more productive? Or do we simply switch our focus from one thing to another not really achieving very much more. Are we working harder? Or simply diluting our work time with a greater range of things?
There’s a war going on with applications battling for our attention. The more frequently we engage and the longer we spend perusing an app the better it is – for them. Advertising and other revenue depends on it!! So remember, teams of developers in far flung places are plotting hourly how to keep you returning to their apps and spending more time on them.
4 Tips on How to Slow Down
How, then, do we find this balance between living in a fast culture and needing to slow down? This answer will likely vary depending on the person. However, these tips can help:
1. Make a decision to slow down. This step is essential. A change in pace requires effort, sacrifice, and a teensy bit of suffering. If you lack commitment to the idea of slowing down, you won’t.
2. Start with one small change. If you try to overhaul your whole life in one fell swoop, you probably wont be able to sustain it over time. Choose one thing and make it the priority. For example, if you always eat on the go, set aside time for meals without distractions (e.g. your mobile or in front of your computer) and sit down to eat—and nothing else. This one change can have excellent benefits for your pace of life and might even inspire you to address another area over time.
3. Get outside of your life, quite literally. Many of us spend the majority of our time indoors at work or at home. However, the health benefits of spending time in nature are well-documented. Take advantage of the daylight hours to incorporate more nature into your work week.
4. Look for the pleasure in the task. Depending on the task at hand, this one might be challenging, however, bear with me here. Everything we do, even chores we detest can be looked at as a pleasurable task. For example, I hate ironing. However, I love to see cotton and linen clothes, crisp and freshly ironed. So I focus on the transformation of the fabric instead of how much I hate ironing. This process has two benefits: I am not hurrying through just to get it done feeling miserable about it, and the more challenging laundry gets ironed.
For more great ideas on how to slow down and enjoy life more, please click here.
When faster is perceived as better, we all try to be fast, which is the fastest way to going mental. Finding a balance between fast and slow living, as Honoré asserts in his book, is a movement we see merging in our culture. Slowing down is essential to us all.
What suggestions do you have for slowing down? I’d love to hear your insight!
Andrea Gregory, MBA, is the founder and Managing Director of People Business, a team of HR Consultants that work with an extensive network of human resources, management and training and development specialists. For over 15 years, People Business has provided practical and professional support to help you achieve the best possible results.
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Babauta, Leo. “The 10 Essential Rules for Slowing Down and Enjoying Life More.” Zenhabits.net. 11 June 2009. Web. 16 June 2016.
Honoré’s, Carl. In Praise of Slow (Orion, 2005)