Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day? Like you’re always chasing your tail and never quite managing to get ‘on top of things’? Do you ever wonder how you can slow your life down? Intuitively, there’s only one way to do it – you have to do less. But when pressure keeps piling up from every corner, and everyone else around seems to be doing more and more, how can you possibly be the one who starts to take things out? How can you do less while everyone else seems to cram more in?
It’s a lot like decluttering, really. First you get rid of things, and then you reorganise what’s left. And you’ll find that you can be more intentional about what you do instead. What if more of what you did was a choice, rather than a chore?
Like many things in life, it’s simple. But it’s not easy.
1. Decide what really matters to you
You know what? I kind of hate it when I hear or read that you have to take some time to reflect on your values, on who you are, and on where you want to be in 2/5/10 years. Truth it, I find it really hard to do. But if you don’t where you’re going, chances are that 1) you may not get ‘there’, and 2) even if you do, you’ll have probably gone astray a few times without even knowing.
Just because you ended up going with the flow. Letting life and others take you with them. Sometimes that’s a good thing to do. But when you end up frazzled, unsettled, and overwhelmed, you may want to stop, take stock, and decide to make some tweaks.
2. Let go of what no longer fits in your life
Give yourself permission to let go. Get rid of what you’ve ‘outgrown’ – of the things that don’t interest you, or you don’t enjoy doing anymore. When we do something regularly and long enough, it becomes a habit. So question your habits – do things still need to be that way? Or can they change? Should they change?
When you look at what you do regularly, with honesty and intention, you’ll find things that you can let go of. You just need to be a little brave. Make big decisions. And who knows, like me (and many others), you may find that your job or career is what needs to go. Sometimes something has to give. It doesn’t have to be work, of course, but whatever it is, if your gut tells you you’ll be better off without it, you’ll be better off without it.
3. Surround yourself with the right people
If you’re trying to slow your life down, it’s not just things that you need to let go of sometimes, it could be people as well. It may sound harsh and a little ruthless, but when we engage in all sorts of relationships that don’t ‘add any value’ to our life, we end up frustrated and resentful. Your time is precious. Spend it with the people and activities that matter to you and are close to your heart. Spend it with those who have your back. Always have and always will. And not with those who judge you and hold you back.
4. Stop being scared of missing out
I’ve touched on this before when I wrote about learning how to run through life at an acceptable pace. Because the truth is that we don’t need to be doing everything we think we need to do. And maybe our children don’t either. I’ve heard of families who restrict after-school activities to one per child and birthday parties to one per month, for example. If that’s not for you, that’s fine. It’s not for us either. But don’t let the fear of missing out dominate your days, your decisions, your life!
Find your balance. Whatever works for you and your family. But make sure you have one. Because when you do, you can free up some time. And more time in your day gives you a greater opportunity for slower living.
5. Stop saying yes to everything
It took me many years to realise that I have a tendency to people-please. We feel we need to be nice and pleasant to people if we want them to accept us. To be happy with us. We say yes and agree to things we don’t really want to be doing. Wouldn’t it be a lot easier if we said to our friend that no, we can’t help that friend of a friend of their friend with that job interview at our old workplace?
I’ve recently heard this in the context of business: “You have to make yourself small to make yourself big”. If you want to invest in yourself and grow your business, you need to create the time and headspace for it. Why should your life be any different? If you want to slow down you have to fill your life with the things you intentionally want. You can’t do that if your life is cluttered by things you’ve reluctantly agreed to. If deep down you want to say no, that’s what you have to do.
5. Become more mindful
Have you ever noticed that when you do things ‘mindlessly’, without paying attention, time seems to just disappear in front of your eyes? You eat a sandwich while looking at your phone, and when you reach for the next bite, it’s all gone. Huh? Did I actually eat it? When?
Or you drive to work day in and day out, almost on auto-pilot, while thinking about something else entirely. Until you get there and realise you can hardly recall a single thing about your journey.
If you want to slow down, you need to start paying more attention. To the little moments. To the present moment. If you haven’t already, look into mindfulness (try and app?) and find some time to practice it. Tune in – into your body (the feelings, the sensations, and the emotions), and the things around you. Try it, and you’ll have less ‘where’s-the-time-gone’ moments.
7. Live more intentionally
Your life is made of choices. We tend to spend so much time pondering the big choices, but we make so many small ones on a daily basis too. From what we have for breakfast to how we respond (or react?) to the latest fight between our children.
So choose intentionally. Make sure the things you do are the things you want to be doing. Change something if you need to. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Be the person you want to be. Take that walk you’ve been meaning to take. Read that book that you’ve been wanting to read. And just notice how you feel as a result. Because when you enjoy every second of it, it won’t feel like time has disappeared before your eyes.
8. Disconnect from the digital world
I have this argument with my children all the time. “Stop watching YouTube and go and do something real‘. They don’t really get this. A phone, a TV or a tablet are as real to them as anything else. And don’t get me wrong, I’m probably more addicted to my phone than I care to admit (and yes, we’ll have to talk about nomophobia soon). But being constantly connected, available, and on-the-go creates expectations and imbalances that our parents and grandparents never had, for example. Our generation is under an enormous amount of non-stop pressure. And it’s probably mainly self-inflicted. But it’s pressure nonetheless.
So switch off. (Note to self). After dinner and before bed. When you and your partner get home from work. When the children get home from school. When you’re eating. When you’re out with friends. You don’t have to be working all the time. You don’t have to be expected to answer your emails 24/7, do you?
9. Change your habits
Have you ever noticed how time seems to go a lot slower when you’re on holidays? When I’m at home in London for half term, time seems to whizz by. But if we go and visit my parents, for example, we come back feeling like we had a nice, long break. And this isn’t just down to ‘the holiday factor’. It’s because we switch the auto-pilot off and change our routines and habits.
“Habits speed time, because when every day is the same, experience shortens and blurs; by contract, time slows down when habits are interrupted, when the brain must process new information. That’s why the first month at a new job seems to last longer than the fifth year at that job. And, as it speeds time, habit also deadens. […] Habit makes it dangerously easy to become numb to our own existence.”
10. Walk more slowly
And I do mean this quite literally. I often find myself sprinting around the house in an attempt to tidy up as quick as possible or get into the car as quickly as possible, for example. Oh, and let’s not talk about the school run. They call it school run for a reason, right? But why do we need to rush? Because we’re always late? Because we want to move to the next time on the list?
Just catch yourself and slow yourself down.
If you’re late it means you’ve done too many things before setting off for what it is that you’re now late for. If that something was a last-minute nappy change because the baby decided to do a number two just before you headed out (yes, it happens), then you’re excused. But if that something was scrolling mindlessly on social media for no particular reason (note to self, again), then you created your own rush. You’re reponsible for being short of time. For creating that sense of urgency (and the stress that comes with it) that you’re trying so hard to fight.
Stop cramming things in. And force yourself to stop rushing around. Because if you do, you’ll either be late (and sometimes, that’s not really the end of the world), or you’ll have to take the time that it takes. But in doing it, you’ll have slowed your day down.
11. And breathe
Check in with yourself during the day. As often as you can, and during the busy, stressful times, tune in with your breath. And try and breathe more deeply. You’ll find that your breath slows down almost automatically. And you’ll feel differently. Immediately. You’ll feel calmer and more at peace. More able to face whatever is next. Better able to respond, rather than react.
What about you? Have you tried any of these tips? Do you think they work? Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?