We are sold the myth that we can sprint all the way. That to be successful in life and to get much accomplished we should be striving and straining for the finish line all the time.
The truth is too much time at full throttle leads to burnout and worse.
Life might indeed be considered a collection of sprints but it is also interspread with periods of jogging, walking and even just some good old fashioned time stood still.
Knowing when and how to slow down is important as it allows us to:
- Refresh and recharge
- Take in the scenery
- Learn lessons and avoid making the same mistakes
Ironically, slowing down can also mean we get more, not less of what is important to us done.
My own moment of enlightenment with regard to this phenomenon happened several years ago.
I was busy at the time juggling several balls in the air but had a nagging feeling that the more I did the less I was actually achieving. I seemed to be getting into work earlier but also leaving later. Having less free time to pursue my own hobbies. Making more commitments I really didn’t want to keep.
I was busy and in motion but wasn’t really getting closer to meeting my own targets and goals. If anything, I just seemed to be spinning my wheels and adding more to my lists of what needed to be done.
I started to think there must be a better way.
I started to think about living simpler and more meaningfully.
I started to seek out and read more sites like Having Time.
Importantly, I also started to question my existing approach and take positive action.
I started to apply some 80/20 analysis to my life. I identified what did really matter to me. I started to eliminate what didn’t matter. I re-identified my own personal goals, passions and ambitions and started to prioritise them.
I started to remove the distractions and excuses I was making to myself.
I started to slow down but actually achieve more that was truly important to me. The quality of my life has improved since I have sought to simplify and not take on too much.
So how can you also start to benefit from the powers of slowing down.
1) Read the Signs
Knowing when you need to sprint and when you need to slow down is important. You need to heed the signals your mind and body is giving you. Too much time in flight will quickly lead to burnout. Too much time idle will get nothing done. We need a synergy between the two.
Some signs that you might need to consider slowing down include:
- Unusual irritability (are things that would normally go over your head bothering you?)
- Out of character nervousness or dread about something
- Full blown stress
Take the hint and take some time to slow down.
2) Value the Importance of Rest
If you don’t value something how can you make it an important part of your life?
Rest is as important as action. Treat it accordingly and know that some slow time is as essential as time spent with your foot on the accelerator.
3) Don’t Over Commit
Be careful what you say yes to. Only commit to those things you either really want to do or have to do. Otherwise don’t be afraid of creating some intentional space in your diary.
This free space can be scary at first if you’re used to having a full to the brim schedule. Persist and either enjoy the space and chance to recharge or fill the time with something meaningful to you that supports your goals in life (i.e. a hobby).
4) Apply Some 80/20 Magic Dust
Using some of Vilfredo Pareto’s wisdom, identify the tasks that you currently spend 80% of your time on (it could be more or less). Are these tasks aligned to your goals in life? Are they getting you closer to achieving what you want to?
If not, maybe you should be replacing them with something that is.
Reduce the unnecessary so the necessary can make itself heard.
5) Forget Multi-Tasking
Being productive doesn’t mean doing lots of things all at once. It means completing and getting things finished. Once complete then move onto the next task or goal. Put enough completed tasks/goals together and you’ll soon be flying and achieving lots.
If you do put these tactics into play I think you will also be pleasantly surprised and become a believer in the power of slower living.
Slow down and get more done. Truly a winning combination.