How to Slow Down

Previously, we covered the meaning of Slow as well as the long-term benefits that come with living Slow. In this draft, we’ll cover strategies for practicing Slow. But, before we get into that, we’ll go over the process and the mindset needed in order to make those strategies work.

The first step to slow living is knowing that we are going too fast and that we need to slow the heck down. Once we have some awareness, we start out by making small changes (doing) in our lives. Over time, these small changes add up to a different lifestyle, at which point we no longer have to think about doing slow. We are being slow. Once we experience that, it’s hard to go back to living reactively.

Of course, having that awareness starts by reminding ourselves (from time to time) that we can do anything but not everything. Once we make our peace with that, we stop trying to do it all and focus on doing a few things better. This goes back to starting with an end in mind. It means valuing quality over quantity and doing those few things as best as possible (not as fast as possible). That means doing the essential things in our lives as much as possible in terms of our relationships and results. Slow living requires being ruthless with one’s time and attention.

It is about being fully present in the moment without worrying about past or future. That can only happen when we are mindful of things around us. Above all, it’s all about working and playing consistently.

Once we have the right mindset, here are some strategies for slowing down:

One of the first things we can do toward leading a self-paced lifestyle is to spend some time in solitude every day. During this time, we could practice mindfulness by way of meditation. Start with a couple of minutes and make your way up to 25 minutes to build your “power reserve” of slowness.

Give yourself the space to slow down. Have some time every day to show up without any agenda. Find out what has your attention and learn to listen to yourself. You could even take a notebook and pen and go somewhere quiet to spend this time.

Slow requires thinking about our work and then doing the work (just not at the same time) instead of living frantically. Because we know we can only do so much, we plan for the things we want to do, and then we do them without rushing. Of course, this is not to say that there won’t be ad hoc things that show up in the moment, but we can try to keep those to a minimum. I covered this earlier in Thinking and Doing.

Plan your weeks so you can devote plenty of time for both work and play without feeling the need to rush yourself.

Schedule daily (and weekly) time to think about your work and also doing the work. Most of us could use more time with the thinking part. Schedule time for the big things and the small things. For the latter, use a trusted system.

Learn to manage your time in terms of energy. Be sure to account for buffers as we tend to suffer from the planning fallacy. Keep the so-called “urgent” things to a minimum.

Once you show up to do the things that you have planned for in the time you have, focus on doing just that one thing in that time. Give that thing your complete, undivided attention. This is not just about doing things by yourself, but it also includes spending time with others. With others, it’s about giving them your complete, undivided attention for the duration of that meeting and expecting the same from them. That means not taking calls or doing other things.

Figure out the priority for your life right now. This could be a project or an area of focus. Again, this goes back to doing few things well and not spreading ourselves too thin.

Start your days with warmups. Use morning and evening routines to build some order in your day no matter how much things get chaotic during the day.

Take frequent work breaks during the day. This helps you slow down, sit less, and move more.

Any time you find yourself doing things impulsively or without thinking, take a pause. Think about what you’re about to do first. That will give you the space to let your logical brain overcome your emotional brain to make the right decision. More importantly, it would be a conscious/intentional decision on your part rather than you reacting to things around you.

Do a speed check every few hours. Take a moment to gauge how fast you are doing whatever it is you’re doing. It could be when you’re eating lunch, reading a book, driving the car, etc. In that moment, pause (so you can be more self-aware) and ask yourself, “Am I doing this too fast? Should I slow down?” If the answer is “no”, then carry on as before. But, if the answer is “yes”, take a few slow, deep breaths, and (with a slower approach) go back to whatever you were doing.

Spend some time every day in the evening to reflect on your day.

Master your tools; don’t let them enslave you. For instance, remember that your phone is supposed to serve you, not vice-versa.

When working with others, here are some things that come to mind:

We need to define boundaries to avoid internal distractions and external interruptions.

Because we don’t decline others enough, we give our time to them to keep our “social status”. We end up living our lives based on other peoples’ expectations while eschewing our own.

When we know the few things we have said yes to, we are saying no to almost everything else unless it somehow overlaps with our agenda. We also need to remember that it’s up to us to prioritize our lives because unless we help ourselves first, we can’t help others.

In order to better manage our expectations with others, we need to define our dealbreakers. Then it doesn’t matter how “different” others are from you in terms of how they work because you can all find a way to work together with each other.

Slow living has countless applications in our lives. Here are some of the major ones:

When it comes to relationships, keep them healthy, deep, and not too numerous. Spend time with people by giving them your undivided attention and expecting the same from them.

When it comes to food, we need to learn how to eat better so we can use it as fuel to do the things we want to do well in our lives. As with most things, we should practice moderation when it comes to eating right.

We need to work less but better. Spending fewer hours at work and getting the right work done also means more time for play and is a win for everyone involved.

Slow travel is about enjoying the pleasures of the journey and engaging ourselves fully with the environment we find ourselves in. Much too often we are so anxious from the anticipation of arriving at the place we are visiting that we forget to enjoy the small things in our journey.

When we finally reach the place, we should take our time to explore the place. Instead of covering several places in a short time as most of us do in a typical “holiday”, we need to pick one place and take our time to get to know it really well without having some detailed plan or agenda. That could mean living like a local for some time (a few weeks) rather than merely visiting the touristy spots from the guidebooks. Only then can we get some sense of the place we are in.

Driving slow has its own pleasures. That means letting the world pass you by without being affected by it and not having the impulse to always get ahead of others. Plus, the short time saved in driving fast is not worth the effort and stress we put into it. This would be a good time to do a “speed check” as mentioned earlier.

Slow reading. This isn’t about reading slowly but showing up to read at some predetermined time in your calendar because you enjoy the act of reading. When you have made time for it, you will do it.

Slow parenting encourages parents to plan less for their children by letting them explore the world at their own pace. That means being facilitators to the process of raising our children and gently nudging them in the right direction when they stray.

Slow learning is about letting children learn and process things at their own pace, taking the time to discover their true strengths and interests, and encouraging that as much as possible so they can live to their full potential in life. Sadly, the schools provide a standardized, one-size-fits-all approach, which they call “education”, and which never works practically because every child is different. In the end, kids do learn a few things at school, but that is not “learning”. That is being a small cog in a big machine.

As artists, we make things, but we share only when we have something of real value and substance that has lasting value and that others will find useful; otherwise, we are simply adding to the noise.

We should also consume information mindfully. This goes back to having a healthy information/media diet. This could mean reading fewer articles on the web, watching less TV, etc. This also means taking your time by learning about something in depth instead of consuming whatever comes in your “feed”.

I hope the idea of applying Slow in your life is becoming clear. Professor Guttorm Fløistad summarised the Slow philosophy, stating:

The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on, you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection, and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.

When we do things slowly, we find ourselves more present and intentional with our choices. We aren’t doing things “fast”. We are not reactive. If anything, we are intentional — proactive. We act deliberately, and we act and move with purpose. We know why we are doing something.

Slowing down is the only sustainable long-term solution to living well and to fully enjoy each moment. Life is not about living longer, but adding to and improving the quality of that time. That can only happen when we are proactive about our lives, knowing what is important for us, and doing those things as much as possible. We are not trying to do everything — we can’t. So, we focus on doing a few things better by giving them our complete, undivided attention and immersing ourselves in them. Live your life, don’t race through it.

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