Why you need to slow down in life

We’re racing through our lives at a million miles an hour. But we’re going so fast we’re hurting ourselves.

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By Poppy Jamie

14 March 2021

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oving quickly has become fetishised in our culture. From super-fast downloads to the “time is money” ethos, we go as fast as we can in almost every aspect of our lives. There’s an adrenaline rush that comes from knowing you have a lot on your plate. And an even bigger rush when you complete everything on time.

But we’re going too fast.

Enter: the slow movement, the idea that slowing down and being fully present will often be the best use of our time. It has been around for 35 years, starting with Carlo Petrini’s protest against fast food in Italy, leading to the slow food movement. Over time, the culture has evolved to all aspects of our life.

I love the book “In Praise Of Slow” by Carl Honoré, who I was honoured to have on as a guest on my podcast. The TED speaker and four times international best-selling author wants us all to reevaluate our relationship with time and see how going fast is actually having an adverse effect on us all.

Many of us believe our time is severely limited. We feel like we’re in a constant race - but to where? To what finish line? This is only made worse by advances in technology; everything we want is at the click of a button and this desire for speed affects every facet of our life. We’ve come to see certain milestones as something we have to hit, and if we don’t, we’re a failure. It’s as if life ends at 35, when your body starts to give in.

We see it in the workplace, too. “Remember, time is money” said Benjamin Franklin. But working to uphold unsustainable efficiency in your professional life can quickly result in burnout - an illness that’s now recognised as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ by the World Health Organisation. There are three key traits they highlight in their definition:

Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion

Increased mental distance/feelings of negativity or cynicism from one’s job

Reduced professional efficacy

For many, burnout isn’t a matter of if, but when. It can lead to high levels of stress and hopelessness. All because we’re trying to fit too much in too little time. We need to make a change. We need to embrace slow. Our best years are all our years. Life won’t pass us by if we stop for a moment. In fact, that’s where the real living exists.

Often, going slow is actually faster. We feel as if we have so much to get done in a day and try to multitask everything we do. But research shows we aren’t natural multitaskers. When we try to multitask, we’re actually just bouncing back and forth between the tasks at hand. We aren’t giving any task the full attention it deserves. Compared to those who focus on a single task, multitaskers have been shown to make up to twice as many mistakes and take twice as long to complete their tasks. The slow route can be faster. Do fewer things, but do them well.

So in this fast-paced world, how can you slow down? It isn’t about being as fast as possible, but as well as possible. Building a healthy relationship with time can be as simple as avoiding clocks. We’re constantly looking at the time, each minute slipping through our fingers. So take off your watch, put your phone to the side, and reconnect with yourself. At the end of the week, ask yourself how it went. Did you feel better? Did it harm or enhance your work? Experiment with it.

You can also write a “not-to-do” list. The “not-to-do” list is all about saying no. Think of all those moments where someone asks something of you. Can you make it to this meeting? Can you come to this conference? Can you jump on this call? And we say yes to it all, no matter how packed our schedule already is, because we don’t want to miss those opportunities.

The best thing we can do for ourselves? Just say no. Write these moments down in your not-to-do list. When you go back to review at the end of the week, ask yourself if the world ended because you skipped that one meeting when you were already busy. Of course it didn’t. In fact, opportunities like those will always be around the corner.

Make sure to also allocate time to disconnect. Research by Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein shows that in a two-person conversation, the mere presence of a phone can keep the topic superficial. You’ll always have your emails or messages on the mind. Put the phone away and have deep, meaningful conversation and connection. The messages will be there when you’re done.

It’s hard to fight fast culture when we enjoy it so much. We love that in two clicks we’ve ordered a new outfit. We enjoy the buzz of a busy but efficient day. It’s as if we can’t afford to slow down as life will pass us by.

Pre-order Poppy Jamie's book now

‘Our best years are all our years. Life won’t pass us by if we stop for a moment.’

The Short Stack

Life is right now. The only way to live it fully is to be there at the right speed. We should slow down and enjoy the everyday moments, not skip past them.

By Poppy Jamie

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