Have you ever felt caught up in the whirlwind of life? Have you ever felt like you were being swept away by events surrounding you? Have you ever felt overwhelmed and wanted to scream?
We all have.
What’s the good news? There’s a better way. I encourage you to take the time to slow the pace of your life and enjoy it.
Here are a few tips for sloooooowing down. Notice I didn’t say “STOP” – you don’t have to stop working, stop going to school, stop being a parent (well, maybe sometime’s it’s nice to take a break) – you just need to reward yourself with a slower pace. Life isn’t a race.
- Do less
Cut back on your projects, your task list, on how much you try to do each day. Focus not on quantity but quality. Pick 2-3 important things — or even just one important thing — and work on those first. Save smaller, routine tasks for later in the day, but give yourself time to focus.
- Ditch the meetings
Meetings are usually a big waste of time. And they eat into your day, forcing you to squeeze the things you really need to do into small windows, and making you rush. Try to schedule blocks of time with no interruptions, so you don’t have to rush from one meeting to another.
- Practice disconnecting
Have times when you turn off your devices and your email notifications, your pager, your television, etc. Carve out time with no phone calls, when you’re just creating, or when you’re just spending time with someone, or just reading a book, or just taking a walk, or just eating a meal. You can even disconnect for (gasp!) an entire day, and the world won’t come to an end. Yes, really.
- Give yourself time to get ready and get there
If you’re constantly rushing to appointments or other places you have to be, it’s because you don’t allot enough time in your schedule for preparing and for traveling. Pad your schedule to allow time for this “transition” stuff. If you think it only takes you 10 minutes to get ready for work or a date, perhaps give yourself 30-45 minutes so you don’t have to shave in a rush or put on makeup in the car. If you think you can get there in 10 minutes, perhaps give yourself 2-3 times that amount so you can go at a leisurely pace and maybe even get there early.
- Learn to be comfortable with sitting and doing nothing
One thing I’ve noticed is that when people have to wait, they become impatient or uncomfortable. They turn to their mobile device or a magazine, because waiting is either a waste of time or something they’re not used to doing without feeling self-conscious. Instead, try just sitting there, looking around, soaking in your surroundings. Try standing in line and just watching and listening to people around you. Strike up a conversation with a stranger (you can do it!). It takes practice, but after awhile, you’ll learn to wait and do nothing with a smile.
- Realize that if it doesn’t get done, it’s not the end of the world
There’s always tomorrow. Yes, I know that’s a frustrating notion for some of you who don’t like laziness or procrastination or living without firm deadlines, but it’s also reality. The world likely won’t end if you don’t get that task done today. Your boss might get mad, but the company won’t collapse, life will inevitably go on, and the things that need to get done will.
- Start to eliminate the unnecessary
When you do the important things with focus, without rush, there will be things that get pushed back, that don’t get done. And you need to ask yourself: how necessary are these things anyway? What would happen if I stopped doing them? How can I eliminate them, delegate them, or automate them?
- Practice mindfulness
Simply learn to live in the present, rather than thinking so much about the future or the past. When you eat, fully appreciate your food. When you’re with someone, be with them fully. This means stop peeking at your cell phone! When you’re walking, appreciate your surroundings, no matter where you are. When you’re with your children or other family members, look at them when they speak to you, examine them as if they are strangers, try to see them in a different way. Appreciate them.
- Slowly eliminate commitments
We’re overcommitted, which is why we’re rushing around so much. I don’t just mean with work — projects and meetings and the like. Parents have tons of things to do with and for their kids, and we over-commit our kids as well. (I’m looking at you well-intentioned but chaotic parent!) Many of us have busy social lives, or civic commitments, or are coaching or playing on sports teams. We have classes and groups and hobbies. But in trying to cram so much into our lives, we’re actually deteriorating the quality of those lives. Slowly eliminate commitments — pick the few essential ones, and realize that the rest, while nice or important, just don’t fit right now. Politely inform people, over time, that you don’t have time to stick to those commitments.
It’s no fun feeling like you’re on an out-of-control treadmill. Remember George Jetson? “Jane, stop this crazy thing!” (apologies to those not old enough to remember The Jetsons … Google it). Life is better unrushed, and given the fleeting nature of this life, why waste even a moment by rushing through it?