The skill of slowing down

The skill of slowing down

“You can do anything but not everything”, David Allen has so accurately stated. By this quote, the renowned productivity consultant draws attention to the undeniable fact that our time is limited, so you better choose wisely how to use your precious time. 

Many of us, including myself, follow a popular notion that not only do we can, but we should pull off approximately one-thousand tasks per day. This is the so-called productivity, right? The opposite is laziness and lack of aspirations. Who wants to be called lazy and indifferent? Certainly not I. So, I better get back to overflowing my weekly schedule to satisfy my inner need for productivity and social acceptance. In fact, the more tired I am at the end of the day or week, the more constructive my time is and the more accomplished I should feel. Besides, resting is for the weak, dull and idle people.

I grew up with parents busy from dusk till dawn with day work or household chores. I never saw them pause during the day to read a book or the newspaper or simply enjoy resting in the armchair or in our beautiful balconies and garden. Only sluggish people find time to relax outside the typical siesta or nighttime. To their mentality, resting during the day is interpreted as a lack of care for their family or household.

And here is where I can now spot the misconception surrounding the idea of productivity. A fallacy that has been following me my whole life so far and which I am finally trying to renounce. Credits also to motherhood.

I am naturally active and productive and frankly enjoy being one. I like to get things done. Work in the morning until afternoon and then return home for more action, be it household matters, exercise, socialising, running errands, and so on.

When motherhood came into my life, I just continued being busy, almost like nothing had changed. The baby’s sleep time seemed like an invitation to rush and finish pending tasks. The result is evident, and I am not referring just to the physical exhaustion but also to the mental fatigue. Every day is the same: clean, cook, do laundry, grocery shopping, baby needs, order this or that, be exhausted, sleep. And, of course, don’t forget to socialise. And don’t skip your exercise routine. And don’t ignore your personal projects. And and and and.

Multiple times, via these essays, I have openly expressed my belief on the importance of time in life, let alone quality time. As I am currently off work, one would think that I probably have all the time of my life to take it easy, take up new hobbies, or practice old ones… alas! On the contrary, I found myself drawing apart from this idea despite acknowledging that my busyness has and should have limits. I became exhausted and guilty for all the things I could and should have done by now and the ones coming ahead. Luckily, I realised quickly that I needed to dare changes in my life to enjoy it.

So, I started practising how to slow down during my day in order to also enjoy what truly brings me joy. These are some of the steps I have started following and have proved beneficial so far:

  • Stay organised. Make space in your day/week and set aside time to take it easy while staying away from tasks. Put it down in your online or physical calendar and remain faithful to it. I swear by this simple but crucial advice.
  • Breath. A commonplace technique with much power to bring one back in the here and now. When I feel overwhelmed, I stay still and take a couple of deep breaths with my eyes closed to refocus on the essence of the day and take distance from what stresses or angers me.
  • Go to bed early. No scrolling. Read a book, do a crossword or sudoku. Do not overestimate the miraculous effect of a good night’s sleep, let alone multiple nights. It helps to see life under a different prism, a more positive one.
  • Go for a walk. I personally relish long walks around my neighbourhood or the nearest forest/park. I always take my phone with me -for an emergency- but I choose not to use it. I simply walk around at a calming pace and look for secret gems, such as a cute coffee shop or an inspiring bookshop. During the work days, I frequently use my break time to walk around sipping my coffee and enjoy my surroundings without thinking of work or home tasks. 
  • Recline and read a book or newspaper, listen to music, stare out the window… or don’t do anything in particular. Just enjoy chilling.
  • Take a long shower or bath. 
  • Do a jigsaw puzzle. I love puzzles and find them utterly meditating. I can spend hours searching for the right pieces in the company of coffee, a glass of wine, music or podcasts. Or in silence.
  • Make peace with the undeniable fact that I cannot accomplish all the tasks I am expected to complete. A painful but irrefutable truth, There will always be countless items on our to-do lists and never enough time to tick them off. It is an elusion that once we finish our tasks, we will be fulfilled, for there will be more jobs waiting for us and then some more. Time, on the other hand, is finite. 

Slowing down does not come easily in our adult lives. Children have this beautiful skill, which they tend to lose as they progress through life, for it gets busier and more chaotic; it fills up with expectations and tasks and a crooked perception around the pursuit of happiness. Nevertheless, it is never late to acknowledge the need for and practice the skill of slowing down. Anyway, we will never achieve to solve the equation of time over tasks.

2 thoughts on “The skill of slowing down”

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *