In a society that persistently pushes us to do more, and to do it faster, how do we resist the urge to keep up?
Slowing down is one of the hardest things to do. Burn out isn’t a buzzword, it actually happens, and it’s unhealthy.
‘Time is precious’ you’ll hear people utter as they fly past you, take-away coffee in one hand, mobile phone in the other, running for the next bus or train. All while trying to type an email, do yoga, tweet, and check Facebook to see what their friends ate for breakfast.
The irony is that by jamming as many tasks as you can into every second of every day you lose sight of time. You lose sight of the days that pass you by. You lose sight of the finer, indescribable moments that actually make our lives what they are.
I’ll admit, I’ve got a Netflix account, and it gets used. A barrage of television shows and movies at our fingertips. Not only is the selection vast, the wish to watch one can be accomplished within mere seconds (dodgy Internet connection permitting). But I miss something.
I miss the time it used to take to get in the car and drive down to the video store. I miss spending a good half hour cruising up and down the aisles to see which movie jumped out at me. I’d read the back to see if the movie piqued my interest. This was a time-consuming process. I’d eventually settle on something with a flashy cover and well-written abstract, take it to the cashier, pay my $6 and give them my video card. I’d pay the inevitable overdue fees for the last movie, then drive home, looking forward to watching my selection later that evening.
The whole process from deciding to watch a movie to pressing play on my physical movie player took a few hours at least. But I miss it. The same goes for buying CD’s, waiting for the replay of a football match because there was no other way of knowing the result, or walking down the street to buy a newspaper.
Has the way we perform those functions today actually saved us time? Sure they have, but do they help us slow down? Absolutely not. They’ve simply given us more ‘time’ to jam other things into the empty space that’s left. Mobile phones in particular give us the power to do 24 things at once. Check emails, Facebook, twitter, Instagram, sports results, latest news and so on.
So how do we slow down? For the remainder of this year, I’m going to road test a few methods to see if I can gradually slow my life down and start taking some breaths. Here’s where I’ll start:
- Separate myself from my phone: No matter where I am, I’m going to attempt to put my phone elsewhere. If I’m at home, it can sit in a different room. If I’m at work, I’ll leave it in the car. I’ll check it once or twice throughout the day for those “urgent” messages, but not having it at my fingertips means not fiddling with it every 10 minutes to check things that don’t need to be checked. For anyone who’s picturing me as someone glued to my phone, I’m not as bad as other people, but I could be much much better.
- Separate myself from my Internet connection: This sounds a little bizarre but it’s something I’ve already been doing. When I get time to study my Uni course, I drive to a park and leave the distraction of my computer, PS4, and Netflix behind. If they aren’t in front of me, I can’t use them. Simple as that.
- More exercise: My bike will soon have its cobwebs brushed away, tires pumped, and the gears oiled. How is exercise slowing down? Aside from removing myself from the digital world above, exercise is one task. A bike ride means focusing on one single thing. There’s no multi-tasking. Not to mention all the other well-known health benefits associated with exercise.
- Assess my goals for the next 6 months: Goals, goals, goals… I’m sure people are sick to death of seeing the word ‘goals’, especially in blog posts. I admit they can be overused. Goals are easy to set, and even easier to forget. But this isn’t about setting them. It’s about assessing what I’m already doing, and rather than feel overwhelmed that I have too much happening at once, I’m going to set a few super-realistic timeframes for each task and with that the anxiety will lessen. If I have a rough plan in place, I won’t feel the need to fill every empty minute with another ‘urgent’ task.
- Stop over-planning free days: When I have a day off work, or a free weekend without Sel, my mind goes into overdrive at the 500,000 things I could try and fit in that I wouldn’t otherwise do if she were here. I’m going to stop doing that. Instead, I’ll wake up and see what I feel like doing and take it from there. Let my mind and body choose, and not force myself to do all those things I’d planned days earlier.
Five is enough. I’ll post up after Christmas how this went and whether I discovered any other useful methods along the way!
Slowing down is a hard thing to do but if we don’t try, the time will be gone before we know it.