Monday, March 24, 2014

Tips for Going Slow, Living Life, and Breathing in the Midst of Busyness

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She wrote about how she stewards her time and she stood by it. It was good advice for an introverted, entrepreneurial, non-morning-person. But the other side of efficiency is workaholism. When she worked a job that sucked her very life from her body...Well, it was easy to have hard boundaries that include a solid quittin’ time and weekends.

But when you love what you do? Well, that’s different. And she found her boundaries falling at the wayside. She wasn’t eating regularly, not taking breaks, and most of the time her mind was so full she was barely breathing. But most importantly she was sacrificing the things that mattered most.

She hadn't had coffee with a friend in how many weeks? She sacrificed what were once much desired days off with her husband for productivity. She even put him to work. He felt useful. She felt like she was using him. And she hated it all. She hated herself. The person she had become. Her lack of margin, joy, stillness. Even when she was “off the clock” she found it hard to slow her brain. Always thinking of the to-do list or brainstorming the next great idea. Most of all she was beginning to hate this life she had prayed for. Her passions were running her dry.

As in most stories like this she was forced to stop. Her body shut down. Filled with germs that come from an immune system weakened by going too hard for too long. She was forced to spend days on the couch. And even then she tried to work in spite of it all.

But slowly as the fog began to lift she realized both lives were a farce. She hated the idleness of being forced to rest by sickness and she hated the insanity of going so fast she had no time to choose rest. So she asked herself, how can one be both productive and slow? Efficient and at peace? Live a full life and have time for really living?

I’ve been working through these questions for a few weeks now and I know I haven’t gotten it right yet. But here’s what I have so far:

Tips for Going Slow, Living Life, and Breathing in the Midst of Busyness

  • Incorporate times to slow throughout the day. You know what will work best for you but this could include an actual lunch break where you unplug from all the screens in your life. Or afternoon tea. Or a reading break.

  • Implement a quitting time and stick to it. Whether your day starts early or late you need to know when it ends. Whatever time you choose maybe add in something that signals to yourself and your brain that the work day is over. What about a glass of wine, a bit of dark chocolate, or a quitting song you listen to as you prep dinner or walk around the block? If your schedule tends to be chunks of time instead of full days, make sure in your off times you’re really off.

  • Do the opposite. Because I am prone to work alcoholism my instinct is to always fit in one more thing, check my email just one more time, etc. What I am usually never prone to do is take a bubble bath. For me it is wise to begin running the water as soon as I feel compelled to work beyond my boundaries. (Truth? Self-care is one of the harder areas for me). Whatever your opposite is, consider doing it when you feel compelled to overwork.

I could keep this list going by telling you to include nature, make art for yourself, and included your loved ones in this process. But three steps is a good place to start for those of us who already work too much.

I’d love to hear how you set boundaries, go slow, and practice self-care in the comments below.

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