10 Ways to Slow Down and Live More
At the end of 2019 I selected two theme words for 2020. I waited with anticipation for the start of a new decade so I could lean into what I expected to be two powerful choices in my life. I imagined 2020 was going to be a life changing year for me. And boy, was I right.
I think I just heard a virtual Amen!
My theme words for 2020 were/are: love and simplify. For the sake of this article, I’ll focus on the latter. I craved a simpler life. I stopped short of saying I was moving into a minimalist lifestyle, though I was and still am attracted to the simplicity of minimalism. I just knew I no longer relished the frenetic pace and overbooked schedule – the glorification of busyness. I didn’t want to envy people who found peace and calm in idle moments. I wanted to be them. For 2020, I envisioned a year of decluttering – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually; of saying “no” more often, especially when I didn’t really want to say “yes.” I imagined more white space on my calendar, space representing time to think, reflect, and to be. I wanted to slow down and escape the lure of incessant busyness.
I wanted to slow down and live more.
COVID-19 isn’t known for gifts, but it has given one. Especially at the beginning when the virus swept in like a tsunami, everything came to an abrupt halt. With shelter-in-place and social distancing, I found myself spending several weeks in physical isolation. Initially, it wasn’t so bad. After all, I’d always thought how nice it would be to work from home more often. If I wanted more time to myself to think and reflect, I had it. Then a funny thing happened. As the weeks passed and we all grew accustomed to the new normal, the work schedule regained momentum and then somehow surpassed the demands I had when I worked in-person in the office.
How could that be? I think it’s more than my perception because I’ve heard too many others say the same thing. Gone were the slower mornings. In their place were back-to-back videoconference calls spanning across time zones. I found I was an integrator, meaning I integrated my workday and my personal time together to the extent that it was hard to recognize where one stopped and the other started. Instead of gaining more time to decompress, reflect, and be idle, I was overscheduled, overworked, and overwhelmed. And, I was exhausted.
Then in early April, one of my best childhood girlfriends lost her life to cancer. I stopped. I reflected on my memories of her and the importance of spending time with family and friends. Life is precious. I initiated Sunday evening Zoom calls with my Dad, siblings and other family members. We laughed and those times brought a closeness that we had not made space for previously – caught up in the pace of life.
After the death of my friend, I refocused on my 2020 vision board and the theme words I’d committed to before the year started. I was determined to simplify my life. The time between April and July, I gathered up clothing, books, furniture and other belongings to declutter my physical space. I worked with my assistant to regain and protect the white space on my calendar. I took my dog, Marley, for walks during lunch. I recommitted to my 5 o’clock AM wake up and morning routine that included meditation, journaling, morning walks, and sitting for breakfast. I was finally getting a grasp on what it means to me to live a simpler life.
Then in early July, almost three months to the day that my girlfriend passed away, my younger brother died. I stopped again.
In April, I wrote the article, 10 Hugely Practical Aha’s I Wish I’d Learned Sooner. This is what I wrote about death:
More than anything else, it’s death that teaches us to appreciate life.
Memento Mori is a Latin phrase which means “remember death.” The inevitability of death can lead to morbid thoughts and fear or it can inspire an appreciation for life and the determination to live each day to the fullest. It had the latter effect on me when my mother died 37 years ago and most recently when one of my dearest friends died. Tomorrow is not promised. This present moment is all we have. Cherish it and make it count. To love life is to lose the fear of death.
As I process the loss of my brother on this side of life, I’m drawn again to commit to slowing down and living more. Life is precious.
My commitment led to researching the revolutionary movement called the Slow Movement. It is a term coined by Carl Honoré in his book, In Praise of Slow (2004), in which Honoré advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life’s pace, and includes everything from food, to work, to parenting and more. In his book, slowing down encompasses more than losing the fascination with fast and efficient. It also promotes a life with less volume, intensity and busyness. In an article on Slow Living, authors Beth Meredith and Eric Storm summarize slow living as follows:
Slow Living means structuring your life around meaning and fulfillment. Similar to “voluntary simplicity” and “downshifting,” it emphasizes a less-is-more approach, focusing on the quality of your life. … Slow Living addresses the desire to lead a more balanced life and to pursue a more holistic sense of well-being in the fullest sense of the word. (Wikipedia, Slow Movement (Culture))
This is my journey. Perhaps it’s yours too. There are so many elements of Slow Living that align with Your Aha! Life. I was on to something when I chose the theme word simplify for 2020. I didn’t know what lay ahead, but in the midst of a pandemic and the deaths of two dear souls, I’m finding solace in slowing down and living more.
Here are 10 Ways You Can Slow Down and Live More:
1. Do mundane tasks slower.
Talk slower. Walk Slower. Drive slower – try driving the actual speed limit. Brush your teeth for two minutes, as recommended. Brew your coffee. Let your tea steep for several minutes. Inhale the aroma and dip your face in the steam.
2. Instead of a shower, opt for a bath at least once a week.
The very act of running bath water, sitting in a tub and soaking, invites you to slow down. I like to light candles, play my favorite music and sip a glass of wine.
3. Practice mindfulness and meditation regularly.
The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are many. Leo Babauta’s article, How to Savor Life, is worth reading here as he extols the virtues of being present, of savoring every moment of your life. Breathe deeply several times throughout your day.
4. Spend time observing nature.
Whether walking or hiking a trail, or sitting beside the seashore, nature can teach us so much about living unhurriedly. Rise early to watch the sunrise or linger to watch it set. Notice it takes a full 365 days for the earth to orbit the sun just once. Lao Tzu said, “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
5. Create white space in your calendar.
Start your week’s scheduling by blocking off 25% of your time for lunch, for thinking and planning, for conversations, and personal development. Block another 10-15% for being idle, creating space to slow down, to make room for the unexpected. Then schedule your other work and meetings around those blocks. Try it for a week and feel the difference.
Try following the KonMari™ method (starting with clothes, then move on to books, papers, miscellaneous, and finally to sentimental items). Keep only what you need and what speaks to your heart. Let go of those things that no longer spark joy.
7. Mono-task and Do Less.
Yes, the opposite of multi-tasking. Take time to focus on one thing at a time. Give it the attention it deserves. Try this with a project at work, a conversation, or when reading. Closely related to this is to simply do less. Remove items from your to-do list and focus on the things that are most important. Get comfortable saying “no.”
8. Disconnect from devices.
Silence your ringer and notifications when you need uninterrupted time, when you’re eating, or taking a walk. Better still, turn off your device or leave it behind when you feel a need to disconnect. I know it’s difficult, but when it matters, it’s worth the effort. Refrain from checking your devices as soon as you awake or right before bed. Resist the urge to be “always on.”
9. Connect with people.
When you are with people, be with them. Give eye contact. Listen deeply to what they have to say. Notice how it feels to be with those you care about. Be grateful for the gift of family and friendship. In the end, it’s our relationships that matter.
10. Establish a daily routine.
Start with getting up 30 to 60 minutes earlier. Map out the routine or rituals that create a sense of peace, order, and self-care to your mornings and evenings. Try it for at least 21 consecutive days. Stick to it and protect your schedule. How you do anything is how you do everything. Having a routine that works for you is an essential step in taking command of your day.
This year has brought more than any of us imagined, but it is for that very same reason that I’m glad I made a choice to simplify – to slow down and live more.
If you are interested in simplifying your life or joining the Slow Movement, I’d love to hear from you. What additional steps would you recommend supporting slow living?
If you enjoyed reading this article, go to my website, Your Aha! Life. You’ll find more articles like this one, access to my Podcast, and Resources that will support Your Aha! Life journey. You can also learn more about joining my private Facebook group, The Aha! Community and subscribe to my monthly newsletter. So many great ways to learn, grow, and connect. I look forward to getting to know you.