8 ‘Quick’ Ideas to Help You Slow Down

Sometimes it’s as if the world is stuck in fast-forward. We’re too busy, rushing, preoccupied, distracted, worn out, cramming more and more into shorter and shorter periods. In our society you can stop off for fast food before your speed date, and afterwards unwind doing speed yoga before going home to read your kids a one minute bedtime story!  Sometimes, to quote Carrie Fisher‘Even instant gratification takes too long”.

We all would like to know how to slow down – but we want to know really quickly !

If you often feel too much like the Road Runner try a few of the ideas below . . . take your time, there’s no rush.

1 – Decide to Slow Down Today

Don’t leave it until you develop a stress related illness before you decide to slow down – insomnia, depression and a variety mental health issues, eating disorders, anxiety, susceptibility to colds and viruses, headaches, hypertension and heart disease are all strongly linked to stress. In Japan there is actually a word for death from overwork.  Don’t wait until your relationship is at breaking point until you decide you need to spend more time with your partner and family.

2 – Ask Yourself Where You’re Going

Filling our days and weeks and years with constant activity might mean we never step back sufficiently and properly consider the direction of our lives. Don’t be one of these people who experiences sudden regret with the realisation they’ve chosen the wrong carrier, wrong home, wrong partner or even entirely the wrong life! Spend time remembering and rediscovering what makes you happy, and how you like to spend your time, and make an conscious effort to direct your future.

3 – See What’s Missing

Having looked at how we spend our days, what is it we’re not finding time for ? Family, friends, hobbies, exercise, sleep . . . perhaps you’re one of those lucky people whose life is pretty much perfect, but if not then try to work out what the missing ingredient is? It’s not all that easy though, to simply drop everything and ‘do what we love’, as many self-help manuals and life coaches would urge us. We still have to pay the bills and meet our responsibilities, but all of us can at least manage to squeeze a little more of what we love into our lives.

4 – Clear Out the Clutter

We can develop an automatic tendency to acquire junk and clutter in our lives: it’s there, it’s available, it’s seems like a good idea at the time, so we buy it. The same applies with our habits and relationships – we keep doing things out of routine, we maintain old commitments simply because we’ve never questioned them, we keep doing a certain thing a certain way because we’re too lazy to change. Question the value of how you spend your time.

5 – Limit the Noise

The most important place to slow down is inside our own minds. If we want more calm and focus, then it makes sense to limit our distractions. Reduce the number of valueless emails, messages and phone calls you get and limit TV viewing, time spent with social media and the internet. Obviously communication and knowing what’s going on in the world is important, but we now have never ending streams of information and we must learn to filter these effectively or we become overloaded. We all consume ever increasing amounts of information, fantastically more than our parents or grandparents did. We would do well to give ourselves some quiet time.

6 – Protect Your Time

‘Just say no’ – no doubt we’ve all heard this before, but it’s much harder to do than say. Block out time for yourself in your diary and resist the temptation to chip away at it. Cultivate the gently art of saying no to people’s requests a little more, being more selective about what you agree to.

7 – Be Realistic

If you find you’re always rushing to finish something because you’ve got to be getting on with the next thing, part of the problem is likely to be that you’ve underestimated how long each task will take you. We increasingly have a tendency to over-commit our time, driven by all sorts of pressures – perhaps if we simply doubled our estimate of how long completing certain things would take we’d feel under less stress, and might even find ourselves enjoying doing things a little more.

8 – Listen to Your Body

Pay attention to your body – if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, then your body is sending a clear signal to you. Your involuntary parasympathetic nervous system is reacting to the mental stress you’re under by shifting your body into fight or flight mode. Heart rate and breathing increase, constriction of blood vessels, salivation, loss of peripheral vision, dilation of pupils and cessation of digestion. In more extreme cases nervous ticking, rapid breathing and shaking can occur, commonly referred to as panic attacks. Many of these symptoms are the result of the frustrated desire of our bodies to be doing something active in response to stress, and we can lessen these by simply standing up, stretching, deep breathing, going for a short walk or doing some exercise. Next time you feel under time pressure give it a go – you’ll feel better.

Photo by Wwarby via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – Time Management Doesn’t Exist, Not Enough Hours in the Day, 10 Ways to Simplify Your Life

Charity DOES Begin at Home

Some time ago I was talking to a friend and the conversation turned to charity, and how much we both tend to give.

“I never give to charity”, they said “I don’t believe in it”.

I was a little taken aback.

My friend is a perfectly nice and amiable person, personally generous to their friends and not especially mean spirited. I’d never really come across anyone with such a hard view of charity before, and certainly wasn’t expecting it from my friend. It turns out my friend’s not unique, I’ve encountered others with the same view since.

People offer a range of reasons for their opposition to charity: “all the money gets wasted”, “people need to learn to look after themselves”, “I don’t have enough money myself”. I actually heard someone say “well its survival of the fittest isn’t it” when asked about developing world poverty once. Others seem to have broader and deeper issues, related to some form of hoarding instinct, or a genuine lack of emotional empathy for others, such as with Doctor Spock style Alexithymia. Recent research does suggests there may be a genetic component to generosity.

The most common reason that tends to be offered though is “I’ve never really thought about it”.

When it comes to charitable giving there’s a spectrum that ranges from cheerful and generous sacrificial giving, all the way to not believing in charity at all, passing through various shades of awkward guilt and lukewarm occasional support, in between.

Why ?

And of course it’s not just giving to charity, the same question arises with anything we do more for others than ourselves. Pay more for fairtrade – why ? Make less profit with an ethical investment account – why ? Pay more for green electricity – why ?

There are as many reasons given in support of empathy and compassion as against it – that it’s in the common good and makes things better for everyone, that it’s a requirement of an ethical code, that its a religious commandment or that its all down to mirror neurons.

The truth is, of course, that to a significant extent empathy and compassion are learned, especially in early childhood. Charity in later life, it seems, really does begin in the home.

We all tend to imitate what we see and what’s modeled for us when growing-up, and several developmental psychologists (including Sue Gerhardt) have stressed the importance of  a warm loving environment and relationships for developing empathy in children.

Fortunately, if you’ve left teaching (or learning) empathy a little late, all the indications are that it can also be successfully learned later in life. Many courses and training – whether for ex-prisoners trying manage anger, doctors improving their bedside manner or (of course) for marketing, now incorporate empathy development. The economist and activist Jeremy Rifkin believes the development of increased global empathy is what will ultimately save the world.

So more hugs all round then!

Similar articles – Saving Lives, From Hunter-Gatherers to Shopper-Borrowers, It’s Not the Thought that Counts

Photo by carnoodles, via Flickr

Not Enough Hours in the Day

In 2002 the marketing consultant Bill Geist invented a new phrase: time poverty.

Time poverty is the sense of not having enough available time to do everything you want, of constantly rushing to meet looming deadlines, and being overloaded with things to do, coupled with a general anxiety and guilt because you know you’re always too busy, and aren’t spending enough time with your friends and family, exercising, relaxing or even enjoying yourself.

Sound familiar ?

Do you remember that new technology was meant to make us more efficient and give us all more free time. Instead somehow we’ve shifted our expectations, and the constant ability to do work and endless opportunities and choices available to us have made us strive to do even more, over scheduling our lives as a result. We take work home, we run from one appointment to the next – always late, we try to cram more and more into every moment – multi-tasking ruthlessly. Yet whatever we’re doing, part of our brain always seems to be contemplating whatever it is we’re not doing.

We belong to the most productive and efficient civilization the world has ever seen – but many of us are simply struggling to juggle all the things we feel we should be doing in our lives. It’s easy to find news stories like children being too busy to playvoters too busy to voteChristians too busy to pray, or nurses too busy to nurse.

In the rich world most of us don’t have to face the harsh realities of extreme poverty that exist for many in the poor world – our fundamental material needs of food, clean water and shelter are generally met. Nevertheless our societies struggle to be happy, with poor diets, increasing levels of obesity and diabetes, stress and exhaustion, sleep disorders, guilt, depression, isolation, alcoholism and other addictions – the so called diseases of affluence. In addition our families, our social institutions and our community cohesion is suffering as we simply struggle to find enough time to engage. Even if we find the time, we all too often can’t summon up the energy!

Of course this is a problem entirely of our own making – we’ve chosen to lead such busy lives.

Time is not a resource – we all have the same amount available. We cannot spend it, save it, use it or waste it. To quote Douglas Adams; “time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so”.

Paradoxically the oft quoted solution to the problem of time poverty – becoming more efficient, having more lists, being better organised, using the latest technology more effectively, not only doesn’t work, but actually adds to our sense of time pressure! Completing tasks in as short as time as possible is obviously a worthy objective, but if we tend to simply refill our to do lists with more tasks as a result, we’ve simply maintained or increased the pressure on ourselves.

It’s obviously easier to say it than do it, but to overcome the stresses of time poverty we must simply do less and reclaim more of our time from our ‘to-do’ lists.

One way to start is by making a don’t-do-list – to identify and challenge all the things you’re currently doing, with the aim of de-cluttering your life. Only keep what you’re passionate about – or what is so essential to your life it’s not negotiable (and very few things are).

A few ideas:

  • Delegate or pass-on as much as you can, and then ‘let go’ the responsibility for it,
  • Stop trying to make everything perfect,
  • Stop doing things that used to be a good idea if they no longer are,
  • Stop doing things you are doing only through pride, insecurity, status anxiety, guilt or habit,
  • Stop spending time processing ‘junk inputs’, use filters to remove unwanted emails, post, phone calls, texts and social media messages, don’t watch TV programmes just because they’re on,
  • Stop procrastinating, just focus on completing the task in hand. Actively remove distractions to help increase your concentration (like closing down Facebook, Twitter etc open on your browser),
  • Stop rerunning past events, or pointlessly worrying about things in the future you can’t control.

Once again Zen Habits has some good advice.

For inspiration watch the video on the left – if you just want a laugh watch the one on the right.

 

RELATED ARTICLES – Time Management Doesn’t Exist

Photo by deflam, via Flickr

Time Management Doesn’t Exist

Unless you’re Doctor Who, it’s impossible to manage time.

Give up trying and manage your life instead.

STOP TRYING TO ‘FIND TIME’

When we talk about trying to ‘find time’ for something, what we mean is craming even more into our already full and over-busy lives. If we want to make better choices in our lives, about diet and exercise, how we relax and enjoy ourselves or how we spend our money, then we will help ourselves if we stop filling every minute of every day with more ‘stuff to do’.

Relaxed and stress free people are less selfish, less angry, more generous, more considerate and more connected with others. Taking on more and more ‘to do’s', squeezes out other things from our lives, time for: reflection, imagination, inspiration, relaxation, fun, and if we’re not careful even sleep! We might not even notice ourselves loosing these things at first, until we suddenly think one day – when was the last time I played my guitar?, spent time just playing with my children?, or simply daydreamed while watching the clouds?

Most time management books and courses focus on using time more and more efficiently, so you can get more and more done. Why ? Is the purpose of your life just to do as many things as possible ?

Swim against the tide a little – slow down and do less !

TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Life is complicated and sometimes difficult, but every day is filled with new possibility. We can change our direction and rhythm – our tomorrows needn’t be always dictated by our yesterdays. Many people drift into depression gradually, becoming trapped by routine, stuck-in-their-ruts, and loose touch with all the enjoyable parts of life. The key thing is to realise that you can make things different.

Even the act of mentally deciding to take control and direct your life can be tremendously liberating and empowering. Give yourself permission to change your life and you’ll feel better as a result.

Avoid the temptation to blame chance, events, or others – of course things go wrong and bad stuff happens, but how we choose to react is up to us.

MAKE GOOD CHOICES

Imagine yourself at the end of your life, looking back – what do you think will seem important ? What would you like to have achieved ? What would you like your relationships to have been like ? What kind of person would you like to have been ?

How can you live your life so that you will get to that point ? Having a sense of clear vision for your life will help prevent the feeling of ennui and being adrift in the world.

We’re all different. Take time to consider what the most important things in your life are, and what you want to spend the rest of your time doing. Identify some key goals and objectives to work towards.

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY, NOT THE DESTINATION

But life isn’t that simple – one of the contradictory things about it seems to be, that although it’s important to have goals and objectives to strive towards (no matter how modest), to give life a sense of purpose. Much of the joy and happiness in life comes not from achieving goals, but from the process of working towards them.

Very often we can become so focussed on reaching our objectives, that we forget to appreciate the journey.

And ultimately our whole life is ‘journey’.

 

Three different videos – for whether you’re feeling in need of inspiration, spirituality or poetry !

The Power of Time Off               Shells                                         The Road Not Taken

Stefan Sagmeister                      Rob Bell                                     Robert Frost

Photo by Shining Darkness

Sixty Seconds Worth of Distance Run

Got some spare time ?

“It’s later than you think” – Anonymous Sundial Inscription

1 MINUTE

Water a plant. Sort out the recycling. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and relax. Remove something harmful from the road. Hug someone who needs it. Get yourself a glass of water. Stretch. Focus your mind on what you’re doing now. Write a note of thanks to somebody. Turn-off any appliances left on standby. Focus on your breathing. Leave someone an anonymous positive post-it note.

5 MINUTES

Donate free rice online. Post an encouraging comment on the internet. Talk to a homeless person on the street. Leave an anonymous positive note, or voucher in a returned library book. Turn your hot water thermostat down one degree. Learn or tell a joke. Put some coins in someone else’s parking meter. Decide what you want to achieve today. Give someone encouraging feedback. Email an old friend. Sign-up to a 38 Degrees petition. Send a friend or colleague a link to an inspiring or useful website. Put half a brick in your toilet cistern to reduce the water used each flush. Pray, reflect or meditate. Sign-up with the MPS and Royal Mail to avoid junk mail. Promote a cause or campaign using social media. Feed the birds.

10 MINUTES

Have a mini-purge of your wardrobe or cupboards. Make a micro-loan via Kiva. Send someone a small anonymous gift. Phone a family member or close friend just to say Hi and tell them how much you appreciate them. Watch the clouds drift past. Collect litter from your street. Make a list of things you’re thankful for. Cancel your newspaper subscription and read your news online instead. Read or write a poem.

15 MINUTES

Read to your child. Update your to-do-list. Clear out your email inbox. Spend some time with your pet. Write to your MP. Introduce some friends to each other. Check your car’s tyre pressures. Listen to an inspirational TED talk or lecture. Write to your local Council about something that needs to be done, or just to say thanks. Prepare a healthy lunchbox for tomorrow. Start a compost heap in your garden. Clean the back of your fridge, as dusty coils use more energy. Sponsor a child in the developing world through Compassion or World Vision. Send someone an unexpected gift. Go for a short walk outside. Donate food to your nearest foodbank.

30 MINUTES

Take a short nap to refresh yourself. Take a half-hour break from the TV or computer. Play with your children. Do some exercise. Wipe the slate clean and reconcile with someone you’ve fallen-out with. Arrange a car-share with someone. Switch you energy, banking or mortgage to ethical or green providers. Bleed all your radiators and set your thermostats and timer properly. Plant and grow your own flowers to give as gifts, instead of buying imported ones. Get your opinions known – write to a local paper, call a local radio chat show or post on the internet. Clear out your fridge, but keep your freezer nearly full.

1 HOUR

Cut your neighbours hedge or mow their lawn. If you’re lucky enough to have paid work to do, do some – many people in the world are not so lucky. Go swimming. Lend someone a book. Write something for publication, or just for yourself. Go shopping for a neighbour. Listen to Randy Pausch give the ‘last lecture of his life’. Take your old mobile phones in for recycling. Teach somebody something – perhaps show an elderly relative how to use email or make video calls. Donate old books and other clutter to a charity shop. Cook a bulk meal for the week or the freezer.

1 EVENING

Read a book. Start a blog. Educate yourself on climate change, developing world debt, global food security, or any other complex issue. Look at better insulating your home with draught excluders or curtains. Clear out accumulated junk from your life. Work on your bucket list. Watch a good film or show. Learn to cook something new. Spend time with your partner. Write a letter to your future self. Plan healthier and more frugal meals for next week. Give blood. Attend a public meeting. Gaze at the stars.

1 DAY

Go on a family picnic. Prepare and plant a vegetable garden. Climb a mountain. Bury a time capsule. Install rainwater barrels and storage. Volunteer for something. Go cycling. Fix something that’s broken. Visit your local library. Do something to better organise your home or your surroundings. Discuss working from home more with your boss. Enter the Buckminster Fuller Challenge. Find something to get involved with in your local community. Join a group/organisation/church/society/class/course. Organise a hunger banquet.

1 WEEKEND

Remind yourself that the average Western life expectancy will mean you will enjoy around 4,000 weekends in your life – make them all count! Visit friends. Go on a beekeeping course.  DON’T go shopping. Go camping. Build a pond in your garden. Organise or install loft or cavity wall insulation. Plan your future.

 

Photo by Ross Elliot