If you want something doing, ask a busy person. I am a busy person, but now in my forties, being busy is exhausting. I am not sure if it’s my age, the journey of healing previous traumas or the pandemic, or perhaps it’s a combination of all of them. Over the last two years, I have been learning to slow down, so I wanted to share what I have found.
It all started when, during lockdown, I felt hopeless, uncertain and scared. I hadn’t realised that these all linked to a trait that I thought was good about me - being busy. I was prioritising being busy in order to feel worthy, to feel like I am doing something but essentially putting my head in the sand.
Barriers to slowing down
But just like being busy is a barrier to me acknowledging what is really going on, so too are there barriers to slowing down. It feels weird; slowing down is really hard if you’re used to being busy. Slowing down can also feel overwhelming, if you’re like me and keep busy to avoid what’s really going on then it can bring up difficult memories or feelings. If this is true for you, consider talking to a therapist.
7 Benefits to slowing down
It may seem counterintuitive, but slowing down can be a faster way to achieve your goals. Fighting our urge to live and work faster can lead to clearer thinking, deeper connections, and better mental health.
In learning to face my feelings and endeavouring to slow down I have realised that it is not possible to slow down at all times. There will be times that require us to use extra energy and time but, practising a slower pace when it is possible does have its benefits:
Getting more done
I get more done than I used to. Now I am getting better at slowing down, I have more space and energy for the important things (and people) in my life. This became apparent for me and many others during lockdown when we had to choose the things that we really wanted to do, and the people we really wanted to spend time with. I am able to focus and let the rest go.
Prioritising more efficiently
I prioritise better. When I am rushing, being busy, I am firefighting. I am in that top left box of the Eisenhower Matrix, jumping from one crisis to another, barely balancing. I am unable to prioritise and so end up doing nothing. Now I see this as a trigger for me.
I am discovering my self-worth. The more that I allow myself to pause, the more I am choosing myself, rather than the side of me that people-pleases so as not to be rejected. It's easier to connect with myself and my needs, to ask for what I need and say no to the things that erode my self-worth.
Being vs Doing
Have you ever heard the phrase by Dr Sukhraj Dhillon “You should sit in meditation for twenty minutes every day - unless you're too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”? It took me ages to get it. In the last 12 months, I have been learning the difference between doing and being. I still need to take action but I now realise that this empties my bucket - physically and emotionally.
So, I make sure to balance that by being - tapping into my intuition, resting and meditation.
I act with more intention and less impulse. When we focus on being busy we blindly follow a path that isn’t the most efficient one to reach our goals - whether it’s following what others tell us or choosing the one that seems most obvious. Slowing down helps us focus with greater intention when we make plans.
Quality of life
The quality of my life has improved. I think we think that being busy equals doing more. But more doesn't equal better. In choosing to slow down I spend more time over tasks, more time listening and having a better experience. This isn't always possible but now I question time constraints more frequently and test them.
Slowing down is more sustainable. Consistent effort over time is more sustainable than pushing your limits to work as fast as possible. To do our best work, we need mental downtime, space for self-reflection, and a realistic schedule we can actually keep up with.
You can’t do it all
I talk a lot about not being able to do it all. Today’s society uses busyness as a measure of performance. How fast can you complete a task? How many prospective clients can you call in an hour? How much of your day can you spend working? If you’re not busy, are you even productive? I know this last one is something that’s often asked of those of us working from home! This mindset results in burnout, poor decision making and bad communication.
Learning to slow down
How do we change the narrative? Start with exploring what you actually need to do. What makes you feel overwhelmed? We spend so much of our time firefighting, it’s time to notice these activities and consider saving them for when you have more energy or make time to rest after them.
However, in my experience, slowing down is hard, the key (I am still learning) is to make it simple. A deep breath here, a glass of water there. Even standing up if you’re sitting down, or taking a 10-minute walk can make a difference. These quick resets give us more space to move with intention and focus throughout the day.
For longer-term solutions focus on your boundaries - blocking out your calendar, resisting the urge to multitask and most importantly, remembering that you can always say no! When we choose how and with whom we spend our time, we are asking ourselves what’s important and spreading our energy out where it is most beneficial.
Slow down to go further
Overall, slowing down will help you make better decisions, connect deeper with people, and have more meaningful experiences, all while improving your mental well-being by avoiding burnout. You may go slower, but you will go further.