When we make a conscious effort to slow down, it can have a profoundly positive effect on almost everything we do. Rushing from one task to another usually leads to not appreciating much of anything, and without really being aware of it, we end up missing out on large chunks of our lives.
Rushing for me was part of my daily routine for many years. I call it the ‘rat race’. Most working parents will know what I mean by this term. It started with the morning routine and continued until I rested my head at night.
I’d rush the kids out to school, I’d rush to work. I’d rush to meetings. I rushed through emails and phone calls, through lunch and coffee breaks. I’d rush to leave work just in time to pick up the kids. I’d rush through homework, through dinner, through bedtime stories – just to get ready to rush all over again tomorrow. I was in a constant state of ‘what has to be done next’.
Things changed for me when I made a conscious effort to slow down – way, way down!
This may sound counterproductive. How, you might ask does it make sense to slow down and still get everything done? That’s the point, it doesn’t and you can’t. It’s a fruitless exercise to try to do everything. Something or someone always loses out. That may be your children, your partner or your job, but most often it tends to be You.
Once I realised that it’s impossible to do everything and that nobody actually expects me too, it was like a weight lifted, an inner shift. I had put Myself under pressure to do more. I didn’t say “no” to taking on too much. I didn’t make enough time for Me.
We are in control of our own lives and we have the power to make the changes necessary to allow us to fully appreciate the things that matter. To become more present and take the time for the here and now.
Making just a few small changes can make a big difference to the pace we live our lives. Here’s my top tips:
Get up earlier
If you want to avoid the stress of the morning rush, get up earlier. It’s that simple. The morning is only stressful when time is too limited. Giving yourself sufficient time to do any task reduces the stress involved.
Get enough sleep
Go to bed earlier. Getting enough sleep allows you to get up earlier and reduce that morning rush. It also reduces anxiety, improves concentration, makes us more patient and enables us to make calmer and clearer decisions.
The morning is the best time. Even if it’s just a few minutes, try to fit in meditation into your routine. If you start the day in a calm frame of mind, you’ll be more likely to continue that way.
Go for a walk, a run or just sit in the fresh air for some part of every day. Take in and appreciate the beauty of the natural world around us. Fresh air cleans our lungs, improves our health and sharpens our minds. Best of all it’s free.
Reduce screen time
We live in an age where modern technology allows us to interact with numerous people at the same time. To add to an already busy life, our smart phones, tablets and computers provide the constant availability of news and keep us connected to email, messages and calls. Consciously disconnect from that Blackberry. Put time aside in the day to check your social media feed. Buy an alarm clock and turn off your phone at night.
One at a time
Despite the to-do list, at any point in time you can only complete one task. That’s the one in front of you at that moment. Get into the habit of concentrating on one task at a time, instead of constantly rushing ahead to ‘what has to be done next’.
Make a conscious effort to do less. You don’t have to accept every invitation. Stop trying to fit more into an already busy life and cut out unnecessary and unproductive tasks.
Eat slower, speak slower, walk slower, drive slower, shower slower, love slower. Whatever you’re doing try to do it slower and in a more mindful manner. By reducing the pace of what you’re doing and taking joy in completing any task, even the mundane ones, you become more aware of the energy you put into it and the value attached to it.