Ten reasons to slow down

One of my goals for the rest of this year is to slow down. I’ve discovered that my mind and feet move a bit more quickly since I’ve become a parent. I seem to be grabbing at every bit of time available to get things done. Sometimes, I give up watching my favorite commercials just so I can check e-mail. Do you do that, too? Do you find that you get fidgety when there’s (potentially) nothing to do?

So, I’m going to grab control of the reins and stop being what Canadian journalist, Carl Honoré, calls a “speedaholic.” Honoré  is the author of In Praise of Slowness: How A Worldwide Movement Is Challenging the Cult of Speed and Under Pressure: Rescuing Our Children from the Culture of Hyper-Parenting. I’d like to take a page out of his books (yes, pun intended). I know I can’t change my behavior overnight, but I can make a greater effort to focus less on how much I can get done and more on the quality of what I get done.

Because when you slow down, you tend to do the following:

  1. Think things through. This doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but can be very helpful. By slowing down long enough to assess what’s happening around you, you’re more equipped to better understand many a situation, rather than just seeing what’s on the surface.
  2. Make fewer mistakes. When you take your time, you’re less likely to trip yourself up. That’s because you’ve thought about most (if not all) of the important details.
  3. Make better decisions. When you spend more time thinking about the pros and cons of which direction to go, you’re likely to come to more well-rounded and fleshed out conclusions. You may also see your intended path more clearly.
  4. Become a better listener. Taking the time to really listen to what someone tells you means that you’ll have better conversations. Instead of immediately crafting a rebuttal to what someone says before they finish speaking, you’ll really hear them and get a better idea of what they’re trying to communicate.
  5. Become calmer. I find that when I’m not rushing around, I tend to be less agitated and less prone to getting frustrated. I also think more rationally.
  6. Be more productive. One of the benefits of thinking more rationally is that you are more successful at prioritizing and working on the things that need your attention first (you know, instead of playing Angry Birds).
  7. Be more efficient. This might seem counterintuitive, but by slowing down, you can actually get more done. It’s because you’ll spend less energy trying to cram everything into your day and you’ll work more effectively at getting the important things completed.
  8. Be happier. Who’s not happy when they cross stuff off their to do list?
  9. Be more focused. Have you ever realized that when your mind is racing, you’re sometimes paralyzed and unable to actually make a decision or take action? When you take a few minutes to gather your thoughts, you’re better able to focus on the task at hand.
  10. Be more open to doing nothing. Or, doing something fun. Any something other than working. This means I can get back to sitting still, and enjoying it.

22 Comments for “Ten reasons to slow down”

  1. posted by Patty Gardner on

    All true!!!!! I’ve been in speed mode for a while now and it’s EXHAUSTING! Thanks for the reminder. I’m going to print out the article and put it on the wall behind my desk.

  2. posted by Texas Susan on

    Great advice! This year I’ve been trying my best to slow down when I’m driving (which also means leaving the house earlier). It’s definitely safer, plus it keeps me calmer . . . and a better driver when I’m not racing to get somewhere.

  3. posted by thank-you on

    Between this post and the making decisions post a few days ago, you are on the fast track for writing a new book! (or the slow track, as it were?) =) I think these are 2 of my top 3 favorite unclutterer posts ever!

  4. posted by Erin Doland on

    @thank-you — No, thank YOU! I wrote Tuesday’s post and Deb wrote this one. I think Deb is a truly terrific addition to the site 🙂 But, just FYI, I am working on a second Unclutterer book and (at least as it stands right now) the entire second chapter is about decision-making skills. But, things change with books, so I can’t promise it will be in the final version. Right now, though, it is and it is much more detailed than the post. I’m hoping it makes it into the final version, as well 🙂

  5. posted by Dora on

    This is wonderful advice! We all need to be reminded, from time, to time, to slow down and be more present. I now have the following quote on my desktop: “Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished” (Lao Tzu).

    And Deb, I really like your writing style 🙂 Indeed, your contribution is a great addition to the site!

  6. posted by Josh @ Live Well Simply on

    We sometimes think we are getting more done by racing through life’s daily tasks, but often a slower more planned approach is more effective. Great post!

  7. posted by Kate on

    Last summer I stayed with my not-quite-elderly aunt and uncle.

    When I arrived, my aunt had just started to make a pie (in honor of my visit). So I settled down to chat while she worked.

    I found myself getting fidgety and struggling to not interrupt her or jump in (she had already, gently, refused an offer to help) because every single step of the pie baking she was moving so slowly, so languidly, doing several things in a row rather than at the same time, etc.

    Finally the pie was in the oven and I looked at the clock and realized that, roughly, she had taken perhaps five minutes longer than I would have to make the same pie.

    And yet to me it was TOO SLOW, she was TOO SLOW, I was getting frantic at how long it was taking her to do something like roll the dough out, etc. She never rushed once.

    & yet, my aunt (unaware of my internal spazziness) seemed so happy to have me there, chatting and catching up while rolling out her pie dough…. The was, by the way, and she only took a few minutes longer in reality than my more “rush rush efficient” style.

    I often think about that moment.

  8. posted by Kate on

    p.s. Second to last sentence was supposed to read “the pie was, by the way, delicious.”

    See? I should have taken my time posting my comment.

  9. posted by Patty on

    I have been doing this for a while now & it works. Also don’t stress out about things that you can’t change. I want my husband to definetly read this. He is always in fast mode!! I’ve been trying to get him to slow down for a while maybe this will work.

  10. posted by CougarHart on

    I spent my life totally amped up, on edge, fight/flight responses, trying to keep up with a world that I didn’t really fit into because i am by nature a slower person. I got sick for several years because it all caught up with me, and my body said – no more.

    Now I have been forced to slow down and really take care of myself, and go back to the relaxed/slower way that is so my inherent nature. People around me may not understand – but it’s my life to live, and I choose health.

    Good post

  11. posted by Deb Lee on

    @Texas Susan – That’s something I’m also working on. I’ve discovered that when I listen to classical music when I’m driving, I am calmer and I drive slower.

    @Dora – Thank you! Love that quote. =)

  12. posted by MizLoo on

    “Sitting, only sitting, and the grass grows green by itself.”

    So much of our hurry is attempt to control the uncontrollable.

    Chill, y’all!

  13. posted by Her from there on

    It wouldnt matter if I wanted to slow down because I cant! I have kids to pick up at a certain time – the same time as 400 other parents. My older son has to go to speech therapy, a psychologist and a paediatrician. All of these are scheduled for when THEY have time and its usually not the best times for us but there are no other options when working with specialists. My younger child gets dragged along to everything and wants my attention all the time but I cant listen to a psych or give attention to the speechy AND play with him. The older son also has self defence classes (again, essential) which take 15 mins to get to and they go for 45 mins and we always then get caught in peak hour traffic coming home, have dinner too late, bedtime gets extended and nothing gets done. On top of that there’s homework, extra reading, assignments – and both are still only in primary school! I actually go to work to get a break from what goes on in my house!

    I know some would say “Cant you drop any of those therapies” and the answer is no. Because HE cant slow down (yes, ADHD)or sit completely still he gets teased and bullied (hence the psych and the self defence classes). Because he cant slow down his mind he stumbles when trying to explain himself (hence the speechie). He is medicated (hence the paediatrician)which helps him to focus better but it never takes away the need to move at least some part of his body and it doesnt fix his lack of impulse control.

    The younger one wants to take up some kind of interest group (either dancing or swimming) and I cant keep putting him off because he has the right to have his interests met too, but I’m dreading the hole that will put in what small amount of quiet time we do have!

  14. posted by Hilde Ravlo on

    Her to there – my heart goes out to you. Your everyday life sounds like a rollercoaster. I haven’t lived through what you experience.

    But I read the article as suggesting to *comparatively* slow down. For me that means to keep looking for opportunities to slow down. I’m not always successful, but just focusing on it helps create a different mindset.

    Even in the midst of rushing, there can be small patches of calm – if I look for them.

    I’ve stopped in the grocery parking lot, taking in the evening sky a few moments before entering the store. Such a small thing made quite a difference from just rushing in to have the groceries done as quickly as possible.

  15. posted by Snosie on

    Her from there – I see a few specialists, of course it depends on the reason the visit, but I will delay appointments til the day/time that suits. I work full time, so I don’t have a hugely flexible schedule, but I only stress more if I fit to them, rather to my needs, like when I’m in the area, or have enough time.

    I couldn’t agree more with this post. I just quit some commitments so that I can do better in my job, forget less, consider all the details of my projects better. Today’s job fell over, but not due to anything I forgot or overlooked, which makes me feel like I’m working better.

  16. posted by Gilraen on

    One of the things I started doing is walk to work a few times per week. It slows the whole world down a bit and though people gasp when they hear it takes me 50 minutes it is still very time efficient; After all other means of transport take me 20 minutes. Plus I still have to go to sports (total 20 minutes travel plus an hour exercising – 1 hour 40). Together that means 2 hours 10.
    I now have nearly two hours of exercise (bonus of an hour) and it takes me less time than the “traditional” way and is much much less stressful. Total win win situation.

  17. posted by LoucasL on

    “When you slow down, you make fewer mistakes”, so so true! Thanks for reminding me that slowing down is truly important!

  18. posted by chibikegal on

    make fewer mistakes, perhaps includes be safer? the rush and panic I see in drivers’ eyes while they are slamming on brakes running stop signs running yellow lights – we all need to take a breath. being sidelined with a spine injury for a year or so was not the way I meant to slow down, but lucky it was only that long.

  19. posted by Deb on

    @Her from there – it must be very frustrating to feel that your every moment is dictated by the needs and schedules of others, and it may be that there is little you can do to change this in the short term. I hope that in time, though, you might have the opportunity to schedule some of those appointments to better fit your own schedule and/or access more support from others. I wonder if there is anyone who could help by, for example, caring for your younger child while you attend specialist appointments with your eldest?

    I wonder, too, if it might be possible to streamline your schedule a little in areas where you do have some control, and whether this might help a little? For instance, you say you always get stuck in peak hour traffic on the way home from self-defence class and that you then have a late dinner and a disrupted evening routine. Perhaps you could consider eating out immediately after the class – it could be a treat for the kids and an opportunity to spend some time together and relax – you could then skip the peak hour traffic and arrive home with the kids already fed, ready for homework, baths and bed.

    Perhaps there are a few smaller changes you could employ to make your week a little less stressful? But I certainly don’t underestimate the challenges and I do sincerely applaud your commitment and determination to ensure your son has access to the services he needs.

  20. posted by Her from there on

    Hi Deb. Thanks for your empathy (and to the other commenters – thank you too). No, there isnt anyone else to help out with the boys. We have no family close by and I dont feel I can ask other people to mind my younger son when we wont be back until what is generally dinner time here. It would be ok every now and then but these are regular appointments.

    Your suggestion re the take away is good, but then my husband (who gets home while I’m out) wouldnt be able to join us.

    I consider all of this a season. It’s frustrating, but we need to sow into my oldest son now so that he doesnt become a dreaded ‘statistic’ later. I guess thats what you would call delayed gratification!

    I think whats important is that I recognise that this isnt how I want to live. There’s not much I can do now to change it but when the opportunity comes, trust me – I will grab it!

    We are actually changing schools next year. Oldest is off to high school (which will still mean traffic as its too far to walk) but youngest is going to a school that he can walk to. Its a much smaller school set in our suburb and there are a multitude of streets that can be used to access it. That means we can avoid the traffic jam that results outside our current school which is alongside the only access road in its suburb. I plan to ask older son to meet me at a predetermined spot after school but if he feels unsafe or continues to gets bullied then I’ll have to collect him at the school itself.

    I also carry a camera everywhere. I derive great pleasure from capturing what I see around me – expressions on younger sons face, older son practising his moves, sunsets, funny licence plates (only if the traffic is stopped!), birds on lakes, etc etc. I get a tiny bit of ‘me’ time every time I click the camera : )

  21. posted by Albert on

    Yes,yes and yes!!
    I agree totally with you. As the spanish proverb says: “Visteme despacio que tengo prisa” (Dress me slowly that I have a hurry).

  22. posted by Andi-Roo on

    So much on my mind, sometimes it’s hard to just sit & enjoy the silence. I’ve begun keeping a notepad next to me at all times, so that instead of jumping up during a movie I’m attempting to watch with my family, I can jot down whatever “task” or “chore” or whatever flashed through my mind that “MUST” be done RIGHT NOW. It’s been a great reminder that I need to force myself to live in the moment & stop worrying over the future, which will of course take care of itself! Thanks for the validation here! 🙂

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