How fast is your life moving? Do you ever wish you could slow it down? Ever wish you had a few more hours in the day so you could get everything done you need to get finished? What if, instead of always trying to do more, we slowed down a little and embraced a slower paced life. What if we didn’t try to do everything, but slowed down and concentrated only on the things that are truly valuable and important to us.Every year it seems the pace of communication and expectations increase. As my life begins to go through a period of acceleration, I often feel the need to step back, evaluate and simply slow my life down. The faster paced life often leaves our health in ruin and our closest relationships drifting. A slower paced life introduces margin and gives us more awareness about how we spend our time. Slow doesn’t happen naturally. In fact, our lives tend to pile more and more on because we rarely remove commitments even if we add new ones. It’s almost like that old computer that just keeps piling on junk and virus’ until it gets so slow it needs a reformat or a trip to the trash can. Is your life ready for a reboot?
Fewer Commitments, Better Commitments
Instead of having five commitments every night, have one that you truly value and don’t fret about taking a night off occasionally. Even if you have busy kids. Teaching them to make choices and define priorities is a skill set that will last a lifetime. Make one night sacred. Put important commitments on the calendar- the ones you really want to prioritize, and don’t let urgent things take their place. We do this with our date nights, because due to its flexible nature, they tend to get put off if we don’t prioritize them. Take the time to evaluate everything you are trying to do. Make a list of your commitments if you need to. Which items actually bring you value?
Slowing down can be hard. It is hard to say no. It can be hard to turn down an opportunity. It is hard to get out of ongoing commitments. But often, when we are over-committed, we are unable to do justice to all of our engagements. Instead, focus on just a few and do those well. Both you and whomever you serve will be better positioned.
Throwing Out The Fast Food
I suppose every few years the idea of ‘slow food’ comes in and out of vogue. I think the term is filled with generalities that have several different connotations. But for me, a slower paced life means I have time to cook, prepare meals, and sit down at a table with my wife or family to eat. I’m not forced to rush around every morning scrambling only to grab some preprocessed granola bar on my way out the door. I like the idea of having margin so I can take the time to sit down for dinner without trying to do ten other things at the same time. I know people end up buying all kinds of processed food or go rushing through the drive through to fit that annoying little thing called eating into their over committed schedule.
We made a commitment two years ago to take the fast food drive through out of our vocabulary. And I like it. While we still eat at places like Chick-fil-a or Jittery Joe’s occasionally, we, at the very least, take the time to sit down at any restaurant and enjoy the meal. I enjoy cooking and find it much healthier (and less expensive) to prepare the meals for ourselves. It takes time, but it is a major priority for both myself and Ms. SE. So we slow down, eat real food and enjoy the process.
If only I had more time. Most people wish they had more time to exercise. But our lives become so busy exercise is often one of the first things to go. Slowing down life and removing unnecessary commitments interjects some of that lost time that we all wish we could get back. Exercise is not hard if you have time. It could be walking your dog in the park, or walking with your kid to school. It could be that pickup game of volleyball, frisbee or tennis your friend invites you to. When our life is not moving 100 miles per hour, we have the opportunity to choose how we want to add a few minutes of exercise into our lives.
Even though we spend more money and more time than any other culture on transportation, we are more stressed out and angry about the time it takes us to get places. I think, in part to the spread out nature of the US, we often spend our time rushing long distances in between appointments shuttling our lives away. Living and breathing in shiny metal air conditioned boxes gives us the false sense we can pack our calendars with more and more stuff. Suddenly, with our 30k four wheeled machine, we are fifteen minutes from everywhere. So, Ride a bike. No really, that is my antidote for the fast paced life. For me, biking forces me to slow down my life. It makes me intentional. It gets me to think, plan and evaluate every commitment and opportunity. I can’t do them all, biking takes more time than driving. But I like that. And it brings me energy, joy and contentment.
Using public transportation is another tool you can use to slow down your life. Waiting on a bus or train is agonizing for some, but for me it has become a little relaxing nugget of time I can spend reading, observing or thinking. Once again, because it is not as convenient or speedy as driving, public transportation forces you to be intentional about where you are going and limits you from trying to do everything. Ever thought about sharing one car? Just question for a minute the idea- Am I better off because I can do everything? How can you leverage alternative transportation to slow down your life?
Power Of Less – Leo Babauta – One of my favorite books of all time
Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow Down – Packed with short, simple little tips
Joy of Less – Francine Jay – A ladies prospective on finding contentment
Wikipedia – On Slow- Travel, Eating, Vacation, Parenting
Our lives move fast. And they speed up if we don’t force them to slow down. It is worth it to do a little planning for a slow paced life. Time is what is important and we need to make sure we are not rushing through life missing it. For a long time I thought slowing down was a matter of math and commitments, but I’m starting to think it is also a mindset. Instead of spending your time fighting against it, learn to embrace a slower paced life.