No matter how packed your schedule, you have control over the mindset with which you approach each moment. Even when you can’t slow down, you can slow down.
Are you feeling rushed and overwhelmed? That used to be my default setting. Nowadays, I live a consciously slower lifestyle. Despite this, I still experience crunch times, times when the heat is on, when I’m under the pump. Slow doesn’t mean lazy. I still want to get things done, and that means that sometimes I’m busy!
What I’ve learnt is that slow and busy don’t have to be mutually exclusive. By bringing a slow mindset, I’ve transformed the way I think, feel and act when I’m busy, and you can too.
Pause and breathe
Imagine you’re busy. How do you feel? Wound up? Frantic? Flustered? When you notice these busy feelings, take a moment to pause and breathe. Slow your breathing, slow your heart rate, slow your movements, slow your thoughts, and begin again with calm. Repeat as necessary. This quick reset stops the busy feelings escalating and promotes a slow mindset.
Got a lot on your plate? Good, you’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice! With practice, you’ll start noticing those feelings sooner, before they escalate, and when they are much easier to bring back down. With time, to pause and breathe in the face of fluster will become second nature. I use this technique nearly every day. I’m nearly always in a fluster getting out the door. I blame my four year old, but I do seem to operate under some weird leaving the house panic (please tell me I am not the only one). So, when I’m finally seated in the car, I stop, just for a moment – pause, breathe, clear my mind, actively relax and then focus my attention on the present and off I go.
A word for the overachievers; be kind to yourself. Yes, you’ve committed yourself to slowing down, but noticing that you are rushing or feeling a bit overwhelmed is not a failure. It’s what you do once you notice that counts.
When faced with a lot to do and not a lot of time, one approach is to try and do everything at once – multitasking.
Multitasking is the antithesis of slow. The benefit of a slow approach is that you give yourself the time and space to engage in your activities. This engagement enables you to get something out of what you are doing – memories, learning, experience or energy.
With multitasking, your attention is so divided that you:
- are less productive overall, so you don’t achieve your objective in multitasking in the first place
- put energy out, but don’t have the capacity to get anything meaningful back.
If you can’t not do things, at least do them one at a time.
Yes, there are some activities that are boring or a drudge – what you might think of as a waste of your time. I try to approach these activities with a restorative focus.
Imagine you’ve got a to-do list as long as your arm and you’re stuck in a line at the Post Office. Operating with a busy mindset, you stand their fidgeting, willing the line to move faster, silently cursing the old lady at the counter fumbling for change in her purse. Rather than wasting time, you decide to try and return some phone calls. Still talking when you (finally!) reach the counter, you’re not fully focused on either task. You end up forgetting to ask the person on the phone something. You need to remember to call them again later. You leave the Post Office feeling frazzled and with an extra thing on your to-do list.
Operating with a slow mindset, instead you notice the tension in your body when you see the line in the Post Office. You pause and breathe. Feeling calm, you embrace the moment of solitude. You take the opportunity to practice one of those mindfulness exercises you’ve been meaning to do. Something occurs to you, which means you no longer need to call one of the people on your list. You leave the Post Office with more energy and two things crossed off your list.
While I actively avoid being busy, it still happens. Whether by circumstance or design, facing a busy period doesn’t have to derail and deplete you. You can slow down, one moment and one task at a time.
What are you tricks for keeping things together under pressure?