Slowing down is such an effective way to get work done, but it takes courage to apply the brakes.
The bustling, racing, pressure of the world around you can be suffocating.
In that thrashing panic, it’s easy to forget that all you need do is stop, float to the surface and breathe.
You need to develop this skill if you are to become focussed in your work. This is how you reclaim space in your life and work – one micro adjustment at a time.
THE RESISTANCE TO SLOWING DOWN
Common sense tells us it’s chilly in the depths of winter.
It tells us to stay home and cozy. Tells us not to bother going out on adventures.
It also tells us to work at a desk, in the same room every day. Tells us to play it safe and stay more-or-less in line with our colleagues and competitors. It tells us to avoid idleness and dilly-dallying about in the sunshine and get on with it.
But get on with what, exactly?
Checking our emails? Unlocking our phone every few minutes?
Tending to mild and mellow dramas on our social media accounts, incessant queries from never-would-be customers, industry events where we gain no significant industry knowledge or genuinely valuable connections?
Most people refuse to analyse how they spend their work week. And for good reason.
Nobody wants to face the fact that all their busy-ness amounts to sweet fuck all.
Where do you stand? Can you name what real progress looks like for you? Are you doing it? Are you afraid to admit you’ve been on autopilot for so long you have no idea what success looks like?
It’s ok, really. We’re all doing the same thing.
Success isn’t a straight path. It’s not all about speeding along the shortest route to glory, and anything else is a wrong turn.
Nah, it’s more.. squiggly than that.
FINDING THE BALANCE
I think success looks more like balance.
An inner balance.
Something that nobody else can measure on your behalf. You know in your guts when you’re succeeding. Life feels full and you stand tall.
You have energy and stamina and excitement about each day. You love your work and money flows easily and great clients and assignments and projects flock to you.
It’s not that you can do no wrong, it’s that you can easily adjust, and you’re smart enough to go easy on yourself. It feels good to be you. It feels even better to be in the thick of doing what you love.
On the other hand, we all know what it feels like to be out of balance.
Things keep breaking. You can’t get ahead. It’s almost pointless writing out a to-do list, because it never gets smaller.
Everywhere you turn, there’s some stupid melodrama to wrestle into quietude.
Whatever your key distraction excuses are – kids, parents, stupid clients, bills, car troubles, the noisy neighbours, that idiot who parked over the line, your depressed cat or your suicidal maidenhair fern – they’re all amplified.
And if it wasn’t for all the noise, both inside and outside your head, you might be able to climb to the top of the rubble.
But what hope in hell do you have when it just. keeps. coming?
RECLAIM YOUR SPACE
The hardest part of slowing down is getting started.
I think you need to go a bit too far in the wrong direction to know in your heart and in your guts what it feels like to be doing it ‘wrong’.
As in, wrong for you. Not cool. Not fun and relaxed and awesome and the-whole-reason-I-started-working-for-myself and whatnot.
But now you’re here.
And you’re listening. Which is more than most, right?
So maybe go easy on yourself for being able to identify this kinda pointless hard-working and getting nowhere phase.
It’s alright. Everything happens to teach you that you have options, and you can choose something better.
The key is to start small. Here’s three things you can do to drastically shift your ability to slow down:
#1 - SLOW DOWN FOR TWO MINUTES
I’m sure you’ve done this before.
Hell, you’ve probably given more than two minutes to reading this article already, so good on you.
Now all you gotta do is rinse and repeat.
Find another two minutes. Anytime is suitable. I don’t care how you do it, you find the way that works for you.
Maybe you need to schedule it every morning after you drop the kids at school. Maybe you can set your alarm to go off two hours into your work day. Maybe you find time to slow down in the shower, or while you’re making coffee, or while you’re standing in line at the post office, resisting the urge to play with your phone.
Do it while you’re brushing your teeth, or de-tangling that rat’s tail your pillow created on the back of your head. Do it while you’re waiting for your nails to dry, or your computer to turn on.
Just carve out TWO MINUTES. You can do that.
THE JOY OF SLOW BREATHING
In that two minutes, just breathe. That’s it.
You just go right ahead and breathe in. Then breathe out.
If you feel so inclined, say something nice and comforting to yourself. Or just let yourself numb out for a second.
Breathe down into your toes. Fill your heart and your lungs. Pull in energy from the sky above your head, the ground beneath your feet.
Or just breathe.
Put your hand on your heart and smile. Watch your thoughts drift by and wave as they pass. Focus on the feeling of the air moving through your nostrils as you inhale, and then again as you exhale.
Shut your eyes, drop your brow and loosen your jaw. Collapse into a sunny patch on the floor. Imagine plunging into the crystal clear waters of your favourite beach.
Or just breathe.
Two minutes, that’s it. You can slow down and take two minutes for yourself. As often as you like.
And then, once you’ve gotten the basics down…
#2 - SLOW DOWN FOR AN HOUR
Slow down for one blessed hour.
You don’t have to do this every day, just try it once at first. Preferably today. Or at least in the next three days.
Schedule it. An hour, completely distraction free.
Door shut (locked and barred if you have to).
Phone off – not on silent, not on aeroplane mode, properly off. Put it in a cupboard, somewhere out of sight, or it doesn’t count. Same with the computer, even if your life depends on it (because it doesn’t).
Put everything properly out of reach, out of sight, out of earshot. That includes your cat.
If you can’t find the space where you are, then you’ll have to go somewhere to create that space. Take off in your car, or on foot.
You may carry a notebook and pen. You may carry a beneficial book. You may not take a camera. I want you to be in the moment, not busy capturing it to showcase.
You may not bring a friend. Walking the dog is not carving out an hour for yourself. Don’t head somewhere you’re likely to run into people you’ll need to interact with. Go your own way.
Find yourself a quiet space for just one hour.
And soak it up.
When you’ve done it once, I want you to do it again. Maybe in a week’s time. Then do it again, ok?
Rinse and repeat.
We’re gonna make this like a mini-vacation to the inner workings of your fine self.
GETTING PAST THE DISCOMFORT
If you’ve never found a mindful moment before, you need to know a few things.
Firstly, it will suck. But only at first.
Then it will feel like the best spa you’ve ever sat in, complete with candles and blissful music and sparkling rose` with fresh strawberries (in fact, that’s a great way to spend an hour).
You will get used to it. You will get past that initial mild restlessness. Especially if you just accept that it feels hard at first. If you don’t give in to that urge to distract, quit, leave or start something else, you’ll sink into that blissful place.
So much of stress reduction is about eliminating the familiar stimuli of ‘busy work’.
It will get easier each time, but it’s really wise to just know that your mind wants to drag you back into the familiar, busy chaos of life.
Just know it, allow the uncomfortable feeling to be there, acknowledge it, smile and give it nothing.
Your conscious mind is like a shitheaded child tantruming for chips in the supermarket. Don’t give in.
HOW TO SPEND A SLOW HOUR
So, now, you have an hour. Just for you.
Start with the breathing as you did before, and then follow your impulses to do whatsoever your intuition guides you to do.
Read, lie down, stare out the window, write something healing, massage your own body. And breathe some more.
Don’t be surprised if you get inspired to do something that only lasts a few minutes. Like drinking a cup of tea, watching the clouds, or journalling. That’s cool. It doesn’t have to take up an hour.
When it feels like you’ve had enough of that thing, just return to simple, deep breaths again. And listen for the next nurturing impulse.
You’re training your body and your mind to work together in harmony. You’re showing up for yourself and proving that you have the attention span of an evolved human adult.
You can do this.
Just keep listening, do what makes you happy.
DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SLOW SUCCESS
Don’t pick mindless, negative distractions to fill your slow-down time. You know they types I’m talking about, right? It’s things like:
- television / youtube
- baking a batch of cookies and promptly eating them all so you can beat up on yourself
- suddenly needing to put on seven loads of washing so you don’t have to spend an hour being mindful or doing anything nice for yourself… hmm?
Anything that’s a cop-out for you. Anything that will stop you experiencing the true benefit of a mind permitted to slow.
It’s really normal to feel agitated and look for things to do to pass the time.
Be especially careful of distractions that make you feel productive like house cleaning, organising paperwork, or ticking tasks off your to do list.
Don’t sabotage yourself today.
Decluttering your desk can take top priority another day.
Just get through those first few minutes of discomfort and you’ll be just fine.
#3 - CARVE OUT HALF A DAY
Once you’ve mastered an hour to yourself, you’re going to put aside a half-day for yourself.
At least 3, maybe 4 hours. There’s no need to be precise, it’s just gotta be a sizeable chunk of time.
You’re attempting to slow down long enough to fly past the initial resistance, and be left with abundant space and time for the envisioning and creation of something new.
The half-day is the final and most important slowing down exercise you need to master.
Just 3-4 hours. That’s all it takes. You don’t need to up the ante to 6 hours, then 10, then become a golden glow of mindfulness 24-7.
But you must get into the half-day of slowness. Because this is where phenomenal business ideas come to life.
ELIMINATE ALL DISTRACTIONS
You know the game now – eliminate all distractions.
Though this time, if you’re a touch typing legend and that’s the only way you can get your thoughts down, you can bring a laptop or use your computer. BUT, it must be on aeroplane mode.
All distractions must be out of reach. Don’t trust yourself to behave. Make it easy to succeed. Install social media blockers or whatever it is you know you need.
I won’t be watching over your shoulder, you need to do this for yourself, for realz.
Be super kind to yourself.
Distractions are very easy to give in to. Give yourself the best chance in the world of being completely free of them.
Phone off and out of sight. If you take off in your car, throw your switched off phone in the glove box or the boot. Get it away from your person.
And then the work begins.
HOW TO DROP THE PACE FOR 3-4 HOURS
So maybe you’ll start by breathing again.
I love starting with absolutely no agenda. That’s how all my best ideas come about.
Give yourself the creative room for anything to occur.
Be alone and be in a place that inspires you. That can be at home, if that works for you, or it can be out in the wide, wild world. Do it how it works best for you.
Sprawled on a picnic blanket in an urban park. Hugging a thermos in your car at a scenic lookout. Or if movement sparks your brain, how about walking along the water’s edge at low tide?
Set out on your mission of idle pleasure.
You might go to several places if it takes your fancy. Just remember the point is to connect you with your inner knowing, not to distract yourself with new scenes.
Put aside long enough that you’ll be able to relax into doing nothing the whole time.
Then, if and when inspiration finds you (and it usually does when you least expect it), have the means to process the notions – notebook and pen, internet-free laptop, or dictaphone.
MAKING SPACE FOR BUSINESS IDEAS
Slowing down creates a burst of new brain activity.
Many of my best business ideas start as rushed scrawlings on the back of a serviette in a cafe, or chicken scratch on a crumpled receipt I probably should send to my accountant.
The mad rush is my favourite way that inspiration hits. And it happens so often when I carve out this hefty chunk of time for myself. I encourage you to give it a go on the regular.
It’s like your brain finally has space and time for new thoughts, creative solutions, big ideas.
You can always find an excuse for slowing down – assign a mental health day, or schedule a celebration of the turn of the seasons.
Do it regularly. At the very least, do it once a month. If you really truly can’t find the time for that, we need to have a talk about your work-life balance.
Just make a decision to make it non-negotiable. Block out the time on your calendar.
Make it easy for yourself and do it on a regular date, or every full moon. If you balk at such structure, you can just do it when you feel like it.
SLOW MIND, BRILLIANT BUSINESS
That’s it really. Just three simple and progressive ways to slow down.
I mean, it doesn’t sound like much. But it’s how we get our best work done.
It’s how we go from busy-ness to actual success.
It’s when real work progress happens. It needs to appear deceptively idle, still and quiet enough for great things to occur to you. Not smashing away at a keyboard day after day. Not hustlin’. Not ticking unimportant items off the to-do list.
The slow down makes you receptive to your own business wisdom.
You’ve got to get past what everyone else thinks of you, what they require of you, what they’d rather you’d be doing.
You’ve got to do this for yourself, and frankly, for the health of your business.
Because if you’re not putting your best ideas into it, I promise you, nobody else will be able to pick up the slack for you.
This is where you’re most needed.
This is where your genius is. You find it in quiet moments.
Carve out the time for yourself, and you’ll find your best work flows with ease and joy.
THE BLISS OF BEING PRESENT
The sun is setting over the bay right now.
The water ripples where it meets the golden rays. I can feel the shift in temperature on my skin.
The clouds sweep away in shifting shades of grey, dusty brown, apricot and, on the horizon, the hottest pink. It’s still, and there’s a serene glow over the native shrubs.
I wish I could bring you to this place with me, but that’s not how it works. You have to find your own version of this serenity – this magical microclimate where great work blooms.
Commit to slowing down, and you’ll find your own sense of harmony and connection with your surrounds.
And from it, you’ll produce phenomenal work. I just know you will.
Get out there and start.
Schedule a half day this week. Block out an hour tomorrow.
And right now, right this very moment, do yourself the almighty honour of being generous and kind and loving to yourself.
Start with just two minutes.
Allow yourself a blissful moment to be totally present and connected and free from all distractions.
Give yourself two minutes right now.
And just breathe.
HI, I'm SARAH
I’m here to help you work smarter, not harder. I teach passionate business owners how to charge premium prices, attract the best customers, save time and make money with ease.