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How to Slow Down

How to Slow Down
    Slow down, you're moving too fast...

    At this time of year you really need to slow down. With all of the hustle and bustle of a busy shopping season and the frenetic pace many take on to close all of their “open loops”, we lose sight of the fact that this is the time of year to take stock of where we were, where we are and where we want to be going forward.

    I was having coffee with a good friend and we talked about how this year we seem to be “busier” than we have in years’ past. It’s as if the amount of information and demands coming our way have increased so that everyone can close out the year with as much done as possible. I compare it to the time of year when the “taxman cometh” in that we’re trying to get as much bang for our earned dollar that we can before the calendar turns over to a new fiscal year.

    Basically, we’re trying to run on overdrive when all we have left is fumes in the tank.

    The end of the year doesn’t mean the end of life. We’re not approaching teh finish line – we’re approaching the end of a lap. We’ve got a lot more race to run, and we need to keep that in mind so that we don’t wind up wondering what it is we still have to do at a time of year when we should be taking time to just enjoy ourselves. It’s time to slow down…and here’s how you can do that:

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    Breathe.

    Even as I write this I can’t help but look at my to-do list out of the corner of my eye and notice how long it is. I can feel myself getting anxious, knowing I still have gifts to wrap, cards to send and work to do. So right now I’m going to take a pause and just breathe deeply, focusing only on my breath and being in that moment alone.

    I closed my eyes while taking several breaths. It felt good. Even after coming out of that moment or two, I feel focused on the task at hand. My to-do list is not even part of the equation now. I am standing with a better posture, am thinking more clearly and my heart rate has slowed. I feel calmer as a result of just taking two minutes to close my eyes and breathe deeply and with resolve.

    You may have to do this more times than usual when the pace heats up to a level that it tends to do during the holidays season. In fact, you will have to – at least if you want to be able to get things done efficiently and effectively. By taking time to do this you will be making time to do everything else.

    Even when you feel as if everything else is spinning out of control, your own breath is something that is always under your control, never spinning. So…just breathe.

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    Go out for a good meal.

    I’m not talking about fast food here, either. You need to go out either by yourself or with those close to you and have a good sit-down meal. Treat yourself to it. It’s a great way to slow things down – to enjoy the process of a meal as intended. You’re giving yourself the time to eat, drink and be merry…or in your own thoughts.

    Having a meal where you only need to order and not cook also gives you the time to, as mentioned, be with your own thoughts. I’ve come up with some great ideas – or solution to problems – while waiting for a meal or eating one in a restaurant. It’s those moments that have a harder time coming to you when you’re busy with the making of something. You’re feeding your mind, body and soul when you give yourself the gift of a good meal. Take it a step further and skip the making portion of it altogether – just once during the next week or so.

    It’s time well tasted.

    Run somewhere, anywhere. Preferably outdoors.

    It’s amazing what a good run will do for you. You’d think that by moving faster that your mind would try to keep up, but that’s not the case when you go for a run. Your mind tends to wander, and it slows down in the process. The rush against your face of the cool air adds a freshness that can’t be found when doing anything else that you have control over. There’s a freedom to running around, a feeling that you can go anywhere and not be hindered by roads or trails. Your mind gets that freedom as well.

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    Sometimes I bring a recorder to capture my thoughts, but often I don’t when I run. I just let the flow happen. Sure, that’s counter-intuitive to the tenets of productivity (or at least, GTD to a point), but I’m not running to make more work. I’m running to create a space between myself and my work. I’m running to take a break – a much-needed one at that.

    I’m running so I can stay in the race over the long haul, not so that I wash out of it.

    Step back from social networks.

    I’m not doing nearly as much on social networks right now. And I’m okay with that. I am doing less reporting on my life and spending more time living it.

    I’m not divorcing social networks – at least not yet. I just think that by spending more time working on me and my own life and work and less time keeping up with everything else that social networks offer that I’ll be better serving both myself and those very platforms later on. I’ll be able to offer a clearer version of myself and what’s going on – should I choose to even do that. I’m not worrying about status updates and tweets. I’m not even worrying about my presences on any of those social networks.

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    What allows me to slow down is the fact that I’m focusing on being present.

    Feelin’ groovy.

    Before I do any of the things I’ve mentioned above, this set of lyrics come to mind:

    “Slow down, you movin’ too fast;
    You gotta make the morning last;
    Just kickin’ down the cobblestones;
    Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy…” – The 59th Street Bridge Song, Simon & Garfunkel

    I do that and I start to feel, well…groovy. And that’s a pretty darn good feeling.

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    (Photo credit: Trying to Stop Time via Shutterstock)

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    Mike Vardy

    A productivity specialist who shows you how to define your day, funnel your focus, and make every moment matter.

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    Last Updated on July 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    More on Building Habits

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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