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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.

    (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 13, 2020

    How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

    How Not to Feel Overwhelmed at Work & Take Control of Your Day

    Overwhelm is a pernicious state largely caused by the ever-increasing demands on our time and the distractions that exist all around us. It creeps up on us and can, in its extreme form, leave us feeling anxious, stressed and exhausted.

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, here are 6 strategies you can follow that will reduce the feeling of overwhelm; leaving you calmer, in control and a lot less stressed.

    1. Write Everything down to Offload Your Mind

    The first thing you can do when you begin to feel overwhelmed is to write everything down that is on your mind.

    Often people just write down all the things they think they have to do. This does help, but a more effective way to reduce overwhelm is to also write down everything that’s on your mind.

    For example, you may have had an argument with your colleague or a loved one. If it’s on your mind write it down. A good way to do this is to draw a line down the middle of the page and title one section “things to do” and the other “what’s on my mind”.

    The act of writing all this down and getting it out of your head will begin the process of removing your feeling of overwhelm. Writing things down can really change your life.

    2. Decide How Long It Will Take to Complete Your To-Dos

    Once you have ‘emptied your head,’ go through your list and estimate how long it will take to complete each to-do.

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    As you go through your list, you will find quite a few to-dos will only take you five or ten minutes. Others will take longer, often up to several hours.

    Do not worry about that at this stage. Just focus on estimating how long you will need to complete each task to the best of your ability. Here’s How to Cultivate a More Meaningful To Do List.

    3. Take Advantage of Parkinson’s Law

    Now here’s a little trick I learned a long time ago. Parkinson’s Law states that work will fill the time you have available to complete it, and us humans are terrible at estimating how long something will take:((Odhable: Genesis of Parkinson’s Law))

      This is why many people are always late. They think it will only take them thirty minutes to drive across town when previous experience has taught them it usually takes forty-five minutes to do so because traffic is often bad but they stick to the belief it will only take thirty minutes. It’s more wishful thinking than good judgment.

      We can use Parkinson’s Law to our advantage. If you have estimated that to write five emails that desperately need a reply to be ninety minutes, then reduce it down to one hour. Likewise, if you have estimated it will take you three hours to prepare your upcoming presentation, reduce it down to two hours.

      Reducing the time you estimate something will take gives you two advantages. The first is you get your work done quicker, obviously. The second is you put yourself under a little time pressure and in doing so you reduce the likelihood you will be distracted or allow yourself to procrastinate.

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      When we overestimate how long something will take, subconsciously our brains know we have plenty of time and so it plays tricks on us and we end up checking reviews of the Apple Watch 4 or allow our colleagues to interrupt us with the latest office gossip.

      Applying a little time pressure prevents this from happening and we get more focused and more work done.

      4. Use the Power of Your Calendar

      Once you have your time estimates done, open up your calendar and schedule your to-dos. Go through your to-dos and schedule time on your calendar for doing those tasks. Group tasks up into similar tasks.

      For emails that need attention on your to-do list, schedule time on your calendar to deal with all your emails at once. Likewise, if you have a report to write or a presentation to prepare, add these to your calendar using your estimated time as a guide for how long each will take.

      Seeing these items on your calendar eases your mind because you know you have allocated time to get them done and you no longer feel you have no time. Grouping similar tasks together keeps you in a focused state longer and it’s amazing how much work you get done when you do this.

      5. Make Decisions

      For those things you wrote down that are on your mind but are not tasks, make a decision about what you will do with each one. These things are on your mind because you have not made a decision about them.

      If you have an issue with a colleague, a friend or a loved one, take a little time to think about what would be the best way to resolve the problem. More often than not just talking with the person involved will clear the air and resolve the problem.

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      If it is a more serious issue, then decide how best to deal with it. Talk to your boss, a colleague and get advice.

      Whatever you do, do not allow it to fester. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You need to make a decision to deal with it and the sooner you do so the sooner the problem will be resolved. (You can take a look at this guide on How To Make Good Decisions All The Time.)

      I remember long ago, when I was in my early twenties and had gone mad with my newly acquired credit cards. I discovered I didn’t have the money to pay my monthly bills. I worried about it for days, got stressed and really didn’t know what to do. Eventually, I told a good friend of mine of the problem. He suggested I called the credit card company to explain my problem. The next day, I plucked up the courage to call the company, explained my problem and the wonderful person the other end listened and then suggested I paid a smaller amount for a couple of months.

      This one phone call took no more than ten minutes to make, yet it solved my problem and took away a lot of the stress I was feeling at the time. I learned two very valuable lessons from that experience:

      The first, don’t go mad with newly acquired credit cards! And the second, there’s always a solution to every problem if you just talk to the right person.

      6. Take Some Form of Action

      Because overwhelm is something that creeps up on us, once we feel overwhelmed (and stressed as the two often go together), the key is to take some form of action.

      The act of writing everything down that is bothering you and causing you to feel overwhelmed is a great place to start. Being able to see what it is that is bothering you in a list form, no matter how long that list is, eases the mind. You have externalized it.

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      It also means rather than these worries floating around in a jumbled mess inside your head, they are now visible and you can make decisions easier about what to do about them. Often it could be asking a colleague for a little help, or it could be you see you need to allocate some focused time to get the work done. The important thing is you make a decision on what to do next.

      Overwhelm is not always caused by a feeling of having a lack of time or too much work, it can also be caused by avoiding a decision about what to do next.

      The Bottom Line

      Make a decision, even if it is to just talk to someone about what to do next. Making a decision about how you will resolve something on its own will reduce your feelings of overwhelm and start you down the path to a resolution one way or another.

      When you follow these strategies to can say goodbye to your overwhelm and gain much more control over your day.

      More Tips for Reducing Work Stress

      Featured photo credit: Andrei Lazarev via unsplash.com

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