I recently read a quote by Steve Chandler – “busy-ness is laziness”- and it made me stop.
Stop and take note.
Stop and pause for a moment.
Steve says that ‘being “too busy” is not the optimal state as it’s a state of chaos, not a state of focus’.
I stopped to notice my own internal and external busy worlds. The worlds I had created for myself (not created by anyone else except the odd demand from a toddler). I then asked myself if my need to feel busy was actually about something else, and perhaps it was doing more harm than good!?!
You see, I have a pattern that runs in my life. Maybe you do too when it comes to being busy!?
Most of the time, I have quite a lot of energy. I play and buzz about with my son. I catch-up with loved ones. I fill time with interesting things and I take care of my mental and physical health. It’s busy but in a positive way.
However, when it comes to my working life, I push myself and I push myself and I push myself with stuff. As Bec Heinrich puts it in her Ted Talk, I have the ‘Doing Disease’.
This thing to do and that thing to do.
My thinking pattern runs something like this… ‘I must endeavour in lots of activities because struggle, strife and volume of effort will lead to success’.
In reality though, it often doesn’t in the ways I hope, and you might find this too.
What invariably happens is that after a period of some weeks or months of major effort, I’m left feeling too tired to show up in all the ways I love and want to be present – for my son, myself and others in my life. All I want to do is retreat and replenish, which is pretty much impossible when you’re a single mum running a business.
So, Steve’s quote arrived in my consciousness at exactly the right time. I wanted there to be a better balance and decided to give myself space and kindness. I would push less and ‘be’ more. I would see what emerged.
In the Harvard Business Review’s 2010 study of 343 businesses (conducted with the Economist Intelligence Unit), they found that firms that “slowed down to speed up” greatly improved their top and bottom lines, averaging 40% higher sales and 52% higher operating profits over a three-year period. Perhaps I could gain more personally and professionally as well?
I spent a month reading, meditating, sleeping well and being fully present with my son, loved ones and on events in the world as they unfolded. I noticed. I reflected. I looked on things inwardly as well as outwardly.
I saw what busyness gave me…
A good hiding place.
A place to hide from fear!
When I worked during this month, I focused on just one or two activities, not a flitting between half a dozen or more. I wasn’t distracted. I allowed things to be and I sat with discomforts, not diffusing them with (self-imposed) tasks or actions to complete. I let thoughts, feelings and actions evolve.
And it’s been good. Really good.
I’ve felt more rested, more energised and the directions I have taken have elicited much more. From enhanced connections with others, to a greater sense of compassion and contribution for the world. Aspects that have naturally occurred have been bolder, brighter and of greater resonance and impact for myself and others. I’ve also had new ideas for things that weren’t working and I now know exactly what direction to take.
Many people have written and reflected on the importance of slowing down. Carl Honore wrote the book ‘In Praise of Slow,’ challenging the ‘cult of speed’. He calls slowness a ‘superpower’.
The State University of New York touches here on the process of incubation, which I studied during a Masters in Creative Thinking, It’s key for the creative process and both divergent and convergent thinking. In this, rushing full steam ahead often doesn’t elicit the best ideas but those which have stewed in the subconscious and been played with for a while, can be much more fruitful.
During my period of slowing down, I also thought about how we, as a nation, are enmeshed with speed. When someone asks us how we are, we often reply with an answer incorporating busy…
‘Great but busy!’
‘So busy at the moment.’
‘Busy doing that and that.’
Busy-ness seems to be a culturally good thing but is it really? Is it good for our physical and mental health, our relationships with others, our sense of compassion or for our productivity?
For me, busy is sometimes necessary but often it isn’t, so (from now on), I’m going to blitz the fear and unleash my superpower slow!
I’ll be slowing down to do much, much more…
Here are my top tips on how to slow down, with kids, and as we come out of lockdown (please let me know if you have others that work for you):-
- Tackle 1 big task a day (but not necessarily complete!) and start with it first but with a set time frame. Don’t do it for hours and hours and don’t start with other menial activities that fill your spare time that’s then suddenly gone.
- Go outside for an hour(+) every day – doesn’t matter when or for what – just get out there for a sizeable chunk of time. The natural world has been shown by countless studies to have a positive effect on stress and anxiety.
- Meditate for 15 minutes+ every day. The art of being still, present and connected works!
- Write, journal, draw or scribble on a napkin, each day, for 5 minutes+. You’ll be amazed at what comes out.
- Do daily activities a little bit slower – like cooking, washing, brushing teeth, getting dressed. Give yourself more time and make a commitment to give these things slightly longer to do. A slower pace will start to become a good habit.
“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy”