I’m a doer. I do. I believe in multitasking, in checking things off my list, in juggling until I can’t juggle any more. As a goal-oriented, cross-functional person, I seize the day and I seize it hard. I have a tendency to fill up my days with a flood of activities, which means I must multitask whenever possible: think listening to a podcast while cooking tea and catching up with friends on the phone while exercising and even stretching while cleaning my teeth. See, I told you. I’m a multitasking machine.
But I must often remind myself that being a multitasking machine isn’t always as productive as it’s cracked up to be. I read a long time ago that we need to slow down to go faster. When we slow down, we can actually get more done. This concept — “slow down to go faster” — stopped me in my tracks because it made so much sense.
Why was it such a revelation? In this fast-paced, want-it-all-and-want-it-now society, we rarely focus on focus, on stopping to smell the roses, on enjoying the process of the task at hand. Busyness and stress are highly addictive, and our bodies can’t distinguish between the stress/fear we might feel about multitasking and the stress/fear that we would feel if, say, we saw a shark swimming toward us. Shocking right?! We think 65,000 thoughts a day. That’s a crazy amount of ideas, opinions, plans and notions, and they can create a lot of strain on our minds and bodies.
So, what’s a busy body to do? It takes its foot off the gas. Slowing down can bring you more focus and more presence. Slowing down allows you to notice more, make more connections and engage more of your own feelings.
And that’s definitely not all. Here are 10 reasons why you need to slow down to go faster.
1. Savour the best everyday moments
I collect happy moments. I call it my Top Five Movement: Everyday, I write down my Top Five moments, interactions, happenings of the day. The only rule with this list, is that the moments I write down must be positive. From the 10,000+ happy memories I’ve collected during the past decade, I can tell you this: When you dig beneath the surface, you’ll find that it’s the tiny, little moments that make you burst with joy most often. The next item on your to-do list may be the top moment of your day.
Whether it’s snuggling with your kids, patting your puppy or climbing into your freshly made bed at night — it’s the inconspicuous moments that make the biggest difference.
It’s easy to spend your life focused on big ideas and grand plans: Wishing and waiting for that overseas trip or that big career break, or even just holding out for the weekend. But life is 24/7. Life is now! And lasting happiness is found by revelling in the little moments, not waiting for the big ones. Slowing down helps you to see that.
Need help reminding yourself of this lesson? Check out my Top Five Movement cards.
2. Be goal focussed
Don’t get me wrong: The meaningful, focussed action that fills up our days and connects us with our life’s purpose and goals isn’t something to shy away from. But take a moment (I know, you are busy! But trust me) and think about your busyness. Do the tasks, the habits, the running in circles actually align with your goals? Many of us are just busy being busy. We fill our schedules with stuff — meaningless activities that don’t actually add to our overall happiness or joy.
Check this week’s calendar, and prioritise the moments that will help you reach your goals and add meaning to your life.
3. Find out what really makes me happy
I believe that going too fast is often why so many of us are clueless about what really makes us happy.
When I slow down and I use the habit of writing a Top Five list to take note of the things that actually bring me joy, I tune into what makes me happiest. When you figure out which things actually make you happy, you start to focus on making those moments happen more often. You savour, you cherish, you repeat. You actually seize the day — without the stress and strain of cramming unfulfilling items into your schedule.
4. Be productive
You’ve been there: You have a busy, busy, busy day, and your to-do list is staggering out of control. Instead of tackling each project one at a time, you decide to combine your to-dos. And you know what happens: What to-dos get accomplished get done with a lot less intention and attention, heart and consideration. Instead, you are a chicken-with-its-head-cut-off frantic. You have lost any amount of zen or mindfulness that you woke up with.
When you slow down and you tackle one task at a time, you are more effective and efficient. You accomplish what you need to do, and you put love and intention into everything you do.
5. Engage with others
When you are busy, you focus inward. You become so obsessed with speed that you only see what’s in your direct path — and you often just run right over anyone in your way. That means you miss the people in your lives who need your help, who need your love, who need you to help them celebrate their victories. And you may even ignore your own craving for connection as well, unintentionally running away from others and disconnecting from your own emotional needs.
When you slow down, you open yourself up to others. You become a better friend, partner, parent, daughter, son, co-worker. You enjoy the reciprocity of relationships.
6. When you work less, you work better
There is a myth that the longer you work, they more you get done. That’s simply not true. Research has shown “that output does not rise or fall in direct proportion to the number of hours worked.” In fact, if 60-hour-a-week employees only worked 40 hours a week, they’d be just as productive. If you work a lot of hours, you may want to reassess how you spend your time. You may find that working less frees your time for family, friends, fitness and fun — and doesn’t even hurt your professional output. That’s a life win-win.
7. Find the answers, find clarity
Sometimes we don’t think we have the answers. When we stop, we can start looking for them. We always know more than we think we know, but it’s difficult to connect to the creativity and knowledge in our heart of hearts when we are constantly focused on trying to be entertained (think, checking your email while watching reality TV).
Rather than looking for an answer or a quick fix elsewhere, give your body and mind helpful prompts and space to let the answers bubble up. As a coach, my clients are usually surprised to find that in the first month of working with me a lot of action is focussed around reflecting on what they already know, the resources they already have and the vision of where they want to be. This can be challenging as most people set goals quickly and immediately spring into action. But by slowing down with a structured reflection process, clients get clarity and laser like focus and then move forward into life-changing actions that are often far more powerful.
8. Become an explored
Earlier this year, I achieved a long-held goal of walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. These were some of my favourite days of my life: simple, active and full of space. We would get up in the morning, have breaky, pull on our hiking boots and packs (we carried everything we needed for a month away) and walked all day through Portugal and Spain, along the coast and through the Portuguese and Spanish countryside. It was incredible.
After the walk, we visited Malta. Without any plans like we’d had in Spain, I found myself Googling and Trip Advisor-ing the best places to go in the tiny, tiny town we stayed in. There were really only six places to choose from, and all of a sudden I was back in my connected world to see what other people thought of these places. Upon this realisation, I put the iPad down, and we explored at an open, adventurous pace — instead of walking efficiently and directly to places that Trip Advisor had recommended.
9. Win your own race
With social media, it’s so easy to compare our lives to others. In that comparison, we almost inevitably fail. We are never as good as the highlights of others’ lives, or that’s just how it seems.
But there is no comparison, because it just shouldn’t be a competition. Life is not a competition! When we speed up our lives to fit in all the things we think we need to be doing, we don’t focus on our own happiness.
When you focus on your own happiness (as I did), you always win. Show up, step forward, and slowly make your way toward your own joy.
10. Get off the dance floor (and onto the balcony)
Have you heard of that saying? It’s often used in management trainings, but I find it oh-so relevant for our everyday lives. You see, when you are on the dance floor (whether you are a confident or shy dancer!), you are in the mix of it all. You are moving and shaking and doing your thing or focussed on how others are moving and shaking. But when you take a break from the dance floor and head to the balcony, you have a view of what’s going on around you. You have perspective, and you can assess the situation.
This doesn’t mean you have to hang out on the balcony for the rest of your life (boring!). Sure, take some time to dance. But when you slow down, you can get a gorgeous view from the balcony.
It’s not difficult to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life. There are people who easily get caught up in the rapid, chaotic flow, and there are people who set their own pace and priorities. It’s being able to know what makes you happy and recognise the joy of the journey that sets one apart from the other.
Clare Desira is the Chief Positivity Officer over at Top Five Movement. Clare shares over 100 simple tools for a happier life include an award winning, psychologist endorsed happiness tool – the Positive Thought Starters deck.