Last week, I did – or at least made a sincere attempt to do – the one thing we need to do at this time of year: slow down. It’s something I realise I should have done a lot sooner. Something we all should do a bit more often – not reserve for the end of the year.
To be honest, it was agonising at first, but refreshing by the end. Agonising, because like many of you, I have also become accustomed to being busy. Busy with things to do, places to be, people to meet. Always that sense of being on the move and having something to do.
As a matter of fact, all through the year, we’re so caught up with trying to cram a dozen different things into a single day. This is especially true in the startup world, where our working hours exceed human limits. And where we attempt to accomplish as much as we can, as quickly as we can.
But it’s not just in the startup world where life has become a measure of who works the hardest, or puts in the most hours. If you go to any government offices too, you’ll find it hard to believe that these are in fact the Sarkari offices, originally associated with the 9 am to 5 pm working hours. In fact, the very concept of a 9am to 5pm workday is almost non-existent today.
Interestingly, what you’ll notice is that all our conversations about how many hours we’re working every day or how many weekends we’re sacrificing every month are always tinged with a sense of pride or an undercurrent of victimisation or even the need for recognition.
But even as we go about our life at this frenzied pace, we fail to understand that we’re most productive when we take the time to slow down. We fail also to see the warnings signs that tell us it is indeed time to put the brakes on living life at this frenzied, maddening pace.
The need to slow down
We’ve all seen these signs, in varied forms. For some, it’s a constant feeling of anxiety over all the things you could achieve in every moment set aside to rest. For others, it’s the inability to pay attention to conversations or to details, or even to quickly recall seemingly common things to memory. And for yet others, it’s the onset of far too many angry outbursts with those around you.
For Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who admits to working 120-hour-weeks, the signs were there in his reliance on pills to sleep and the toll it took on his health and time with family and friends.
And yet, we ignore these signs, racing from one thing to another. From one task to the next. From one deadline to the next.
In short, racing through life and wearing ourselves down, without a moment to appreciate the things that matter. The people that matter. And without a moment for yourself.
Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast
Unfortunately, we forget that slowing down is actually a good thing.
We don’t realise that slowing down is really about being in the now – about being in the present and taking time out for yourself, for introspection and rejuvenation. And doing this, so you emerge more focused, more productive, and more mindful of the work and people around you.
Just like Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who calls himself the Chief Slowdown Officer, says,
“It takes courage to say ‘wait. Slow down. Get more information.’ Perhaps even (gasp) ask for help. Begin to unhook from cultural expectations of how to do it (whatever it is), and instead, cultivate the elegant discipline of getting at the deeper truths. Take your business, and your life, into your own hands with a mindfulness practice.”
So, this weekend and all through this month, I’d say, slow down awhile. Not stop. Slow down. Just long enough to get some perspective and focus on the things that matter.
To quote Jeff Bezos again,
“Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast. Everything I’ve succeeded at in life is because of that philosophy.”
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