Last night I watched a program on the ABC on the slow movement. Titled Frantic Family Rescue, it detailed the efforts of three families to slow down the frantic pace of their lives, guided by journalist Carl Honoré. Honoré is the author of “In Praise of Slow” and an advocate of the slow movement.
The pressures of my frantic life are not a revelation to me, nor are my regrets about the toll on the life of my son during his formative years. For financial reasons it seemed that I had little choice as I tried desperately to support us in the face of inadequate employment and compensation. Perhaps I didn’t try hard enough, or explore alternative options but I am not interested in beating myself up over something that I can’t change now.
I am interested in making positive changes from here on however and am considering how I can make that happen, whilst still doing what I need to do. A key component of the experiment that was shown on television is the reduction of screen time. At a time when I am in the process of establishing an online-based business, that would appear to be a challenge, as of course is the whole concept of slowing down. I’m not prepared to put it in the too hard basket though.
Looking realistically at my day, I haven’t been using my time very effectively. Working from home can be an easy way of losing focus and succumbing to diversions. So … I am planning my day the evening before, making a realistic list of what needs to be achieved and am blocking out the time for the various tasks in my Outlook Calendar. I know that one can use Tasks for tracking but I have never found that it worked well for me. If anything I get irritated by the pop-ups, so Calendar it is. I’m starting each day with one of those irritating phone calls that I usually need to make – to banks or utility companies or whatever where you know that you will be confronted with layers of confusing menus and then put on hold for ages. Getting those calls out of the way early in the day and spreading them out over the days in the week is a sanity-saving strategy.
I am also scheduling some time away from the computer – i.e. weeding a patch of the garden, raking up the leaves, going for a walk. I am not blocking out 9-5 totally, as there needs to be flexibility in the day to allow for the unexpected, or tasks that arise during the day (thanks email). I am also alternating tasks so that I don’t get bored with the tedium and become less effective. I figure that if I can maximise my productiveness during the day, I don’t have to work on the business at night. I can read or joy or joys, I can work on the next novel manuscript.
An important part of my regime is going to bed at a reasonable time and this is going to take some working on. I know that I would benefit from more sleep. Supporting that goal is turning off screens at least half an hour before that so that I have wind-down time. OK, I know that there should probably be more screenless time, but I’m working on it – okay? It will just be checking emails and of course if I am working on the manuscript then probably I will have been typing.
Even more radical will be giving myself guilt-free weekends. In all of my home-based businesses in the past, I have worked on them every day, and have felt incredibly guilty when domesticity has taken me away from those tasks. Taking my weekends back feels incredibly self-indulgent but that’s what I am doing from now on.
My diversionary activity through the day is typically scanning through online media sites. When there is no water-cooler activity happening in your workspace, there is a craving for some interaction and information about what is happening in the world. My very first time block therefore is for reading the various sites. I am not going to stop doing it, but I’m going to contain it to a reasonable time slot.
The other activity that I have introduced is walking and no, I am not actually scheduling this one. This is first thing in the morning to blow away the cobwebs and to make a good start to the day. With our recent wintry and drizzly weather, gloves and raincoat are my friends but I am still walking. Sometimes I combine it with a supermarket trip so the car gets to stay in the drive. Saving fuel – woo hoo!
This is a time of transition for me and I think that my recent redundancy has probably given me a gift. What are your slow living strategies? Please share them here. What have the benefits been to you? I am interested in any tips you might have.