Ever since I can remember, I have been a rusher. A fast-moving, multi-tasking, list-making rusher. My inner Type-A perfectionist has thrived on a constant mix of productivity and precision, and my inner world has consistently been consumed by a need to get more done, fit more in, and be constantly chip-chipping away at a goal.
Most of my day-to-day functioning in this way has unfolded unconsciously – was I born or a rusher or did I become one? Likely a mix of both. I reflect on my childhood and feel that it was a combination of innate and learned behaviours that have driven me to be so high-striving with my ambitions, so eager to jam-pack my days full of purposeful activity.
Since embarking on a path of simplifying, and minimalism, almost four years ago, my inner world has been radically swept, pruned, and revised. As the physical clutter of my external environment lessened, time made way for inner evaluations – of my mental clutter, that barn full of psychological cobwebs, inherited mental paradigms, and long-held values and beliefs. As happens when one hones in on something specific, the parts of my brain responsible for intentionality and awareness grew strong.
I have learned that intentionality is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal to bring about change. I became intentional about what I owned, what I thought, and what I consumed. I was a woman on the verge of minimalistic bliss – except that my inner world, my mind and all the cells of my being – were still consumed with a drive to rush. The rusher still sat strong, mentally and physically imploring me to move forward. My outer world now reflected calm, but my inner world was as chaotic as ever.
After one particularly hectic day at work, I recall the feeling of arriving home and leaning against the kitchen table. My heart was racing; it was literally beating as quickly as the thoughts running through my head. I could feel the cells of my body vibrating, much like a metal drum continues to echo long after the initial momentum which struck it has gone. My whole body was in flight mode, my mind racing to the tasks for tonight, tomorrow, the weekend, next week, next month. Always on the hunt, always prowling for the next activity to plan for, and to execute. As I stood there at the kitchen table, I realised that I had become a living, breathing productivity machine. While my home eluded calm, my mind had not received the memo. This very moment led me on an inner journey to infuse intentionality into the way I operate.
What I’ve come to understand is that my natural pace is set at fast and that my preference is tuned to being busy. I have approached living at breakneck speed. I simplified, but forgot to slow down. I believe many of us often create a false sense of urgency in almost everything we do. We powerwalk everywhere. We attempt to multitask as much as we can. We pen emails and send them before proofreading. We set a criteria of urgency to mundane tasks to achieve that thrill of ticking them off, in order to cram every last drop of productivity into the day.
For anyone looking to deliberately slow down, I would suggest that tuning in to your body’s natural frequency and questioning the ways you work are excellent places to start. Changing the physical speed at which you work, think and move and choosing to apply slowness to situations requires awareness and intention.
You may find it beneficial to –
- Listen to your body. When I feel myself being rushed, I stop moving, take a breath, hear my buzzing cells and tell them it’s okay for me to do whatever I am trying to do with more grace and calmness. Rushing creates a higher margin for error; therefore, slowing allows our brains and bodies to keep up and perform at their very best.
- Single-task where possible. Single-tasking has given my mind the respect she needs to work optimally.
- Question urgency. Being an inherent list-maker, I will often pile a veritable mountain of tasks into a standard day and when all tasks are not ticked off, I feel a sense of disgruntling under-achievement. On making my lists, I now question the utility and urgency of everything I write down. Will it add value to do it or will skipping it have any real negative impact? Do I need to revisit the timeframe for achieving this task? You can choose your default mode and set your own pace.
- Invite grace into your heart. I stumble and fail constantly, working myself back into a buzzing tornado of energy and rush frequently. But I have honed the ability to realise it – and with grace, I can step out of rush and into calm.
- Enjoy the moment. I feel like I’m locked in to living when I choose to slow down. I slow my talking, my breathing, my senses, my movements, and I thereby connect richly with the world around me.
Productivity is a valuable quality because to achieve a worthy goal brings us great personal satisfaction. The key to a calm approach, however, is in identifying how we feel when we are working on towards a goal or task. If our bodies or minds are buzzing and frantic, it is our responsibility to take stock and re-evaluate the rush.
How do you slow down?
Until next time – simplify, focus, pursue and count your blessings.