On a typical day I answer 40-50 emails, respond to 20-30 phone calls and text messages, post updates on Facebook and Twitter, meet a guy for coffee and another guy for lunch, compose a blog entry or a book section or record a podcast, edit three or four engineering reports, and run a few errands before meeting Allie for dinner. Still, I never seem to clear all the items on my To Do list. I’m working faster and faster with each passing year, but I cannot honestly say that speed has enriched my life or improved the quality of my work. So I’ve decided to slow down.
Slowing down makes sense. Only in times of quiet reflection am I able to clear my mind and focus on what’s truly important, the goals that match my purpose and values as a Christian man. It takes time and intention to listen for the voice of God. It takes time and distance to recognize my opportunities, prioritize my efforts, plan my work. Slowing down drastically reduces my stress level, improves my decision-making, deepens my creativity. Most importantly, it makes it possible for me to connect with the present, to actually live my life in mindful and grateful awareness.
Here’s the problem: slowing down in today’s world is as difficult as driving 45 miles per hour on the interstate. Everyone else is in a terrible rush, and the momentum of the crowd tends to sweep me along. The incessant buzzing of my phone, the pinging of my mailbox, the torrent of information that pours through my laptop in an endless stream—the information highway moves with an urgency that is almost irresistible. If I truly want to slow down, I need to find an exit.
Here are three exits that are available to me:
- Early morning quiet time. I love to give myself an hour of solitude before the workday begins, just to get awake and spiritually connected. A few pages of inspirational reading, followed by meditative prayer and journaling before I turn to my To-Do lists, makes all the difference in the world. For this to happen, of course, I must have gone to bed at a decent hour the night before, and I must resist the urge to open my email or cruise for news on the Internet immediately upon waking.
- Set times for returning phone calls. Some calls, such as those from my wife, kids, and employees, should be answered automatically. When other numbers light up my phone, though, I’m learning to let voicemail to take a message when I’m otherwise engaged, and to respond at a set time during the day. That way, I can listen closely and respond appropriately, and I’m not forced to do two things at once.
- Going antisocial. In his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, Michael Hyatt recommended an application for Mac users called Anti-Social. I bought it immediately. Once installed, this wonderful little app allows me to cut off connection to all my distracting news and social networking sites for any length of time I choose, while leaving me connected to email if I need to be. I was astonished to discover how much my world slows down whenever Anti-Social is activated, and how the quality of my work improves. It’s running right now.
Well, there are three suggested strategies for slowing down. Do you agree that this is something we should be trying to do? If so, what strategies can you suggest?