Slow Living and Starting a Business
By Johanna Gramacho Narloch
“It’s something most of us deal with every day, often without realizing it’s there: a feeling of time scarcity. We know it well: the feeling of having too much to do and not enough time to do it all. This is true not only of work — where we have too many projects, meetings, emails, admin tasks, calls, requests, messages — but also of our personal lives. We want to exercise, eat well, meditate, learn something cool, travel, go out with friends, spend time in solitude, go for hikes, read a million books, take care of finances and errands, keep up with podcasts and news and interesting online content and our loved ones on social networks and fascinating people on social media while finding space for contemplation and quiet. Whew.” — Leo Babauta, author of Zen Habits
So you’re starting your business, you have this amazing idea on what you want to do, what you want to achieve, how you want to change the world. You are working on it at full speed, working days and nights and in between, because it is your dream and you want to see that dream turn into reality – but at the same time you start feeling low in energy, you are pushing yourself too much, you are trying to balance everything out: work, friendships, relationship, family, hobbies… it feels like you don’t have any time at all and you’re just busy running from meeting to meeting?
Squeezing in your food, while scrolling away on your phone to stay up to date with everything that is going on in the world? Running errands, ticking off tasks on your to-do list, everything needs to be done, but who is going to do it – if not yourself?
Does any of this sound familiar to you? Do you recognize yourself in any of these habits?
If yes, my dear – let me tell you, you are not alone. Starting your own business is hard. Starting your own business while trying to maintain a somewhat work-life-balance is even harder. And starting your own business while trying to live slowly and mindfully? Seems impossible! But it is not. There are ways of incorporating slow living into your lifestyle, while still being productive and successful.
But what does living a slow lifestyle really mean?
Slow living is a life philosophy, a state of mind and being – it is a quite reflective approach. Slow living makes your life feel purposeful and fulfilling while being nourishing – you want to savor the minutes instead of counting them. It is about pacing your life, about being steady and consistent instead of busy and hectic. It is a conscious, intentional, mindful, and deep way of living. You want to feel balanced, at ease, sane, and have a minimum amount of stress. Connecting with yourself, those around you, and the world. It goes against the common norm of ‘faster is better’, it fights the standard of busyness in our hectic world. You want to focus on the quality of your life, instead of the number of things in your life.
It is about caring more while caring less. Being present and walking away. It is about letting go, about living mindfully, about getting in touch with your core values, about getting to know yourself, and putting your priorities at the center of everything you do.
In the end, it is about consuming less, while taking a slower approach to everyday life. 1
Nowadays, busy is our default state. Everyone seems to constantly be busy, hectic, running around – it is a goal to achieve, being busy almost became a status sign. Busy seems to equal success, but what we often forget is that this busyness might be coming at a high cost. Health issues like heart diseases, stress disorders, mental health issues – all these can result from this stress and busyness. So is a busy life really a full life? Or is speed actually a form of denial onto what is actually going on in our lives? What if we take a step back, slow down, and actually try to engage with whatever is going on inside of ourselves? What if we confronted whatever is happening inside, instead of building a superficial to-do-list, keeping ourselves distracted?
“A fast approach tends to be a superficial one. But when you slow down you begin to engage more deeply with whatever it is you’re doing. You’re also forced to confront what’s happening inside you – which is one of the reasons why I think we find it so hard to slow down. Speed becomes a form of denial. It’s a way of running away from those more deeper, tangled problems. Instead of focusing on questions like who am I, and what is my role here, it all becomes a superficial to-do list.” — Carl Honoré
Slow living carries quite a few misconceptions, it is not about doing everything as slow as possible, it is not about living in slow motion. It does not mean moving slowly, nor being lazy or unambitious. Instead, it is about pacing, about finding the right speed for everything. It means prioritizing what actually matters and deserves our time. It means understanding that rest is a necessity, not a luxury. That we need balance in our lives.
Rest is vital, it increases our productivity, health, happiness, our creativity and so much more. But still, we are taught that there is no time to rest, that busyness equals success. So we work until we burn out, always pushing ourselves over our limits, wanting more and more. Adopting a slower lifestyle though has the potential to heal our society.
“Busyness is, at its core, about misplaced priorities.” — Joshua Becker
To me, there are some key elements to living a slow and purposeful life.
Stop glorifying busyness!
This doesn’t have to mean the same thing to me as it does to you. Maybe for you, it means, taking time in the morning to have a cup of coffee, before getting on with your work. Maybe for someone else, it means moving somewhere close to nature. For me it might mean, cuddling with my dog in between tasks during my workday. Whatever thing it is, that allows you to stop rushing through your life – do more of it.
Be aware and present of each moment, be aware of your surroundings. This can be a meditation practice, taking small pauses in your everyday life, and appreciating the beauty in the small things.
Find your purpose!
One of the most important things to me personally is to make a positive impact, to commit myself to a purpose. Eliminate pointless tasks in your everyday life, to make time for what matters to you! This connects back to your values, to taking time to contemplate on what is important in your life and your business.
Faster isn’t always better!
Take time to savor every moment, allow relationships to grow, don’t try to force anything. Allow your life to be in constant flow.
The less you consume, the less stuff you pile up in your home, the less you have to worry about, to care about, to clean up and organize, and at the end of the day, the less impact you have on your environment – win-win!
Learn to say no more often.
Each one of us has 24 hours per day, but our society taught us to live at full speed, always busy, the busier the more successful, so taking on every project we can, seems to be the status quo to success, and saying no is getting tougher and tougher. But saying no is actually the only way to take back control of our time. In saying no, we prioritize our time, we take back the power. It makes you understand that busyness is a choice. In defining what is important to you and saying no to everything else you learn more about your values, about your priorities, and essentials. Start this process small – one task at a time, no one is going to be perfect from one day to the other, and this is by far not the goal.
Adopt a slow information diet.
You don’t need to be checking everything that is going on on social media, practice a form of digital decluttering or digital minimalism.
“I frequently worry that being productive is the surest way to lull ourselves into a trance of passivity. And busyness the greatest distraction from living.” — Maria Popova
So back to running your business. You want to be productive, you want to get sh*t done – but how? How can we find a balance, how can we find calm amidst all the chaos?
First of all, we need to understand that productivity is in a constant flux. Just like creativity and inspiration productivity is impacted by our energy levels, by our emotions, our health… So where can we start?
Check in on yourself regularly!
I try to create awareness of how I really feel. This can be done by asking simple questions throughout my day: Have I eaten anything today? Have I been drinking enough water, or am I just on my 10th coffee today, running on caffeine and thin air? Did I have enough sleep last night, if not – check in with yourself why this might be the case.
Remember to leave the house.
Did you go out in nature, breathe fresh air, or have you just been cramped up at your desk all day?
Asking yourself these simple questions regularly often quickly shows yourself the areas in your life that you might have been neglecting(maybe even unconsciously!).
And finally – check in with your ‘why’.
Why do you want to do whatever it is you’re doing? This can either strengthen your motivation and reassure you of what you are doing, or else it will show you, that you might be chasing the wrong goal, and that you need to readjust your focus and your values, or that you might have to tackle a task from another perspective.
So how can you actually unbusy your workday?
Try to figure out what is actually in your control, and what is not.
And then focus on the things you can either control or influence, instead of stressing about the things you can’t change. Ask yourself why you are so busy, why you are feeling stressed – once you’ve created awareness around this topic, it will be easier for you to recognize a stressful situation and make changes. Take your time to think about what is most important in your life and your business. It often helps to write these values down.
One tip that I personally find very helpful is to turn off all email notifications.
‘What? Turn off the notifications, this is crazy!’ – you might think. And trust me, I thought so too. But taking a designated time to check your emails during the day limits distractions, and keeps your workflow going. Use an ‘email-management-time’, you will feel way less stressed about incoming messages.
Stop to unintentionally multitask!
Research has shown that multitasking results in a decrease in productivity and focus.2 This does not mean, you can’t handle several tasks and projects at once, but if you keep switching between projects, your brain needs time to adapt its focus and even though it is just a very short amount of time – it adds up, making multitasking less effective in the long run.
What we can’t do is concentrate on two things at the same time. When I talk about being present, I’m not talking about doing only one thing at a time. I’m talking about being focused on one thing at a time. Multitasking itself is not the enemy of Essentialism; pretending we can ‘multifocus’ is. — Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism
So maybe you ask yourself, well I am trying to implement all of these tips already, but what do I do if my schedule is still packed and I don’t seem to get any free time? I am trying to work with a mix of planning and awareness. Schedule in your free time, schedule in your yoga practice, your meditation, your coffee break – whatever it is that keeps you sane, put it in your calendar! The practice of time blocking provides space in your schedule and your day and can help you to slow down.
The practice of ‘slowing down in the moment’ on the other hand takes time. Recognize and acknowledge whenever you feel overwhelmed, whenever you feel yourself becoming too busy and anxious, and pause for a moment. Take a moment for yourself, even if it is just to take a few breaths. To me, this makes a huge difference – since I started listening to my body and acknowledging the signs and my feelings, I tend to get overwhelmed less.
And lastly again: Schedule your breaks!
Breaks in your workday are incredibly important, for yourself, your brain, and your wellbeing – so don’t take them lightly – Schedule them in! As Daniel Pink says, “What gets scheduled gets done.”.
Lastly, but definitely not least: There is no one way of living a slow life. It has to do with you. With your values, your priorities, and with you putting yourself first. What is important to you doesn’t have to be important to me. Find your passions, explore your values, get to know yourself better – and be successful, at your own pace.