One of the things this blog does, is to chart my relationship with the idea of slowing down. For much of my life, feeling financially pressured, and spending time on low paid work (usually writing based) has left me feeling that I have to work all the hours there are. Slowing down in 2012 looked like trying to step away from 12 hour days and seven days weeks – https://druidlife.wordpress.com/2012/04/12/life-in-the-slow-lane/ – I was very, very busy.
It’s only in the last few months that I’ve managed to get my week reliably down to six days or fewer. I’ve found one day off in seven has an enormous impact on my concentration, and my emotional wellbeing. Time off really contributes to not succumbing to bouts of depression. It also discernibly reduces my experiences of anxiety. I’m not tired all the time, I have something in reserve for emergencies, rather than living like I’m in a perpetual state of emergency.
I’ve learned to drop pace, to not always be working as fast as I can. I gaze out of the window more. I take time to pause, contemplate and gather my thoughts. I’ve come to think of the one afternoon a month taken for contemplative Druidry as a necessity, not a luxury I can barely justify. Time is the most precious thing we have, and we only get to use it once. I’m eliminating the rushing, the feelings of pressure and panic, ever more keen to have a working life that doesn’t make me miserable, and thinking I could manage to be much happier.
There are feelings of luxury to be found in the lie in – getting up at 8 rather than at 7 is enough to give me that. The early night can also feel luxurious and indulgent. The days spent pottering about, and how much more pleasant the domestic jobs are when there’s plenty of time to do them and I don’t start out feeling exhausted. I’ve had the time to rediscover cooking as something I can enjoy. Most days, I now work under 10 hours, sometimes only 6 or 8 – this also makes a lot of odds. The twelve hour days, and longer, leave little energy or brain for anything else. It’s important to me to have time for reading, crafting, music walking, and socialising.
The big leap forward in recent months has been around time management. I’m organising my life with a diary rather than an endless ‘to-do’ list. I start each day seeing what I’ve pencilled in, I add things as I go, and I make sure that my days do not get too full, and that the fun things are also in the diary. I’ve got into a position where I can structure my work across the month, pacing it, and knowing where it’s going – unpredictable demands on my time have been a real problem in the past, and I’ve learned to avoid that. I’ve also learned not to just do what people want from me the moment they email me – having work constantly interrupted by other work is a really inefficient way to go. Demands go in the diary, I let people know a time frame for my intended response, and I get back to what I was doing.
This Christmas just gone, I managed to take a whole week off. I want that to become more of a regular feature. I want a couple of weeks off every year, and I want more patches of two or three days of break as well. I want to achieve more and spend less time doing it, and a big part of that involves looking at who is allowed to use up my time. I want the time to support people who need supporting, but I have to watch out for people who just want to use up my time for the sake of it. Historically, other people’s less than reasonable demands have been a serious barrier to slowing down, but I’m getting better at moving away from the people who don’t respect boundaries or take no for an answer, and the impact this has on my time has been dramatic.