The Art of Slowing Down
That is approximately the number of rocks I threw into a lake this past summer.
Every day, my son would wake up, ask for his swimsuit, and march himself out to the dock to toss rocks from a bucket. Seeing as my son is only 3 years old, he needed supervision for this very important task. And so, because of his love of throwing rocks, and his lack of fear of water, I would accompany him to the dock. And sit. And watch. At first, it was painful and sometimes it was (dare I say,) boring even. But as I sat there and watched my son throw rock after rock, I decided to join in and see what he could possibly love about it. His face lit up the first time I threw a rock in, and his joy brought me joy. I felt calm. I felt in the moment, and I felt connected to my 3 year old.
Turns out, it was also an accidental experiment in slowing down, and being fully in the moment, completing one activity at a time. I didn’t bring my phone down for fear of it falling the water, and it wasn’t a safe place for me to read or do anything else that would prevent me from fully supervising my son. And so, once I started to let go of the thoughts of “there are a million other things I need (want) to be doing right now,” it was actually, surprisingly, nice. And I found myself leaving the dock feeling refocused and more productive throughout my day. Which got me thinking, if I feel this good after just throwing rocks, ready to conquer my day...does multitasking really make me more productive?
The short answer is no. Several studies and articles, including this one from Health Magazine, discuss the dangers to your health, your relationships, and ability to complete work accurately while multitasking. In fact, studies have shown that multitasking, no matter how good we think we are at it, causes us to complete tasks at a slower rate, creates friction in our relationships, allows us to make more mistakes when working, and may also lead to overeating and higher levels of overall stress. So then, why do we do it, buy into it, and support it like it’s an amazing way of living, when it simply isn’t? So rarely any more are we allowed to be totally present in the moment. In fact, we are a society that touts our ability to multi-task and be ever connected. and This is especially true for women. We are supposed to do it all, take care of it all, and look great doing it. To not do it, to slow down, say no, or ask for help are things that aren’t nearly as celebrated. This notion, that we can and should do it all, can lead to higher levels of anxiety, depression, and burn-out. I find myself meeting with clients who will say to me, I can’t do it all anymore, or I just want to take a pause so I can catch my breath.
So what’s the answer? Take a look at your day, your commitments, the things you feel you “should do,” take a deep breath, and choose one that you can say no to. Whether it’s signing off of social media at a set time for the night, turning down one more committee or volunteer experience, or deciding to work on one thing at a time at work, will create a small space to breathe, connect and feel fully present in whatever moment you are in. I can tell you from personal experience, once you start to slow down, you just might find your life is fuller and more productive in the end.