One Simple Thing: Slow Down


Not sure this photo has much to do with this post but… I love it. Totally reminds me of when I was a kid and would walk and read. And there is nothing like being so involved in a book that you don’t want to put it down.

In early November I read a post by Katy about when to slow down. She had cut her finger quite badly while multitasking and having too much on her mind. Life was very busy. Too many balls in the air and one of the repercussions was a day lost waiting to get stitches at the hospital.

Multitasking and busy schedules are the norm for a lot of families. Pick-up, drop-off, errands, shopping, play dates, social commitments, a late night at work. Before moving to this sleepy island, the “we’re so busy” phrase was probably the most common answer when I asked friends how they were. In our new home a more common reply is “we’re good”, “the children are a delight” and at the moment, “we’re excited about the holidays”. *I’ve had a few requests for some comparisons between our urban Vancouver life and small town island life. I’ll write more about the quirks and differences of our new home in the new year.

What’s the danger in being busy?

Well, there’s nothing overly dangerous in keeping a fairly full routine and schedule. In fact, a lot of people thrive on having very little free or unscheduled time.

The danger comes when you are beyond your capacity. The danger comes when you are overwhelmed. You make mistakes.

The leftovers are forgotten in their containers on the kitchen counter. They spoil and you have to throw them out.

You double book yourself without knowing and have to pay a cancellation fee for an appointment.

You leave your coffee/lunch/wallet on top of the car and drive away.

Your children are regularly late for school and only get half the first morning’s lesson. They feel less confident in those subjects and their learning is affected.

Sometimes being overwhelmed results in terrible tragedies. There isn’t a parent out there that doesn’t hear of these tragedies and think, could that have been me on a busy day?

How to Slow Down:

  • If you text while driving stop. Today. Nothing is more important than your life, the lives of your passengers and other drivers.
  • Make realistic schedules and to-do lists. I like keeping my daily to-do list at three things.
  • Look up. Take a moment to look at your surroundings, really look at the road in front of you or the people beside you.
  • Say no. It can be hard. Particularly if you are a people pleaser. But stick to your guns and commit to things you enjoy and can give your undivided attention to.
  • Schedule a block of “do nothing” time. A friend of ours recently told me about his unexpected do nothing day. It happened organically but he seized the opportunity to take a vacation day, do some errands and read. I love hearing this. Especially from parents!
  • Breathe. Take a long rib expanding deep breath when you are running around trying to do seven things at once. A deep breath can bring clarity. And clarity can help you see that your sleep is important, store bought cookies are okay and maybe that oil change can wait till next week.

This time of year is exciting and busy. Vacation, good food and drink, big expectations for social events and gift giving. There is a lot going on.

Take a moment to really ponder if your schedule is too full. If you’re spending more time getting places than enjoying them.

Adjust. Send your regrets for a holiday party and make plans for more intimate gatherings in the New Year.

Slow down. Do it for your health and your loved ones. Do it so you can really engage with the people around you. Do it so you can be alert and mindful when others are not.

Wishing you a very happy, well and safe holiday season,


PS. Courtney gave me a copy of the book for her Clutterfree course and I’ll be reading it over the holidays. I had hoped to write a little review for you here before the course starts in January but I am not sure that is going to happen. I wanted to alert you to this course if you’re making plans for a clutter free 2012. You can check read more about the book and course here. PPS. Courtney is delightful! I’ve had a few interactions with her and she is just as lovely by email correspondence as she is in her essays.


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  • My daughter is entering that wonderful reading walkabout.

    Thanks for the wonderful reminder post. We’ve so far (a week to go) successfully accomplished a December to remember (and the first ever) of laid back, fun times enveloped with simplicity. It is indescribably wonderful!

  • Rachel, Here’s my ‘trouble.’ We are relatively unscheduled people who enjoy a good slow life. Everyone around us appears too busy for our last minute calls over to dine or play. We are looking toward a holiday weekend with nothing going on and no one to share in our festivities because everyone is either traveling or booked up with family. We actually considered doing some of the same so we wouldn’t have to hear the cries of the children wanting time with friends who were unavailable. I actually find that we have too much time and I am moving too slow someday (weeks, months). Do you ever have this ‘trouble?’ There are certainly a lot of benefits and I recognize those as well. Just wanted your thoughts, if you have time to share. Thanks.

    • This is interesting to hear. A while back a friend invited us for dinner spur of the moment and I said no. Why? Because I had some chicken in the fridge that needed to be cooked that day (downside to no freezer). But I wish there was more of that, casual invites. So I have started to do it a bit more myself. If we meet up for a playdate with friends I’ll ask if they want to join us for dinner that night.

      I do find that although we are moving slow, people here on the island are moving slow as well. Most of the people I know here aren’t book weeks in advance. Maybe it’s a small town thing? Have you been able to connect with any other families that are into cycling, possibly a slower lifestyle?

      Sorry – don’t have good answers on this one.

      • No, we are pretty lone-family-cyclists, which I am trying to change through encouragement and action. Slow and unscheduled is not the lingo here, but it is small town (40K). Yet it’s not as fast and frenzied as the ‘big city.’ Thanks for the reply, I think it is a tough one. We just try to keep our chins up and make the best of it all.

  • What a timely post Rachel. It’s half one in the morning and I have just finished baking biscuits for my son’s school bake-sale tomorrow and studying. And instead of going to bed, I check my e-mails and a cople of my fave blogs. And tomorrow I’ll be tired, rushed, late from work. Soooo looking forward to a few lazy days at Christmas! :)

  • Yes. Yes! All of those dangers of being busy you listed were happening to me, plus health issues. I felt like a rushing, bumbling, idiot. I was doing too many things and none of them well. Freeing myself of all on-going commitments and thinking seriously before adding an event to my calendar has allowed me time to relax, enjoy, and think! Inspirational, again.

  • My kids usually do a great job of telling me to slow down if I stop long enough to notice their cues. I work from home and have been very busy with pre-holiday deadlines. I’ve been feeling stressed and have been short with the kids because of it. I walked by my 5yr old daughter lying on the floor and stopped to give her a kiss. She wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me a big hug while I continued to give her lots of little kisses on her cheeks. Seeing this, my 7yr old son jumped off the sofa and came over to join in and get his hugs and kisses. I saw such an immediate difference in both of them when I stopped and focused only on them. It only took a minute but made a big difference for all of us.
    On days when things in the house are crazy, I make it a point to go out on the deck, take in a few deep breaths and absord the beauty all around me. I live in the mountains so I’m surrounded by trees, mountain views, birds, gentle breezes, sky-blue skies and crisp air. Doing this completely changes my demeanor.
    When all else fails, stop and breathe.

    • Lovely. :) My two year old has been sick the last two days. It’s slowed everything way down. Been puttering around the house and spending a lot of time with a feverish sleepy toddler in my arms. At these times I am so thankful I can just put the brakes on with no worries about cancelling a lot of things or disappointing other people.

  • Great advice! I am always going 110 mph it feels and am typically stressed out over something, and its usually something that’s small. Need to learn to slow down and relax more. I’ve been told I live in the future and worry too much, I need to start taking in the present and truly enjoying it! Thanks and hope you have a great Christmas and New Years’!

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