Read on to find out how to Slow Down to Speed Up Your Productivity in this guest blog written for Berkshire Mummies by Rachel Jones, founder of re:treat.
Slow Down to Speed up your Productivity
As busy working Mums, we’re so used to squeezing as much as possible into a limited timeframe. We think that the harder we work, the more productive we are. To do lists stretch for miles and we beat ourselves up if there aren’t enough ticks when it’s time for the school run. I’m here to tell you that slowing down will help you reach your goals faster.
Slow living means different things for different people. But the key is having an intentional approach to life. Resisting the temptation to operate on autopilot, and instead living according to your values. It’s about creating a life that has a clear purpose and is meaningful and exciting to you.
My background is fast-paced PR agencies and, in my last job as a head of marketing, I felt I had a mountain to climb each day. There were never enough hours so I ended up catching up every evening, which lead to hours of fairly ineffectual work, late nights and a tired brain.
But I had an epiphany this time last year when enjoying a wellness retreat break. The change of pace and headspace was unlike any holiday I’d had before and it suddenly became painfully clear that my work / life balance was all wrong. I wasn’t happy, I was exhausted and it was the first time I’d made any real space for myself in 12 years.
I gave up my marketing job, and set up my own retreats business so I could help others feel as recharged, inspired and enlightened as I had. I now run weekend retreats from the most incredible venue in East Ilsley. There are retreats for adults only. And, to the best of my knowledge, we’re the only business offering retreats for parents and their tweens or teens. I’ve also just launched private bespoke retreats.
I’ve built a team of wellness specialists who support me and run a variety of sessions – from life coaching to yoga, and from art therapy to nutrition. I’m not claiming to be an expert but I’ve learnt so much through them, as well as through my own research, over the last year that I want to share with you. First and foremost, self care is not selfish. Whether it be five minutes to read a book, or a weekend away to enjoy a spa … or a retreat!
The goal of slowing down isn’t actually to go slower. It’s about taking action in the most effective way. Think of it as 1. quality over quantity: doing things well instead of doing more things. 2. sustainability of effort: doing something you can sustain, enjoy doing, and want to keep doing. And 3. intentionality over reactivity: doing what you’ve decided you want, instead of letting others dictate your path for you.
Here are my five ways to slow down to enjoy the journey, carve out a career or business you love working in every day, and ultimately be more productive:
1. Reflect, Plan and Prioritise
Give yourself the space to think. I think best when I’m moving, and the science agrees that brain power is boosted by exercise. It oxygenates the blood, and stimulates your hippocampus, which is critical to memory formation and retrieval. So don’t feel you have to be chained to your desk – get outside, have a walk, go for a run, work from a shared office space or café. And don’t feel guilty for it. Take time away from to reflect on where you are with your business, how that is feeding your own personal goals, and where you’re headed next. What do you want to focus on? What do you wish you were achieving that you’re not yet? What connections / knowledge / tools do you need to get there? What no longer serves you?
2. Make Time for Mindfulness and Gratitude
Give yourself a few minutes at the beginning of your workday to check in with yourself. Consider your stresses and worries, and accept them rather than pushing them away. Remind yourself that you will try to change what you can and accept what you can’t. Practise acceptance and gratitude. Write down three things that you’re proud of in your business.
3. Prioritise the ‘Non-Work’ Work
I bet many of us feel a little indulgent stepping away from ‘real work’ to network and learn, and perhaps anxious about what the inbox is doing. But this is one of the most productive things we can do, and the most likely to result in business – and personal – growth. As well as networking, consider identifying areas that you want to branch out into, or improve at. It might be an intensive course, but it might be reading a book or some simple online videos.
4. Learn to Say No
Being successful isn’t just about what you do. It’s also what you choose to turn down. Slowing down is as much about what you don’t do. We all love to be helpful and saying no can be uncomfortable but don’t fill your life with things to make others happy. If a project comes along that doesn’t fit with your direction for your business, do you need to say yes or could you politely decline? Could that effort be better used elsewhere? Likewise, which elements of your career drain you of energy? Can any of them be delegated or automated?
5. Self Care Snacking
This is about squeezing in something small every day, rather than avoiding ‘me time’ entirely because it seems too massive and time-consuming. Even small moments of peace, relaxation, gratitude, connection or joy can make a big difference to your health, relationships and resilience. A few bite-sized ideas for self-care include having a go at 7-11 breathing while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Breathe in deeply for a count of 7, then breathe out for a count of 11. It has a calming effect on the body, relieving stress. Learn how to massage your own hands – it only takes a few minutes and is highly effective before (or during) a moment of anxiety, and a great tool to teach your children or teens.
If you remember one thing from this blog, it’s that quicker isn’t always better. Saying no and doing less is positive, and headspace and self care are possible even within very busy lives. Slowing down really will help you to savour the journey as much as the destination.
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