Last year, as I was conducting phone interviews for research on my newest book, I noticed something interesting. Regardless of the person’s age, marital status, profession, number of kids (or if they had kids at all), every person said these five words:
But when things slow down . . .
But when things slow down, I’ll start that ministry . . . take a vacation . . . finish my book . . .
We’re all too busy. We’re running ourselves into the ground. But here’s the problem: Slowing down doesn’t just happen. In fact, life keeps moving faster—and we have to sprint to keep up. If we’re not careful, we’ll live our entire lives rushing from one thing to the next, in a constant whirlwind of chaos.
I’m afraid that in all our busyness, we’re missing out on the most beautiful parts of life.
So, let’s talk about why slowing down is important and practical ways you can slow down.
The Importance of Slowing Down
Our breakneck pace of life is devastating to our mental and physical health, our relationships, and our productivity. But when we make slowing down a priority, we can:
- Focus on what’s truly important in life. When we live busy and distracted lives, we lose sight of the people and the pursuits that matter most to us. We can hustle and grind and work hard, only to look up one day and realize we’re crossing someone else’s finish line.
- Stay healthy—mentally and physically. Being busy leads to stress, and chronic stress will wear down your mental and physical health. Psychologists and doctors are calling this new condition hurry sickness: a form of anxiety fueled by our constant rushing, trying to squeeze just one more thing into our already packed schedules.1
- Be more productive. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but rest is essential for productivity. When we rush and hurry through our work, we’re more likely to make mistakes, forcing us to go back and redo things we could’ve just gotten right in the first place. Going slow and enjoying the moment allows us to bring our best energy and mental focus to our work.
The reality is, if you don’t slow down, you’ll miss out on your own life.
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I don’t want to watch my life from the sidelines, and I know you don’t, either. So, let’s talk about practical, actionable ways you can slow things down.
How to Slow Down
Ironically, it’s hard to slow down. It takes a ton of discipline. You’ve got to choose to go against what the rest of the world is doing. But it’s worth it—I promise. Here are a few practical ways to slow down.
1. Pay attention to what gets your attention.
Slowing down starts when you begin to pay attention to the world around you—to be truly focused on what’s in front of you. The problem is that we try to divide our attention between a million things all at once. We think multitasking will help us get more done, but in reality, it only leaves us stressed and frazzled.
Pay attention to the people, thoughts and circumstances that get your attention—because how you spend your time is how you spend your life.
2. Be present.
It sounds nice, doesn’t it? Just be present. Just be where you are. If it were that easy, we wouldn’t struggle doing it. But in our busy lives, with so much competing for our attention, it feels almost impossible to focus on what’s in front of us.
When we identify the barriers to being present—things like cell phones, interruptions and wandering thoughts—it becomes easier to guard our attention so we can be in the moment. What are your barriers to being present? Make a list, then think through how you can put guardrails around them to protect your attention.
3. Don’t allow your phone to be a distraction.
Speaking of barrier to being present, let’s talk about cell phones. We’re addicted to our phones—addicted to the temporary rush they bring. The noises, alerts, dings and little red dots keep us feeling hurried because there’s always another notification to check.
We’re on call every minute of every day. The entire world is competing for our attention via our cell phones—through news and social media and texts and emails and app notifications.
Don’t let your phone run your life. Don’t allow it to flood your body with stress hormones. Don’t give it the power to steal your time, attention and peace of mind. Set boundaries around your phone. Put time limits on certain apps or keep your phone in a box when you’re home and spending time with your family.
4. Focus on the people in front of you.
When we’re rushing, we often push people to the side. We don’t take time to look the cashier at the grocery store in the eye and ask how their day is going. We never take time to just hang out with a friend or neighbor (here in the South, we call that visitin’).
And as a result, we’re missing out on the most beautiful part of being human: relationships. Every single person has a deep desire to simply be seen. They want your eye contact and your attention, your love and affection.
So, stop and slow down, put the device away, look your loved ones in the eyes, and spend quality (translation: unrushed and undivided) time with them. When you do, you’ll realize the gift you’re giving isn’t just for the person you’re with. It’s also for you, because you get to show up and actually experience your own life.
5. Drive the speed limit.
Yes—I know. This one is tough. If you’re like me, you’re tempted to speed through traffic, weaving in and out of cars to shave a few minutes off your commute.
But you’re not a NASCAR driver, and this isn’t a race.
Slowing down is a physical act, and if your life is anything like mine, you spend a lot of time in the car. Forcing yourself to drive the speed limit and experiencing slowness on a physical level will also help you slow down mentally and emotionally.
6. Do something creative.
We’re all creative. Whether you like to do watercolors or make spreadsheets, there’s something you’re good at bringing into the world—something that brings you life. Making time for creative work helps us slow down and enjoy the moment.
Also, here’s a tip for how to spend your free time: If you’re a knowledge worker—in your head all day at your job—take up a hobby that engages your hands and your body to give your brain a break. And if you do a lot of manual labor, then do something to engage your mind—like getting lost in a novel or planning your next vacation.
7. Accept your limitations.
I don’t know about you, but I have a Mother Teresa complex sometimes—I feel like it’s my job to save the world. I sign up and say yes to things I don’t even want to do, because if I don’t show up, won’t it all fall apart?
No. The world will keep spinning if you and I learn to say no to the rush and just take a nap. Accepting our limitations allows us to honor the fact that we need margin for rest. We’re not energizer bunnies—we’re human beings.
8. Take the Why Do I Feel So Busy? life balance quiz.
You know you’re too busy, but you might not know why. Time-management hacks are great, but a lot of the time, they only address the symptom of the problem—not the source.
My team and I put together a life balance quiz that will help you get to the root of what’s causing you to feel out of balance. Take the free quiz here to find out which of the four causes applies to you.
9. Make time for play.
As we age, we have a hard time making fun a priority. We might even feel guilty for having fun—like it’s a luxury we can’t afford. Maybe you’ve entirely forgotten how to have fun!
When we slow down and make time for play, we recharge our batteries, laugh, connect with people, and reignite the spark of joy that’s missing from our hectic lives.
So, what’s fun for you? It could be taking a cake decorating class or traveling or signing up for a race. Make time for the things that bring you joy—that remind you of what it was like to be a kid.
10. Practice silence.
Can you be still?
I’m not very good at it. We live in a world full of noise. It’s possible to fill every single second of our day with a song or podcast or funny TikTok video. But in the process, we lose touch with the world around us. We lose touch with ourselves.
What if you could just stop? Stop the noise, stop the rushing, stop trying to perform, stop trying to keep up. Just stop. Be still.
In our noisy world, silence is something we must choose and practice. For one week, try spending all your time in the car in silence. No news, no podcast, no music. Schedule little pauses throughout your day—even just a minute or two can help calm your mind.
One of the problems with being too busy is that we don’t make time for reflection. We never pause to check in with ourselves, think back on the day, or consider whether or not we like how we’re spending our time.
Journaling is an awesome practice that helps you slow down and connect with yourself. If you’ve ever had a regular journaling practice, you know how valuable it is. Maybe it’s time to get back into it. And if you’ve never journaled and don’t know where to start, I recommend using my friend Rachel Cruze’s Contentment Journal. It will walk you through a 90-day journaling process that will help you find peace and contentment.
12. Add these books to your reading list.
Here are a few books that have helped me—on a personal and professional level—learn to slow down and enjoy my life:
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry by John Mark Comer
- Redefining Anxiety by Dr. John Delony
- Take Back Your Time: The Guilt-Free Guide to Life Balance by yours truly!
Start Reading Take Back Your Time for Free
Speaking of my newest book, I’d love to give you the first chapter for free. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of feeling busy and burnt out all the time. If you, like me, are done with running yourself into the ground, I want you to know that life balance is possible! You can slow down and actually feel confident about how you spend your time. This book will help you redefine balance and give you practical steps you can follow to create your version of life balance.
After all, this is your one life. It’s time you started to enjoy it.