Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Rediscover your inner sloth

Back in 1931, economist John Maynard Keynes looked past the economic pessimism of the day to a time of abundance, when we would be freed from the relentless demands of work, and able to "pluck the hour virtuously and well". And in 1966, Japanese sociologist Ikutaro Shimizu talked about the "coming of the leisure age".

What happened?

Instead of finding time to stand and stare, in spite of all our labour-saving devices, we have created ways to become busier and busier with less and less leisure time. Now, on top of work, there is no reason to ever stop... No reason not to shop online at midnight, answer emails in the bath, text as we watch a movie, upload our Facebook status when at dinner with friends...

Instead of creating time for leisure, we are abusing time. When you find yourself booking a "speed yoga" session, it's time to pause for thought.

Last week someone told me that if he turns off his email alert/phone/computer in order to concentrate, he feels disconnected (literally) and vulnerable. It no longer feels normal to him to focus unimpeded on one piece of work at a time. What could he do?

If this is how you feel, it's time to take some time to stand and stare. You know no one ever died wishing they'd spent more time at the office.

Embrace life in the slow lane: how to take your foot off the gas

* leave holes in your diary rather than filling every moment with activity, easing the pressure on your time
* set aside some time every day when you turn OFF all electronic connectivity - it's amazing how much more you can get done without interruptions, creating more time to...
* find one activity that is difficult to hurry - t'ai chi, doing the crossword or sudoku, gardening, listening to a whole album of music while doing nothing else - and do it regularly
* eat your meals sitting down at a table at least once a day, without TV, radio or other interruptions
* monitor the speed at which you are doing something - typing, driving, reading, talking - and slow it down

"When it comes to slowing down, it is best to start small," says Carl Honore , author of In Praise of Slow. "Cook a meal from scratch. Take a walk with a friend. Read the newspaper without switching on the TV. Add massage to your lovemaking. Or simply take a few minutes to sit still in a quiet place."

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