Many people don't focus on their habits at all (they still have habits even if they don't actively participate in them) or they focus on habits that negatively impact their life or aren't aligned with their values/who they want to be. Woo, that was a mouthful of a sentence.
Slow living has been important to me for a number of years. I discovered it in 2020 and it helped me recover (slowly) from the intense burnout I faced in December of 2020. My last meeting of the year I was so burnt out and brain-dead dead, I actually couldn't answer my clients' questions and was slurring my words.
So, despite not having less work, slow living has helped me through the years and nipping burnout in the bud before it can get that bad. I won't say I'm perfect and have not faced burnout since but not nearly to that extent.
You can have both success and balance in your life. And it's not about taking less work or raising your prices (both of which you can do if that's what you choose). It's more about the personal habits that you have and implement but also the intentionality of them. Are they mindful habits? Do they support moments of peace and slowness without sacrificing your productivity?
Hide the phone. Have the first thing you do in the morning not be checking your email or your social media or diving into your work tasks. Take even just a few minutes to have a quiet moment, a moment of mindful reflection or even a meditation if you can.
If you have more time in your morning you can do this for a little longer but find a moment of mindfulness. Even if it's one sip of a coffee or closing your eyes and taking a deep breath in the dim light while you feed your baby. Setting the day with a positive tone is so important and so simple.
Task management is an important mindful habit that can help support both your productivity and your stress levels. Whether you're employed by someone or self-employed planning out your daily tasks will help you get through the day more mindfully.
Identify your most important tasks for the day and focus on those first. I always set a daily big 3. If you are working on bigger projects with lots of steps and moving parts break it up into its foundational pieces. Then tackle it as individual tasks leading to something bigger. This will help make things more manageable and decrease your overwhelm and stress.
This one was the hardest for me to master as a person with ADHD whose brain works faster than most. But slow living (and scientific research) taught me that multitasking actually makes you slower. You can't put your full focus into something so you end up doing everything you're working on slower than if you had just tackled one at a time.
Give all of your energy to one thing at a time and know that when you submit it or complete it it's the best it could be. If you make task priority lists like the point above single-tasking will be much easier. Slow yourself down to speed yourself up.
Believe it or not, the state of your workspace can set the tone for your daily productivity and how successful you are. Make it a daily habit to declutter your workspace each day before you start working. Arrange it in a way that works best for you and reduces distractions.
You can add elements such as plants or calming colours to create a more peaceful environment. Even if you're not directly looking at these elements they're still in your peripheral vision and are sending feedback to your brain. If it doesn't need to be directly on your workspace find somewhere else to put it.
Set aside a time every day (preferably at the same time if you can manage) to practice mindful breathing. I recommend practicing this when you're in a calm state. When you only ever practice breathing when you're in an elevated state your mind will associate the breathing with the elevated state and when you go to implement it it can actually increase your feelings. So, practice first when you're calm and let your body associate the breathing with those calm feelings.
Focus on the different parts of your breath. First, focus on feeling your breath enter your nose. What does it feel like as it passes through your nasal canal? Next, focus on feeling it enter your chest. Put your hand on your chest and feel it rise and fall. Next, feel it enter and exit your belly. Breathe right into your belly with your hand on your stomach. Finally, pay attention to when your breath leaves your mouth or nose. What can you feel? Take a few breaths for each.
Boundaries are the key to slow living and to creating mindful habits. Establish clear boundaries between your work and your personal life. Both elements are important. You need to work to make money but working 24/7 is not healthy or sustainable (and kind of like... what's the point?).
Avoid responding to work emails or calls outside of designated hours. For me, I set clear boundaries on work hours and communication in the agreement my clients sign before we get started and I encourage them to ask questions. We discuss preferred methods of communication at the start and I inform them that they are welcome to communicate whenever they need but I will only answer during business hours. To help me avoid the temptation to answer at alternate times I set the "Do-Not-Disturb" feature on my phone from 8pm-8am.
Another slow living habit that has worked for me. I, essentially, have all non-essential notifications turned off on my phone. The only things that come through are text messages and calls from people in my contact list (yes, I have even silenced unknown numbers. If they need, they can leave a voicemail).
For me, it's out of sight and (often) out of mind. I set designated times to check things but I am not constantly bombarded with social media and other notifications. If I'm really struggling, I will set Work Focus on my phone and limit this even more. When you turn your notifications off your attention won't always be grabbed every time your phone lights up. This allows you to give your undivided attention to whatever you're doing; work or personal.
If there is just one thing you do to add slow living to your day it is this. STOP EATING AT YOUR DESK WHILE YOU WORK. Once in a while is understandable but set yourself a real, designated eating time. Find somewhere else, away from your computer, to eat. If it's unavoidable ensure you have your computer off and closed.
While you're eating add in elements of slow living. Don't shovel your food down, instead chew your food properly, only take another spoonful/forkful once you have finished chewing. Pay close attention to the smell as your bite reaches your lips, the flavours, textures, tastes of your food. And take deep mindful breaths during this mind break.
Get your mind away from technology at certain points during the day. As mentioned above, don't start your day with technology. Find other morning routine elements that allow you to forget the phone for a bit and put it away at night. Hide your phone away during your work day so you don't accidentally start doom-scrolling (have you been there?).
Create great morning and evening routines. In the morning, slowly integrate your phone into your day and in the evening slowly fade it out. For my morning routine, I do different journalling and prep before pulling it out. My meditations are on an app so I do that after the journalling. Then in the evening I do the parts of my evening routine that are on the phone first and fade it out.
If you haven't already, start a gratitude practice. This is beneficial for every person for all situations. Work or otherwise. Acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of your work. We often let our negativity bias shine through and focus on everything that sucked. But having a daily gratitude practice allows us to reflect and acknowledge, even the small things that are positive.
To spread the love on this one you can express gratitude to your colleagues (if you have them). You never know what someone else is going through or what a simple act like that could mean. Your positivity could also be contagious and help be the catalyst for brightening up your office.
Before you sign off from work for the day reflect on what you've accomplished and what opportunities presented themselves. Let go of what you didn't get finished or what is on tomorrow's plate and instead give yourself a pat on the back for everything you did accomplish. This can be part of a gratitude practice but make sure you acknowledge this.
You can write it down if you like but don't leave work without smiling about everything that you were able to do or the opportunities that came your way.
Slow living is about being intentional and mindful and being in the present moment. It's a state of being and these habits and mindsets can help you create slow, mindful moments during your way and support more mindful and less stressful working.
It's not necessarily taking less time to do things and therefore, decreasing your output but more about the intentionality behind the actions and optimizing how you work. For instance, single-tasking might seem like it's slower but studies have shown that multitasking actually makes you slower.
Good luck creating mindful slow living habits!