Slowing Down in a World Obsessed with Productivity

slowing down productivity

Slowing down can be a more impactful way of filling time than being productive

Fear of Doing Nothing
I’m curious why my inbox is flood with suggestions for boredom during a pandemic. I’ve never been so busy and am craving doing ….nothing. These suggestions often take the form of pinterest tips on dealing with boredom. As though boredom were a byproduct of Covid-19.

As a clinician, it’s not unusual to see clients balk at the suggestion that they slow down in the face of unrelenting stress. After all, they sought treatment for a solution. It sounds like a lot of nothing. But that’s just the thing. Slowing down isn’t nothing. And even nothing isn’t really nothing either. It’s as though we fear being still. People think it’s a waste of time. A waste of life. It’s….unproductive. There’s an unappreciation for the small. The quiet. And the subtle. The tragedy of this situation, is that much living takes place in the silence. In the quiet moment. If you rush. You miss it. The mindfulness movement has done much to help us focus on the value of the *now.* Some of the benefits of mindfulness are:

*Improved focus and concentration
*Relaxes your mind and body.
*Increases self-awareness
*Lowers blood pressure
*Reduces stress

Overvaluing Productivity
People do love to boast about how busy they are. It’s quite the status symbol. This appears to have kicked into unprecedented gear with the arrival of the smartphone, applewatch and other status symbols that signal our appointments, to do lists and meetings that we attend to generate more productivity. I remember when it was having a pager. That seems so archaic now and probably not a status symbol. How many meetings have you been to where it’s excusable to be late or arrive early if you are coming or going to another meeting? Of course, your current meeting will probably be rescheduled because with all the coming and going, you don’t actually get around to the meeting. That’s really secondary. I get it. We like things fast. But when does it ever stop?

What do we Lose With all This Productivity?
At stake are all the things that numerous cultures over thousands of years have held dear: family, friendships and connections. All the worthwhile things that take time and investment. Not only that, but you can’t fake such things if you’re not really present. Have you ever talked to someone who is looking at you, but you can tell in their eyes that they are “offline?” For the connection to be real, you need to actually be there and invested in the moment with the other person.

“A mind that is racing over worries about the future or recycling resentments from the past is ill equipped to handle the challenges of the moment. By slowing down, we can train the mind to focus completely in the present. Then we will find that we can function well whatever the difficulties. That is what it means to be stress-proof: not avoiding stress but being at our best under pressure, calm, cool, and creative in the midst of the storm.”

― Eknath Easwaran 

Slowing down is an act of self-care. Slowing down helps put our bodies into a state where the our parasympathetic nervous system is in charge so that we can transition out of the “fight or flight” mode associated with stress. The result is increased ability to gain perspective and self-regulation needed to reduce stress which in turn makes us more ….productive. We cannot give from an empty cup.

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