24 May 2011

You Don't Have To Work This Hard! – Positive Slow-Time

In my farming childhood the principle of fallowing a paddock was common (leaving ground uncultivated for a season, in order to rest the land, restore its fertility, and prepare it for a new crop.). These days, however, it’s not a word you often see or hear, except in cropping country.

     It was therefore with surprise, as I waited for my early morning kick-start-the-brain coffee to brew one morning, that the word‘fallow’ jumped off the pages of an interview between Sean O’Hagan of the Observer and British psychoanalyst and writer Adam Phillips. The article was about Phillips’ latest book ‘Going Sane’.

Check out these excerpts from the interview.

Phillips: ‘One of the best things we could do as individuals is allow ourselves to daydream more.’

O’Hagan: ‘In this belief, of course, [Phillips] is in direct conflict with the thrust of our culture, which is geared to ever more activity; longer hours, more multi-tasking, always the need to keep up, or run at full pelt to try and catch up.’

Phillips: ‘One of the more distracting things about capitalist culture is that there is no stupor, no time to vegetate. What I would suggest is more time wasting, less stimulation. We need time to lie fallow like we did in childhood, so we can recuperate.’

O’Hagan: ‘It seems to be dawning on us that, although our lives are easier – that is to say, less poor, less threatened by disease and death, less prescribed by class, gender or race than the lives of our parents or our grandparents – they are nevertheless more pointlessly complex and, as a result, we seem to be more unhappy. That unhappiness manifests itself… in a strange dissatisfaction with ourselves, and in our ability to be, for want of a better word, contented.’

My thoughts: I got excited as I read. These guys made sense to me, and I’m sure you’ve also noticed the same paradox – that material wealth for many equals time-poverty and constant discontent.

  •  So, what practical things can we do to give ourselves time to restore our fertile minds (and bodies) to a happier and more creative state?
  • How can we translate this thinking into practical terms?
  • How can we integrate this kind of thinking into lives that, for many, feel so crowded that the very thought of sitting down and doing nothing is very scary?
  • How can we make life simpler?

Here are ten ideas I’ve come up with for a phrase I coined – ‘Positive Slow-Time’:

  1.  Before you take on another commitment, ask yourself, ‘Does this fit with the life I want to live?’ 
     
  2. One of the most powerful time management tools is at the tip of your tongue – the ability to say ‘No’. (I’m not suggesting rudeness and career-limiting moves, but there are appropriate ways to say ‘no’.) 
     
  3. When you’re about to buy yet another ‘thing’, stop and ask yourself, ‘Is this item going to make my life richer, or will it just make life more crowded and complicated?’ Is it a ‘need’ or a ‘want’? And if it’s a ‘want’ will you very soon find that it’s become clutter? 
     
  4. If you haven’t got clear goals for your life, maybe it’s time to do something about it. I’ve found over the years that many goal-setting programmes overlook the hardest part. They teach us ‘how’ to set goals, but ignore ‘what do I actually want’. If that describes you, do check out http://www.gettingagriponlife.com/ -See footnote. 
  5. Take 20 minute power naps, as needed, during the day. (I’m not joking! They’re a powerful energy-expander.) 
     
  6. Turn off the TV. Don’t let it dominate your evenings. What messages are you putting in your sub-conscious just before sleep? 
     
  7. Give your mind time to slow down before you sleep. I don’t read business books at night – they wire me up. Evenings are my recreational reading time – a delicious treat. 
     
  8. It may seem like a contradiction, but ‘plan’ to do nothing. Make sure you’ve left ‘fallow’ time in your week, every week, and hopefully every day. 
     
  9. Think about the Biblical commandment ‘Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath ..’. The definition of ‘sabbath’ is two-fold. Not only is it set aside for religious observance, but also for rest. Even our Creator figured it was good enough to take a break, as you’ll find if you check out Exodus 20:8 – 11. Try making whichever day is your Sabbath a day of rest instead of yet another hectic day.

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