I recently looked at my monthly planner and realized with a little bit of horror that my birthday is less than two months away. "Didn't I just have a birthday?" I thought. The year has gone by so incredibly fast, leaving me wishing I knew how to slow down and enjoy life more.
After another year, I honestly don't even know where the time went — I rushed from assignment to assignment, errand to errand, email to email, and the days passed by without me even being full conscious of it. And the scariest part is, I don't see how the year to come will be any different — or all the years after that — unless I actively do something to change it.
And I'm not saying I want to give up all my worldly possessions and move to a commune in the woods — let's be real, I love my laptop and Hulu way too much for that to ever be a realistic possibility. But I do genuinely want to learn to be more conscious of the moments in my day and the days in my year, and to feel like I can account for the majority of my time in a meaningful way.
If you've also been noticing that time is passing you by, or that you're just too overstretched to really feel present in the moment, here are seven ways for slowing things down and really appreciating your life.
1. Eat Slowly
Founder of Tiny Buddha Lori Deschene simply recommended eating more slowly as the first step to slowing down overall. "Chew every bite more, analyze tastes like you’re a foodie, and generally savor the experience. It likely won’t add more than ten minutes to your meal time, yet it will give you the chance to seep into the moment," Deschene said.
2. Single-Task Something You Usually Multi-Task
Deschene also said to make an effort to single-task something you usually do while multi-tasking, like folding laundry or checking your email. She also said that if you have an overactive mind that likes to wander, it's totally okay to remind yourself to focus and stay in the moment. She also noted to try to focus on small sensations, like the warmth of the fresh laundry, or the satisfying click of your keyboard.
3. Use A Real Alarm Clock
In a piece on practical ways to break free from constantly being online for Real Simple, getting a real alarm clock — as opposed to using the alarm on your phone — ranked in the top three. Think about it — how often do you turn off your phone alarm, only to find yourself compulsively checking your e-mail or Facebook before getting up and starting your day? If you remove the phone from the equation, you might just find yourself with a few extra minutes of tranquility. And a New York Time's piece even recommended banishing your phone from your bedroom altogether to give you extra mental space for yourself.
4. Take A Vacation From Your Phone
In an article for Inc, tech author Damon Brown said that he implements little technology vacations every now and then, in which he keeps his phone and laptop off all day. "Personally, I know my level of focus increases dramatically," he said. "It's helpful during work, but it's also helpful for paying more attention to my wife or even going for a walk," and noted that just having technology inaccessible makes us all the more present in the moment.
5. Do Less
Leo Babauta, founder of Zen Habits.com, recommended simply doing less in life in order to have more time for yourself and for the moment. "It’s hard to slow down when you are trying to do a million things. Instead, make the conscious choice to do less. Focus on what’s really important, what really needs to be done, and let go of the rest. Put space between tasks and appointments, so you can move through your days at a more leisurely pace," he wrote. And another super important part of this is learning to say no and only taking on what you can do comfortably.
6. Focus On People
Babauta also said it's important to really focus on the people you're with and the conversations you're having. He recommended putting your phone and distracting devices away when around people. He also noted that often when in conversations, "we are there, but our minds are on things we need to do. We listen, but we’re really thinking about ourselves and what we want to say. None of us are immune to this, but with conscious effort you can shut off the outside world and just be present with the person you’re with."
7. Focus On Accomplishing Three Things A Day
On the lifestyle blog Becoming Minimalist from bestselling author Joshua Becker, Becker recommended setting a limit of three things to accomplish every day, and saving the rest for another time. "I know, you could probably come up with a list of 100 things, but don’t," he wrote. "Keeping the list this size will force you to decide what’s really important. When you finish the list, the rest of the day is yours to relax. With this approach you’ll be completing 21 important tasks a week."
It can be hard to take things slowly in a world where there never seems to be enough time and it always feels like there's more to do. However, the truth of the matter is our time is finite, and at the end of the day we don't want to feel like we let life pass us by. Don't take on too much, and take time every day for yourself and for your enjoyment. Because isn't that what it's really all about?