Goodbye, Commute. Hello, ‘Me Time.’
I recently had three weeks at home between jobs. Well, really, only one week between them – but I spent the last two weeks at my old job tying up projects from home. But that’s all beside the point.
What I got, was three weeks of not having to fight traffic, rush out of the house, or stress about running from meeting to meeting without time to eat, drink, or pee (AKA the trifecta of natural losses stemming from most corporate cultures these days.)
I know it wouldn’t surprise you to know that a professional life without traffic, timeframes, interruption (open-plan offices can be both the best thing & the worst all at once), or the need to wear anything other than activewear is good for both mind & body.
But, I’ll say it here anyhow: whoa nelly, a few weeks of working to my own timeframe, at my own pace, & with the ability to exercise & ponder was amazing.
When I set out for some “me time” between jobs, my goal was to do nothing. And, to do a lot of it, at that. All of those copy-paste days of waking up, getting out the door, driving to work, sitting through meetings that could’ve been emails, driving home, sleeping…wash, rinse, repeat… oftentimes, fill a soul they do not.
For me, the goal of doing nothing was the pinnacle of re-setting. Though, as it turned out, my idea of nothing became doing a lot of somethings. And, looking back on it now, I’ve learned some good lessons when it comes to the art of slowing down to the speed of life.
Meditation in Motion
What have I learned about slowing down, then? Well, firstly I’ve learned that walking – or rather, wandering – without reason or end goal is the most cathartic thing for me when it comes to clearing my mind & moving my body.
I so love wandering. I walked every, single, day for three weeks & felt a huge shift both mentally & physically for me. I put my phone away & looked at flowers. I relished in the sunlight on my arms & legs. I sat near the ocean.
I went to cafes & eaves dropped on little old ladies (man, they’re the queens of the Gossip!) In all, some days I walked over 30kms. Never did I have a day under 15kms. And, the wander + ponder gift I was given by time cleansed my soul happily & helped my mind wander creatively.
There’s peace in allowing your brain to wander freely. When you realize that there’s life beyond office politics, chasing numbers, & exhausting yourself to the point of tipping over – you put more onus on chasing memories. We’re all only ever here for a short time. We might as well make it a good time. Right?
Wandering for the sake of it is akin to re-learning to play. At some point, as adults, we deprioritize playing. Some of us (I’m guilty of this at times) forget to play at all – or we create an internal narrative that playfulness at work will be seen as weakness. Pish tosh to that crap. My goal moving forward? Play more. Laugh more. Connect more.
What a blessing to have time to play without boundaries. With the only reason for it being to have fun & be joyous. I believe 110% that there needs to be more time built into corporate life for people to work play, physical movement, & the space for thinking into a day.
Slowing Down Means Speeding Up – Creatively
Between & during walks – & whilst getting myself ready for speaking events & workshops (that I also shoehorned into my “me time”), I listened to hours upon hours of podcasts with topics ranging from the science of happinessto building engaged teams to LGBTQ+ rights conversations & beyond.
By listening to other people, other points of view, & diving deeper into topics & conversations that interest me, I was able to think deeply. To ponder. To pontificate. Most mornings my friend Wendy would come for walks with me & we’d end up with no ears between us (because, ya know, we talked them off of each other).
What I found from having more unstructured learning, more fluid conversations, & more time to dive deep into different topics – is that my creative mind flourished. It’s almost as if the walls of big business act as force-fields against creativity. Really though, it’s not the walls that cause many of us to think inside of the proverbial box, it’s the constraints on time.
Creativity & cleverness both take time. For amazing work to happen – we need air to breathe, time to settle in, & space to evolve. And, a knowledge that speed does not equal best results by any means.
Just as we nurture those we love, we must learn to nurture ourselves & our own ways of working. We must honour the individuality inherent in each other, because the ways in which I work best won’t always be the same as the ways in which you feel most free to do your best.
By binging the TED Radio Hour with Guy Raz, Queery with the amazing host Cameron Esposito, & a handful of other amazing podcasts – I filled my mind day in & day out. And, in doing so, I felt myself becoming more & more interested in the world around me.
Slowing down, for me, was a reawakening of sorts.
No Phone, Who Dis?
One thing that happened the last week of my “break” was that I became homeless as far as mobile phone plans go.
For a full 8 days I had no data on my phone (don’t get me started on the absolute highway robbery of telcos in New Zealand when it comes to top ups on pre-pay plans – $120 literally got me ten minutes on my phone – & I’m still seeing red about it). Day one & two were the most difficult for a tech-addict like myself.
It’s amazing how often we all pick up our phone & look at it for no reason. And I mean NO REASON AT ALL. We’ve hardwired ourselves to have our little BFF in our pockets or on our person at all times. And, I’m being real here, there were moments where I almost struggled to put my phone in my backpack & just leave it there.
By day three, everyone who needed to get in contact with me (or might need to) knew I had no connectivity unless I was at home with wifi or in another public place with wifi.
The freedom of knowing I wouldn’t hear the dull pings of emails, text messages, DMs, or social media notifications while I walked was awe-inspiring. I was no longer on anyone else’s timeframe. I made the rules in my day around when I would check emails, when I’d answer messages, & when I felt like turning back on to the tech.
What I’ve found since heading back to an office setting this week is that I’m the odd bird out (this is usual in most places) because I tend to now forget to bring my phone with me to meetings. The output? Being present. Taking in conversations – & remembering them.
I spend more time ideating, having better conversations, & am enjoying the heck out of my time in a new environment. A lot of it, I reckon, is due to the fact that I’m not tethered to a device that makes me feel like I’m living my life around other people’s to-do lists.
Ye Olde Wrap-Up
So, what’s the point of all of these words? Why praise the art of wandering aimlessly?
Easy: we all need to do more wandering & pondering.
We live in a world where the exaltation of busy is the way in which we comport ourselves day in & day out. I reckon we all need to ask for (perhaps even demand) time to slow down to the speed of the wind in the flowers, the bees in the trees, & the cadence of lyrical gossip that flows from the mouths of old ladies in cafes at lunchtime.
When we allow ourselves to do nothing – something becomes of it. If time is our most precious resource, we need to be kinder in doling it out to ourselves on a daily basis. We also need to be able to realize when we’re moving too fast, too often.
Climbing off the hamster wheel of life & running beside it – then out the door – is the best way to stay hungry, creative, & able.
I hope you’re able to enjoy slowing down soon, you deserve it!