I recently had a conversation with a client who asked how I was taking advantage of my newfound free time. The assumption was that I would be having tons of free time with all restrictions and elimination of leisure, travel, and work obligations. It turns out that with a toddler at home (and no daycare services) there is less free time now than before. Regardless, I tried my best to answer the question.
Our conversation went something like this:
Client: How are you taking advantage of your free time with the lockdown?
Me: I’m not trying to do much more in my free time.
Client: You aren’t reading more, learning something new, or trying to improve your health? Aren’t you trying to stay productive and make the best use of your free time?
Me: Well, some of those things are happening naturally, but I’m not trying to cram any more stuff into the time I have. The only thing I’m trying to do more of – is less!
Me: I’m doing one thing at a time. Mono-tasking. I am paying attention to what’s in front of me. I’m spending a lot more time just sitting around playing with 13-month-old son.
Client: I’m trying to figure out what else I should be doing with my free time. I have a few hours a day freed up with no need to commute to work. I want to make the best of this opportunity.
Me: Are you enjoying your free time?
Client: Absolutely! It’s awesome. I’m spending more time with my family and just hanging out at home is nice for a change.
Me: Maybe that’s what you should be doing? At least until an insight strikes and you feel naturally inspired to do something else.
Client: Perhaps. But I still have this nagging sense that I should be doing more with my time.
…and so it continued.
The perspective that more is better is a common one. Modern society praises advancement, as measured in specific terms such as speed, strength, income, knowledge, etc. However, who says that is the way to live? It’s also entirely unclear that performing well in any domain is a product of doing more. Productivity and effectiveness are altogether different things. The critical question is, how can we be more effective?
One way is to better align with the natural pace of life. Life, it turns out, does have a pace to it. Our psychologies have an entirely different pace. Life has a slowness to it. Thoughts move quickly. With the lockdown in place, we have a choice to make. Do we allow ourselves to quicken our actions to match the hectic pace of our minds, or do we become more comfortable with a slower way of being?
It’s a worthy experiment. Up for the challenge? Here it is:
Instead of trying to fill every waking hour of lockdown time with reading, virtual happy hours, online webinars, and home improvement projects, allow for ample free time. Find the capacity to live more slowly. Focus on one-thing-at-a time. Sit around with nothing to do. Cook and eat while noticing what you are doing for a change. Rediscover what’s on the other side of boredom. Here’s an advanced strategy: watch TV without picking up your phone!
This form of slow living has a remarkable side-effect. When we slow down to the natural speed of life, we give our creative selves a chance to arise. This is what’s on the other side of boredom. By doing less and slowing down, notice if something arises in you, something inspiring, that motivates you to take action in the pursuit of something with real meaning. Until then, keep sitting on the couch.