Hygge part 3 - the importance of slowing down and making time for pleasure, fun and relaxation

If you pay any attention to adverts, you might have noticed how many of them relate to speed.  Of course, the chances are that you don’t pay a lot of attention to adverts because you already get more than enough random messages thrown your way and you don’t need any more.  

It’s probably fair to say that the beginning of the 21st century has been characterized by information overload and a degree of pressure to do far more in far less time.  In particular, the rise of mobile devices has led to the “always on” culture, where people feel they must be available and responsive at all times to (almost) all people, which in turn leads to people rushing around in circles if not physically (although that can be the case) at least mentally.  

Here’s the truth, you probably don’t need to be always available to everyone you know, not at home and not at work.  You may have some people who depend on you completely (like your children) but even then in many cases, you can set some boundaries (after the youngest years).  In fact, being “always on” can be horrendously bad for your mental and physical health and lead to overload, stress and burnout.  By contrast, learning to switch off, slow down and make time for pleasure, fun and relaxation will not only recharge your mental and physical batteries, but will also help you be more able to help others.

It’s precisely the people who are most busy and have most to do who benefit most from taking time out to do something they love for the pure and simple joy of it, whether that’s meditating, walking the dog or just snuggling under a blanket with a cup of tea and a good book.

So, if you don’t think you have the time, make it.  Here are 7 tips on how to do so.

Turn off notifications on your mobile device

If your smartphone is bleeping and blooping at you every time something happens on social media then dive into the settings and turn off your notifications.  Decide whether or not you really need to be notified when an email arrives (probably not).  Calls and texts generally merit notifications, but you can finesse this by selecting different ringtones and SMS alerts for the important people in your life, so you can triage calls and texts without even glancing at your screen.  Instead of being driven by your phone, set yourself times to check your social media (or email or whatever), you might be surprised by how much time this will free up for you and how much stress it will relieve.

Hint - if email overload is the bane of your life, check out my ebook Inbox Peace on Amazon.

Set online blackout times

Turning off your entire phone may be too much for many people, who might be concerned they could miss a genuinely important call (me included if I’m honest), but you can set online blackout times, such as mealtimes and from about half an hour before you go to bed until the next morning.  As a minimum, use this time for something which brings you joy, whether that’s eating and conversation or just a quite half hour in which to wind down before bedtime.

Note any key thoughts straight away

It might sound like I’m totally against smartphones and tablets and so forth but I’m absolutely not (I actually work in IT!).  Amongst their many uses is the fact that you can dump your thoughts into them as soon as you think them, thereby saving yourself the hassle of worrying about whether or not you’ll remember.  If typing into your phone isn’t for you, use your voice recorder.  Alternatively, keep an old-fashioned notebook and something to write (or draw) with about your person as much as you can.  Make time to put your thoughts in order, literally, and decide what you actually need to do, what you definitely want to do and what can be filed away in your (digital) archive to look at another time, if you feel like it.  That way, you can schedule your time more effectively and hence free up more of it for you.

Ditch multitasking, go for stacking and batching instead

Personally I’ve yet to meet a single person who could actually multitask effectively and I can’t.  What I can do is do lots of lots of little bits and pieces of tasks very quickly, but not necessarily very well.  Again, instead of working reactively, proactively think about your day and what you need and want to do.  Then see what tasks can be “stacked” or “batched” effectively together.  In this context, stacking means setting one task going to take care of itself (at least for a while) leaving you free to start another, for example you could set the laundry running then start preparing a casserole, then put the casserole on to cook while you make a cup of tea.  Batching just means putting groups of like tasks together, for example making one trip to the shops to get as much as you can instead of making several ones for a few items or putting baskets at the top and bottom of the stairs to move items together instead of running up and down with each of them individually.

Learn to use your ears

Now this might seem a strange tip, particularly from a writer, but it has really worked for me, so I pass it on.  I perform a lot of activities where I really only need my eyes and a small portion of my brain, for example walking the dog and doing housework.  This is a great time to listen to audio (such as audiobooks) or to note my thoughts into a voice recorder and, literally, hear myself think.

Practice saying no

Seriously, we all know practice makes perfect so put in the practice.  Most of us instinctively want to be helpful and do what we can for other people, but we need to keep this within manageable boundaries.  It’s OK to say no and mean it, it’s also OK to agree to do something once because someone is really stuck but make it clear this is a one-off - and mean it.  If you’re one of the many people who has a problem saying no, then literally practice doing it at home by yourself so you get comfortable with it because saying yes too easily can just suck up your precious time.

Actively schedule “time-out” time

Applying the above tips will hopefully help you to feel more confident about scheduling “time out” for yourself, but even if they don’t, you have to start somewhere.  Start small, if you like, with just 5 minutes a day (15 is better) and work up to at least an hour (preferably in one slot).  Look on this time as an essential part of your self care - because that’s exactly what it is.

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