The art of slowing downThis year I vacationed on the island of Sardinia, Italy, renting a rustic stone home or stazzu with friends. Since I never set up my international cellular plan and there was only a weak satellite connection, I had no internet for a week. It was heaven. All we did was sleep, run, sit on the beach with books, amble the local markets and prepare a local feast each night.

I still felt a twinge of guilt though, as millions of Americans do, and had to remind myself of the benefits of slowing down. My favorites are: it improves your performance, rekindles relationships and helps you see the bigger picture.

The last one has been huge for me. My first step in starting this business and falling in love was to create downtime, the space to be myself, to rest, daydream and connect.

Slowing down didn’t happen over night. I made one change at a time and got comfortable with letting some of the little things wait. But it was a beautiful journey that has added so much richness to my life I would never go back.

Here are a few ideas for practicing the fine art of slowing down:

  1. Set a clear boundary with time and technology. Try these or create your own.
  • Rent a vacation house with no internet or unplug the router.
  • Create work email free day or weekend. If that is not possible, then check and respond only during specific windows, such as 11am and 5pm.
  • Remove time sucking apps from your phone.
  • Carve out technology free times every day, such as meals or commuting.
  • Remove technology from the bedroom.
  • Cancel cable and get Netflix instead.
  1. Commit to sleep. The best hours to sleep are thought to be between 10 and 2 am. What would you need to do to get in bed by 10:30 pm every night.
  2. Make quality time your objective. I used to have several projects, (I’ll just read these 5 books or write this presentation) planned for each vacation, causing my family to get mad for ignoring them and me to be frustrated that I wasn’t getting enough done. Instead, make people and being present your only objective.
  3. Do one thing at a time. Fully engage in whatever you are doing, including a conversation, work, sitting in the sun for 5 minutes a day or going for a walk. When you need to move on, excuse yourself.
  4. Do it the slow way. Slow cook a meal (try my slow cooked marinara), take the country route, amble around an outdoor market or pretend you are an Italian man from an older generation and sit around the table all day long. The pleasure of doing nothing.

What do you do to slow down? I’d love to hear it below.



7 Reasons even you need real downtime

A recent survey revealed what most of us feel: that millions of Americans feel guilty about taking downtime and work on weekends and vacations.

Let me relieve you of this guilt.

Unplugging, napping and daydreaming make you better.

  1. Daydreaming finds solutions to complex problems. According to research by Dr. Letivin, our brain has two dominant functions: task driven and daydreaming. It can only do one at a time. When you are unplugged and daydreaming your brain makes connections from seemingly arbitrary information and thus comes up with creative solutions to a problem. This is why great insights often come when you are folding your laundry.
  1. Sleeping longer improves athletic performance. A recent article by Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project claims sleep, namely 8 to 9 hours per night, as a competitive advantage. He cites research by Dr. Cheri D. Mah of Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic found that athletes performed better and reported better moods and more energy on an excessive sleep (10 hours a night for 6 weeks).
  1. Vacation increases performance evaluations. Tony Schwartz also notes a study of Ernst and Young employees that found that for each additional 10 vacation hours they took, year end performance evaluations improved 8 percent.
  1. Naps improve concentration and performance. Alertness declines throughout the day and can be revived with a 10 to 20 minute nap. A great article by Ferris Jabr summarizes the research and benefits of naps.

 More importantly, downtime is good for your life.

  1. It allows you to see what you really want. When you aren’t following your to do list, you can follow your nose as my grandmother would say and do what you crave. For the first few days, it may be rest. So give yourself permission to sleep. When you awaken, you may crave connection or fulfillment or creativity. This craving can feel uncomfortable if you don’t know how to satisfy it immediately, but resist the urge to make yourself busy just to avoid it. Instead, acknowledge it and ask how could you bring more of that into your life. Listen for what answers appear over the next few days.
  1. It helps you let go of what’s not working. Much of work is done on autopilot, responding as we always have. Taking a real break creates physical and emotional space to see patterns that need to be upgraded.
  1. It creates more satisfying relationships. When we’re stretched, it’s impossible to truly connect. Besides feeling a little empty, studies have shown that lacking strong relationships is as damaging as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Taking the time to rest so you can be your best and truly present with your loved ones can rekindle and deepen relationships. (For best results, nap together.)

Try a 10 minute nap, technology free meals or 20 minutes puttering time around the house. For more ideas, check out my post on The Art of Slowing Down.