Simple answer – yes, if we allow it.
Sounds counterintuitive, right? But this week’s heatwave in the UK has had exactly that effect on me – one where my productivity has soared.
And the secret? The heatwave has made me more productive by slowing me down.
Yes, slowing me down.
Let me explain. Anyone who has been a follower of my journey in the past 2 years will know that I like to get involved in a lot of creative (and sometimes less creative) projects. In the beginning of my “no plan, plan”, I focussed most of my energies on travel. However in the second year I started exploring various ways of earning a wage while travelling. This has included selling my art and photography, writing for online publications, audio transcription work as well as dipping my toes in copywriting and event planning. All the while, I’ve also been busy living and travelling “alternatively” with hubby Dan as a “house sitter” and a “work awayer” – both requiring regular work usually to do with nature and animals.
Needless to say that my mind is often in many places at once.
Yet one of my principal goals in the past two years has been to increase my ability to feel happy and content while doing less and becoming more focussed.
Wonderful experiences such as walking the Camino de Santiago or going on meditation retreats in Asia have taught me a lot about mindfulness and simple living and I have to say that I’ve been truly embracing a slower and calmer pace of life of late. (Have a read of “The Pilgrim’s Routine” to get a sense of how life can be beautifully simplified to the very basics). Yet this week, I was reminded by mother nature just how powerful the simple act of slowing down can be.
We’ve been back in the UK for about three weeks now and as always, we kept busy despite the transition from our European travels. I currently have several projects on the go. Some creative and some more financially driven. I often have several computer tabs open, happily skipping between projects and firing off emails not to mention also working on various art projects. I know that the danger of losing my centeredness is always looming and I try to keep my focus and stay on track. But it can be tough.
This week, the heatwave struck London like a humid and impenetrable tarp cover which does not want to lift. Working from home has many advantages, of course, but one of the main hooks for me has always been to make my own schedule. So instead of fighting the heat and continuing with my webpage flip-flopping and bouncing from one project to the next, I simply slowed right down.
But I mean really slowed down. Here’s what happened:
I categorised and prioritised
I set up my days to focus on what needed to be done first, starting with the task I wanted to putt off most. In his bestselling book “The Organized Mind” author Daniel J. Levitin vividly explains how our brain can intake a huge amount of information, but it has trouble distinguishing the important from the trivial… and in the end, it gets “tired”. So best to give it the hardest task first and have it done with.
I tackled each task separately (no more ‘back and forths’ between projects)
And what a relief! It just feels great to allow myself to focus on one thing at a time. The mind then has some time to recover and truly focus on what’s important NOW.
I took loads of breaks and did what made me feel better (a trip to the pool, a nap after lunch)
For various reasons, we sometimes associate “work” with some sort of pain. Let’s admit it, even the actual word “work” carries a negative connotation in general. So I decided to make time for the fun stuff too, even if it meant that my workday stretched into the evening.
I tried to treat each task as a whole and not simply as just another step closer to “the main” goal
I will always remember a quote my good friend Mel sent me some time before we set off on the Camino de Santiago. It said “You have arrived”. It was strange to read it, as we were about to set off on the longest journey we have ever undertaken on foot with a very clear goal of reaching the city of Santiago, but somehow the quote stuck with me. And I can truly say that each step of the Camino was its own little Santiago…reassuring in its completeness. Since then, I try to remind myself of this sense of “already being here”. Read my post “Every little rock” if you wish to find out more about that part of my journey.
Mostly I just tried to focus on feeling good, no matter what the activity. Feeling good just because. Feeling good just like that. Simply. And it seemed to work.
The result so far is that I am ahead of my projects, sure, but I feel that they’ve been done really well and fully attended to. The overall calm that infused my working day also followed me into the evening, a nice ripple effect of the experiment. I’m also clearer now than I was at the beginning of the week about what needs to be done in the coming days.
And most importantly, I actually enjoyed the past week’s unusual weather not because of what it was, but because of what I made of it.
If you feel inspired to slow down, even just a little, here is a TED talk which is sure to guide your “focussed snail” quest by journalist Carl Honoré, author of the bestselling book “In Praise of Slowness”.