What if you spent an entire day operating at half your normal speed?
This was a question I asked myself. It was yet another experiment. I committed for an entire day to go at half my normal pace to see what would happen. Like the self-help junkie I am, the expectation was that my output would decline significantly. Here’s what I did:
- I had a longer shower than normal.
- I took twice as long to write blog posts.
- I ate meals slowly and chewed properly.
- I stayed away from social media and it’s power to divert me down rabbit holes.
- I slowly typed an email to a reader and included carefully curated details.
- I read stories on The New Yorker website at a slow speed. I even went back and re-read a few of the stories.
When you slow down your day and take it at half-pace, your perception of the world you see changes. The small, insignificant details jump out at you.
Here’s what else happened while experimenting with living my life at half-speed.
Curiosity and imagination were amplified
Most days my mind is racing and looking for the next task to complete. My attention is glued to my calendar and the never-ending tasks a 9–5 employee and part-time blogger needs to complete.
On the day when I slowed it all down, my perception of time changed and I became more curious. By allowing myself time, I gave my mind permission to be curious. Thoughts like, “What would happen if this drinking glass dropped on the floor and shattered? Would anybody hear it?”
At one point during the day, I found myself looking at images on Unsplash. I started gazing at a few of them without looking at the time. I imagined myself inside some of the images and being that person who was photographed.
No thought was ignored and was allowed to be explored regardless of the time needed to complete the analysis. It was glorious.
Life slowed down and enjoyment increased
Life can really suck when you’re always in a rush. Speed can equal anxiety and stress if your life operates in that gear all the time.
By slowing down, I had to do less during the day. There wasn’t time to do everything; therefore I had to selectively choose what I would do. Conscious choices felt so much better than decisions made on the run at extreme speed and the prospect of a collision.
By going slow, I enjoyed each moment. It was a pleasure to take thirty-minutes to eat lunch and enjoy every bite rather than stuff my face in five-minutes and wash it down with sparkling water like I usually would. The conversation I had with my girlfriend slowed down too. Rather than hear the summary of her day with a stopwatch, I just shut up and listened for as long as it took.
Going slow was a much-needed break from going too fast and being out of control.
Have you ever stared at a piece of writing on a computer screen and just looked at how even the blank space and dimensions are of each paragraph? I hadn’t. On my slow day, I did.
Instead of reading blog posts, I looked at the shape and form of the body of text. It spoke to me. Computers brought us perfect symmetry and carefully carved letters that a human’s handwriting could never mimic. The space between each sentence is exact every time.
A writer can use symmetry and white space to evoke a certain subtle feeling inside the mind of their reader.
During another point of the day, I found myself looking at the Peace Lilly that sits on my desk at home. I’d never taken the time to look at its leaves and notice all the shades of green that were hidden in each leaf. Stares between my desktop computer and the leaves became frequent.
It was beauty wrapped up in bliss.
It was easy to say no
With a slow day comes the opportunity to do less. That means telling people no as your default answer.
When life is fast, you say yes without thinking.
When life is running at half the speed, you say yes to less, so you can hold onto the slow feeling you’re experiencing. Yes is a well-thought-out option on a slow day, not the default answer.
There was blank space to think
I like to think. As William Zinsser said, “Writing is just thinking.”
On my slow day, I spent longer thinking about ideas. There was blank space that wasn’t bookended with endless tasks that needed to be completed.
Space to think was time to dream.
I thought about the impact of my life once I’m gone. I thought about what having kids one day might be like. What would I teach them?
I thought about how everything we do on the internet is permanent. Everything you say even after you delete it is stored in the clouds of cyberspace to be recalled by a future generation. Your life might be significant one day or never be remembered again.
Space to think is space to contemplate.
With contemplation comes exploration and thoughts that attach themselves to what the meaning of your life is.
When you think, you heal and then go into the next day slightly changed. The changes seem small. The changes add up, and one day look like an overnight transformation. That’s what happened to me and operating at half speed reminded me of that.
What would it take for you to operate at half your speed? Could you try it for one day?
You might think like I did that to decrease the speed of your life is to do less. I learned that on half-speed I could do more and make meaningful choices. Speeding through life kills the enjoyment — plus, it’s relaxing to slow down.
Try living tomorrow at half the speed and see what happens.
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