SLOW LIVING | 5 ways to free up your schedule

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After my third migraine in a week caused by a chaotic schedule and excessive amounts of staring at varying forms of computer screen, I decided enough was enough. It was time to schedule in some slow time.

As a person naturally prone to squeezing stupid amounts of tasks into a small window, freeing up time for taking things slow and enough simple, non-tech related activities seemed like an impossible task.

Sure, I draw everything in a sketchbook before digitising designs for clients to minimise the amount of time I have to be on a computer for work. I read books, real books made with paper rather than e-books and audiobooks.

But it just didn’t seem to be enough. I was still stressed and still staring at a computer, television, mobile phone or some other form of technology for a huge portion of the day, and honestly, I felt that this was necessary. I worried that taking a step back from social media would mean less clients; that switching off my Facebook messenger alerts would mean my friends would get sick of my tardy replies and stop bothering to invite me places; and that having a stupidly full schedule was a badge of honour that I should wear with pride not resent.

I was wrong.

I tracked my activities for a few days and realised just how much time I was wasting on unnecessary tasks that didn’t really add to my happiness or productivity. After I weeded these fake essentials out, I set about eliminating them one by one, and as I did so, I wondered whether maybe other people struggle with this too.

So I made a list. A list of all the things I did to free up some time to slow down.


1. Unsubscribing to emails.

Okay so I figured out that these emails from people and businesses that I didn’t really want to hear from wasted at least 5 minutes every morning and deleting them was the first thing I did when I woke up everyday. This constant email alerts all day also interrupted my workflow and made me far less productive throughout the day.

Unsubscribing from businesses that I no longer wanted to hear (mainly UK based ones from before the move and companies that I didn’t resonate with in terms of their business practice anymore) was super therapeutic, freed up my morning and resulted in less interruptions during my working hours.


2. Turning my phone notifications off.

I read an article recently about the illusion of multitasking. It put forward to idea that humans can’t successfully manage doing multiple tasks at once, and that what we deem multitasking is in fact just fast swapping between different tasks. This swapping from one thing to another may seem productive, but actually it just wears us down and creates a lot of pressure to do things quickly and as effectively as if we were doing one thing.

To try and minimise this, I turned all my phone notifications off during work hours. Yes. All of them.

If I wanted to check Instagram, I could. But it wouldn’t interrupt a task I was already doing because I was hounded by that *bing* every few minutes.

It means that I can focus on the tasks at hand and I can check in with my socials all in one go at set intervals during the day.

Sometimes I even pop the phone in a separate room all together!


3. Conquer tasks in bunk.

It takes your brain a while to get into a certain mindset to complete a particular type of task effectively. Bundle similar tasks together so that you don’t have to get in and out of different mindsets all day. Not only is this more time effective, it is much less exhausting.

Stop checking your emails every 15 minutes and answering them one at a time; instead set aside 30 minutes at the beginning, middle and end of your work day to smash them out all in one go.


4. Stop saying yes to everything.

I get it, I am a people pleaser too, so whenever someone asks me to do something, my natural instinct is to say yes, even if I don’t have the time or the inclination to do it.

Learn to say no. By declining tasks and projects that don’t inspire you, you’ll free up a heap of time that you would have been spending on things that you wouldn’t have enjoyed and would have increased your stress levels.

Sadly we can’t all decline to do the washing up, but if it isn’t necessary and it doesn’t bring you joy, say no.


5. Do something you love.

Okay so this one isn’t freeing up time as such but a lot of us feel that we never have enough time in the day to pursue our passions: to read that book that we bought months ago, to try out that new recipe, to be still, to pick up a sketchbook, to exercise.

And yet we always seem to find to check Facebook or binge watch something on Netflix. We pick the easy option rather than doing something that we love.

Instead of plonking yourself on the sofa and watching an entire season of Brooklyn 99 (we have all been there!), use your free time to do something you really love.