Every Moment Counts
I didn't have to wonder why I had received this particular book as a gift. Its title was unique and stopped me in my tracks just reading the front cover, In Praise of Slowness - Challenging the Cult of Speed.
I knew, in fact, the moment I held the little book that my time of reckoning had come and I would take to heart what would be waiting on its pages. Having been nicknamed "Don't-Waste-A-Minute Bethie" by my children years ago, I admit to being a speedaholic ready for reform.
In an age of speed and efficiency, it's easy to rev up with our crazy-paced society and get an unbalanced perspective on cramming every possible "productive" moment into every hour of every day. I had in fact taken the norm of our speedy culture to my own fevered pitch of fast-paced lunacy. I actually remember a time a few years back when we were short staffed and I caught myself checking voicemail 8 or 10 times in the short 15-minute period it took to run to the post office . . . SCARY! Just as with any other habit, the need to hurry on to the next task was not only present at work but also in relationships, cooking, helping with homework, etc.
Unsure of when I had adopted the motto that faster is always better, I realized in time that my years of speedy compulsion were wearing me out and causing unnecessary stress in myself and in others.
Even as a person that is energized and motivated by moving fast and getting things done, I began to realize that finding a balance between being productive and rushing through life would have much more satisfying results. Carl Honoré says in his book that the price we pay for unrelenting speed can be a costly one. People all over the world are reclaiming their time, slowing down the pace and living happier, healthier lives as a result. As individuals and groups find balance in all the things they do, people discover energy and efficiency where they may have least expected it - in slowing down.
What's the Hurry?
Zig Ziglar told a simple story of the way we have become obsessed with time. "If my grandfather missed a train, he simply caught one the next day; if my father missed an airplane, he caught one later that day. But I must tell you quite frankly that if I miss one section of a revolving door, my day is shot." If we take the example further for today's working generation, we would more practically look beyond the frustrations of travel to the way we work and communicate and live.
Think of the frustration level while waiting for a website to load or an email attachment to download longer than expected. What takes a matter of seconds seems like hours. With information at our fingertips, we continue to want it to come faster and faster than ever before.
We have gone from the great novelty of making business calls from our car to expecting cell phones to be answered any time, any place. Email somehow requires an answer when it arrives rather than when it is convenient. With accessibility and accountability influencing us 24/7, it is no wonder we become obsessed with saving time. What if we could slow down and manage our time better by asking two simple questions on a regular basis: "What's the hurry?" and "What's important?"
"Challenging the Cult of Speed" is about finding balance and slowing down when it makes sense. It doesn't promote laziness, procrastination or ignoring responsibilities but simply promotes choosing to prioritize and value things at different speeds. When a book like The One-Minute Bedtime Story can become popular, microwave dinners are the norm, and even yoga practitioners are so anxious for results that they push to the point of injury, it's time to stop and think.
Getting a grip on mindless speed may be as simple as taking time for activities that defy acceleration like walking, gardening, reading, stargazing, or keeping a journal. If we listen to the body and the mind when they say, "Slow down," we can develop the discipline to approach circumstances that call for speed and intensity with a calm and unflustered purpose like never before.