January 18, 2022
Introduction to Slow Working 2022
So it’s 2022 now. Hey, how’re you doing?
Are you winning, son?
Yeah, for the past two years, I’ve been no exception in being a hot mess. Hopefully, more and more people are starting to settle in a little bit and find some sense of stability in all the uncertainty. I have, and I may not be alone when I ask, “What now?”
My workflow has been a mix of grief-distracting busyness and frantic productivity for the past two years. I worked hard and hardly took days off. Now on days off, I’m trying to relearn relaxing and enjoying myself.
One thing is sure; this past workflow is not sustainable. I’ve been taking my time at envisioning how I want my work from home life to be like.
I realized the “wake up at 5, workout, take a cold shower, etc.” type of life is not optimal for me. Honestly, I’d rather die. Working from home allows for a lot of freedom, and it’s up to me to add the structure. I’m in a luxury position to craft the structure to my needs.
I just need to make peace that my “happy” lifestyle may not be the world’s idea of a good workday. It may be less than conventional, but for right now, I’ll let myself off the hook and see how it goes.
You see, I get most creative at night, and I’m excited, passionate, and get all my best ideas at night. So my work hours have shifted towards afternoons to evenings… and night.
But it goes beyond work hours. I have so many goals and things I want to pursue. Too many to be reasonable to fit in a day:
- Learn to draw
- Get way better at photoshop
- Get way better at Figma
- Take a UI design course
- Improve my writing
- Continue learning silversmithing
- Keep on sewing
- Learn Korean
- Blog and create a passive income stream
- Start an Etsy sticker shop with POD products
- Continue being a great web developer
- Read a lot of books
It’s a lot… and I intend to do it all!
But I know how I am, and I can do a number on my mental health when I dump too much pressure on myself. And again, nonstop productivity is not sustainable.
What is Slow Living and Slow Working?
There are more eloquent and comprehensive explanations of slow living all over the Internet and in books. But, to put it in my terms, it’s about: intentional pacing, purpose-driven work, and celebrating life itself by enjoying the now rather than rushing to the next thing. It’s not about “slowing down” like a retiring parent, and it’s about having a mindset that places your values above mindless productivity.
But don’t misread that for eliminating productivity from your life. For me, I want a life that values art, humanity, learning, prose, and creativity, and my work and work habits can reflect that.
So here are six ways I’m trying to balance slow working with all my goals and work.
1. Full steam ahead > hard deadlines
So this is a Renae Christine piece of advice that has been very helpful to me, especially since I’ve never been a big fan of placing deadlines on myself outside work. Deadlines, I say, are for jobs. But as someone who struggles with depression and chronic pain, deadlines can become a curse. And life happens- from a family member getting sick to a friend asking to hang out of the blew.
So instead of deadlines, I do what Renae Christine suggests and adopt a “full steam ahead” approach. Life can happen, but things get done when it gets done. There are no “ifs,” but if I need a mental health day or week, I can take it rather than make a bout of depression worse with a looming deadline hanging over my head. But once it’s back to work, it’s all in, guns blazing!
And again, this, to me, falls nicely into slow living.
Going back to my last point: to protect my sanity and practice self-care, I find removing the pressure of demanding deadlines helps, but it’s nothing without self-compassion. Not every day is the productive day I wanted it to be. Maybe I had planned to do more, and it didn’t happen. Or for a few days, I feel down, or I had a lousy night’s sleep. I intentionally make room for those times and try to practice self-compassion. I try to talk to myself the way I would my sister if she were in my shoes and frustrated by lack of progress on something. And I remind myself there’s no race, and it’s always going to be there tomorrow.
Other ways I practice self-compassion in my slow working workflow:
- No rushing (most of the time). Things should get done in a reasonable time
- Allow myself to try new things: as a coder, I regret not having this luxury in my last job
- Enjoying a hot cup of tea with a good show
- Procrastinating is mostly okay- don’t kill your whole day watching youtube (just save it for later)- but as long as your work gets done, it’s fine
- Sleep a solid 8 hours and step out in the sun when I wake up
- If I’m having a bad pain day, I adjust my plans for the day
- Set expectations with others that you are not available 24/7. Build the expectation that you will respond to emails and messages soon- maybe not now, but soon.
- Don’t apologize for that
3. Picking the right courses and teachers
For learning Korean, I have found a fantastic teacher on iTalki. He not only makes my journey learning a new language 100% more fun and interesting, he gives insight on things that I need to know but can be so easy to miss when you’re self-teaching. I like the iTalki format because I schedule my lessons according to my needs, progress, and work schedule. When things are crazy at work, I can plan my next class for next week.
I also try to find courses that have one of the following qualities:
- Are about forming habits
- Break down the learning material into small bites
- Or has an active community
I am currently working on three courses that fall into one of the categories above. My drawing class is about drawing every day. So every day, I spend 15-30 minutes drawing along with a relaxing teacher and sharing tips as he works. It’s nice! My photoshop course is very bite-sized, so that I can pick a quick video or a whole module that day. And my UI course has a fantastic slack channel with regular live streams. All this helps me make progress consistently without stressing.
4. No overbooking myself
I realized how easy it would be to over-extend myself with so many goals. Find your magic number: how many of your goals you can accomplish on a good productive day and aim for that as the ideal. Subtract one or two goals for that to be your average. Then plan your goals and days accordingly. With the goals I have. Lately, I can accomplish 3 of my goals on a great day with work. 2 on average. Let it be a guide, not a hard rule.
This is a year of slow working, no overbooking!
5. Prioritizing and Setting up a Good System
This is a no-brainer but always helps to have things in perspective. What’s most important is my job and having some downtime to read or relax, so I always plan my day with that in mind. My other goals tend to have less priority which further helps me not stress if I don’t hit the mark some days.
I try to set up work systems to automate, access anywhere, and stay relatively organized. I try to stick most of my work to cloud-based apps and tools. I automate where I can. I also have tab savers, quick email myself apps, and the pocket app (for bookmarking), always ready to save things for later. As a coder, I try to keep a lot of code in a cloud-based place that I use a lot but will never remember entirely from the top of my head.
I try to find apps and extensions that can remember things for me. Like a meetings app that better reminds me of meetings in 5 minutes and gives me the link to them, so I don’t have to dig through calendars and emails. I connect all my calendars to one. I use time tracking apps that work well and don’t need babysitting.
Use snooze, status, “set yourself away,” and pause notifications to your advantage for when you need to focus.
Try to learn hotkeys where you can, too- that helps.
6. Merge goals where applicable
Here’s what I mean. I want to get better at drawing and start a sticker shop on Etsy. I’ll practice by drawing by creating my sticker designs. I want to improve my writing and reading; I’ll practice writing by blogging. I’ll use my Photoshop, UI design, and Figma skills together on my projects. Maybe I’ll write reviews of the books I read on Goodreads. You can get creative and even monetize these things to motivate yourself further.
Bonus Tip: Eliminate most, if not all, alerts. Phone alerts are little pings of stress and are usually not even helpful. Turn them off!
Let’s Give Slow Working 2022 A Try
So that’s my slow work plan so far. I think part of slow work is being flexible yet focused: realistic yet open to new ideas. It’s a balance, but I think if we want to have a work-from-home life that’s sustainable, we need to adopt slow working principles. Sometimes work is nonstop, fast-paced, and chaotic. But it cannot be that way all the time, and life is too short for that.