Giving Yourself Permission To Slow Down

When I first decided to embark on my tiny home journey in 2019, I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. I cut down on social interactions to focus on building my business and that paid off, immensely. The more I worked, the more efficient I became, and in some cases, I was doubling my income with the same pay rate from the same client, just because I could work faster.

I told myself I just need to make it to the end of the year and then I could slow down and prep for the move. One friend I had at the time only laughed when I said that. “You really think you’re going to slow down?” she asked me. “I don’t think you will. I think if anything, you’ll find an excuse to work harder next year.”

When 2020 rolled around, I decided I might as well continue the hard work for the four months leading up to the move. It also coincided with the start of the coronavirus, and then I thought, “Well, it’s better to work hard while I have work now, so I have enough saved later if it takes my business.”

Taking a Hit From Burnout

Coupled with divorce proceedings, by May — the month my hard work should have made way for big moves and desert skies — I felt I had really burned myself out. I took five days off and then took another eight shortly after. It helped, but I still feel burned out.

I’m a publicist who primarily creates content for clients. I went from picking and choosing clients and topics before COVID-19 to losing 90% of those clients. None of them have recovered, but some new ones did spring up. Even so, most of the ones I have now mostly provide repetitive work with very few exceptions.

There are also fewer higher-paying clients now then there were before. That means doing a little more work and working longer hours. Not surprisingly, in the past month, I’ve started to ask myself if the extra work is really worth it.

Re-Evaluating Finances

At the start of this year, I wrote an article entitled:

HOW TO BECOME A LEAN,
MEAN SAVING MACHINE

In the article, I shared that I live on half my paycheck. I also explained why I made that decision and how I made it happen. Needless to say, however, with the coronavirus making its merry way through America, the sense of urgency I had that required a strict budget like that is now gone.

I could literally pay myself half of what I currently do and still pay all my bills. If I paid myself 75% of what I currently do, I could still save a good amount of money along the way. I’ve already bought my FJ Cruiser and my poor bank account is in recovery, so do I really need to keep living on half my paycheck?

In a way, the answer is maybe. With so much uncertainty ahead, I have to keep my options open. If I try to qualify for a loan later on, my income will be a big deciding factor. Therein lies the dillemma.

Confirmation Bias

In all honesty, though, it’s not the money that keeps me going. It’s saving for a cushion against uncertainty and the widening of opportunities. But more than anything, it’s simply just not knowing how to slow down.

When I was a child, I wanted for nothing. However, as I grew older, my family did encounter financial difficulties. By college, I definitely knew what it was to be broke, budget meals, wash clothes by hands for five years and not having running water for a year.

During that time, many of my friends partied and drank and enjoyed all the distractions college life had to offer. I stayed home, studied, and played The Sims 3. I figured youth wasn’t going anywhere and I’d be young enough to do all that and more after I graduated summa cum laude.

On graduation day, I was the only person in my major who graduated with first class honours. Then, instead of taking my customary summer vacation to America, I told Mom it was better to stay in Jamaica and look for work.

Ultimately, I wasn’t wrong. I found a job and I was still plenty young enough to hit the club on Friday nights, take cross-island roadtrips, go snorkeling, learn to paddleboard, and hop on the occasional flight to Atlanta. During that time, I was also finishing up a novel and getting a payroll certification.

Risks of Delayed Gratification

All that work with delayed play contributed to two things. One, I got the confirmation bias I needed that we can always slow down later. Two, I’ve learned how to slow down without actually slowing down. After all, despite all the work I did in 2019, I took three weeks of paid vacation and visited the Maldives and California. How’s that for a reward?

In short, I have become a mastermind at delayed gratification. One Psychology Today article marks this as a primary trait of successful people. But, as we say in Jamaica:

Too much of one thing is good for nothing.

After all, life is short, and we could build the whole Mexican border wall with all the bodies on the hands of governors and a president who refuse to follow science and act responsibly. Last I checked, Georgia was in the ninth-worst position in the U.S. for COVID-19 cases, and our southern neighbour sat smugly at number three.

Imagine saving half my paycheck so I can kick the bucket next week and someone else gets to spend my money? I have life insurance and no debt, so it’s not like my family needs to be concerned about the cost of wrapping up my final affairs.

Learning To Hit the Brakes

Despite a lifetime of failing to slow down, however, I think burnout has finally taken the wheel. I try to finish my work by 2AM every night, but sometimes it spills over. These days, I check to see if anything is due tomorrow, and if it’s not, I shut the computer down and go to bed.

If I fail to meet my self-imposed quota that day, I shrug it off and sleep like a baby. That little panic I used to feel at not writing as many words as I wanted or not meeting my invoice quota for the week is gone.

Ironically, a part of that stems from the fact that while I was working myself into the ground, I did save some money — not just for myself, but my business. That gives me the opportunity now to let a few days lapse and think nothing of it.

And so, as lovely as it is that I kind of learned to slow down, it all perpetuates the cycle of the confirmation bias. I wouldn’t have the opportunity to shrug and go to bed now, if I hadn’t been burning myself out for the past 18 months — or, really, the past few years. Will I really ever learn to truly hit the brakes and slow down?

I’m not sure. I thought once I was out west, I could have a change of pace and relax. But, maybe that friend was 100% correct. Maybe the change of scenery and feeling of accomplishment would have been rejuvenating enough for me to find yet another reason to put in more hours.

Have you struggled with giving yourself permission to slow down and do nothing? How did you manage that in the past or how are you tackling that now? All stories, tips, and lessons are welcome in the comments, below!

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13 thoughts on “Giving Yourself Permission To Slow Down

  1. Most of this resonates with me. Coming from a working class background, it’s drummed into you from an early age that the key to success is work, work, work, no matter how much it affects your physical and mental health. I beat myself up for getting a 2:1 for my degree even though my dissertation was granted a 1st.

    Two years ago, I was earning double what I’m getting now. Then things started to drop off with Brexit impact, my anxiety and stress levels went up. I often went days with nothing to do.

    I’m not the sort of person who could ever sit still for 5 minutes. At 45, I’m getting too old to work myself into an early grave. Nobody will thank you. But the pandemic is teaching me to slow down. I’ve spent money on stuff that would have made my eyes water even two years ago when I was doing really well, but we should invest in our interests as well as our businesses.

    1. I think the Third World background creates the same problem. That’s why West Indians have a reputation of coming to America and working 2 or 3 jobs. It’s not that we necessarily need the money, but we have this idea of what we want and we’re working hard to play catch-up with people who’ve lived here all their lives.

      You’re right that we need to invest more in what makes us happy, though. I’m still learning to slow down one day at a time. Good luck to us both!

  2. I definitely feel this. I thought when I got laid off I would enjoy some time to myself, but I’ve just made lists for myself every day and try to keep busy. I would love to just give myself permission to slow down and accept my circumstances for what they are!

    1. This is the perfect time to slow down, Rosie! Pick a few days every week to do nothing at all or only what you love and see if it helps you clear your mind. Good luck! ☺️

    1. I’m glad you found it insightful. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. ☺️

  3. i do alot of “do nothing days” lol while on a climb of mt. rainier with my doctor friend, we reached the spot where there are huts to sleep in. we arrived very early in the day and had most of it to just relax before we would head off for the summit the next morning. my friend felt he could not go on the next morning, and i went on ahead to the summit and back. later on our way home he talked about the day he stayed behind and said he had never spent the whole day doing nothing. i replied he really did do something which was resting and enjoying the view. it really is all about perspective. it is really OK to slow down. we are in a “go go go go world” and if we dont do something we are missing out. there really is a reason someone came up with…”stop and smell the roses.” yes i do march to the beat of a different drummer and im OK with it.

    1. Very true! But it’s also important to strike a balance. I meet too many lazy people here who only stop and smell the roses and have nothing to show for themselves. 😂 The trick is finding out what that balance is!

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