A Year of Slow Living Experiments

A Year of Slow Living Experiments

I don’t know about you, but the new year has only just arrived and I’m already exhausted. It feels as though every article that’s been shared on Twitter recently is telling me how to be bigger, better, faster and stronger in 2017. Grow your business, build your brand and read this specific list of books. Get more work done in fewer hours, make more money and invest it in things that will help you grow further. Finally, because you’re not busy with all of that, make sure you also eat better, exercise daily, and lose the weight once and for all. I’m tired just from writing that out, let alone doing it.

In paying attention to how I feel every time I look at Twitter and Feedly, I’ve realized that the best thing I can do for myself (and for you) is to steer clear of those articles. You know, the ones that make you feel like you’re already failing at life, but here are five ways to become a better version of yourself this year. I’m done. Over it. And it’s not really surprising that I’m done and over it.

For years, I bought into the idea that something – anything – could help me become the person I thought I should be. That person was well-read, had a huge and growing business, travelled far and wide, and was certainly more creative and talented. She was also thinner, had fewer curves and was more athletic. And if you can’t already tell, she was also the person who talked down to herself.

All of this is part of the reason I used to compulsively consume things. I saw something that promised to fix a problem or make me smarter or make my home more beautiful, and I bought it. I had a bad day and told myself a medium pizza and bag of peanut butter M&Ms was the perfect combination to turn things around, and I ate it all in one sitting. And I drank to fix everything else. Then I did the opposite for a while, where I tried cash diets, food diets, workout schedules and periods of abstinence. Not surprisingly, these were short-term solutions and none of them helped.

Eventually, I hit my breaking points with all of those things. The stuff (things, food and drinks) didn’t fix anything. Instead, it left me with a lot of debt, clutter, extra weight and bad habits. Over the past few years, I’ve taken on challenges like my debt repayment and the shopping ban to help me turn things around, and figure out why I was consuming too much of those things in the first place. I can tell you that I am now a mindful consumer, and truly feel like I’m living my values. However, after reading about everyone’s resolutions for 2017, I noticed I have some anxiety about what the new year holds…

It’s about the work. Well, not THE work – but work, in general. When I started to think about what 2016 meant to me, I remembered that I started the year feeling completely burnt out. For that reason, my motto was “work less, live more”, and it made for an incredible year. I changed my definition of success, so it was no longer measured by how much I achieved but by how I spent my time. In the end, I didn’t strike a perfect work/life balance. In fact, I lived a lot more than I worked. I didn’t grow my business, but instead scaled back. But I was happier, healthier and more fulfilled.

Looking ahead to 2017, I know my work/life balance will have to shift. There’s a lot more work to be done this year – work I’m excited about, but that is still work nonetheless. I already have a spreadsheet dedicated to keeping track of all my projects, so I can tell you what I’ll be doing each and every month for the entire year. I’m organized, which feels good. But my concern is that I’m going to lose myself in it. I used to pride myself on being able to manage my “busy” job and “busy” life. I’ve since learned there is nothing sexy about working 70 hours/week. The “living” part of this life we get is so much better.

Since I can already feel the anxiety from my workload bubbling up inside of me, I’ve decided 2017 will be the year I embrace slow living, and experiment with it in all areas of my life. I should first point out that I’m not talking about the traditional definition of “slow” living (sustainable, local, organic and whole). I’m strictly focusing on the pace at which I live and breathe. Here’s what I’m thinking…

The Year of Slow

Each month, I’m going to experiment with slowing down in one area of my life. For example, at some point I’ll experiment with slow food, where I will make more time to cook, eat slower and try to enjoy every last bite. Maybe I’ll even cross off that goal of finally trying some new recipes. I’ll share my intentions for the month here first, in case anyone wants to do it with me. I’ll also use the hashtag #yearofslow on Instagram, when it’s appropriate, and I’d love to see you over there if that’s your thing. Finally, I’ll share an update on each experiment before starting the next one.

Some of the different things I plan to experiment with are: slow mornings, slow evenings, slow movement, slow technology and slow money. The only thing I won’t do is make a list of what I’m going to work on each month. If I’ve learned anything over the past few years, it’s to trust your gut. So the same way I’ve let my gut tell me it’s time to slow down, I’m also going to let it tell me what to work on and when. The one exception for this is slow travel, which will be a huge part of this whole year for me. I’m spending the first few months of 2017 in Squamish, then who knows where the year will take me.

My hope is that I will not only get to the end of this year and say I’ve completed all my work and fulfilled all my travel goals, but that I will have enjoyed all the moments in between and created some healthier habits in the process. As Carl Richards wrote in The New York Times: “January 2017 will be the official start of the Work Hard, Rest Hard decade. We are going to hustle, sure. But we’re also going to rest. In fact, we’re going to be as good at resting as we are at crushing things. We’re going to become pros at turning off social media, getting great sleep, working less and living more.”

Do you want to join us? I’ll be back next week to tell you what I’m working on first. :)

PS – A Simple Year 2017 is open for registration! Join Courtney Carver, Tammy Strobel, Brooke McAlary, The Minimalists, Marc and Angel, Anthony Ongaro, Colin Wright, Jules Clancy, Erin Somerville and myself, as we guide you to make 2017 a thoughtful and simple year. Register by January 22nd!

PPS – If you’re planning on doing a shopping ban for any length of time this year, here is a simple guide (PDF) to help you get started.

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  • Happy New Year, Cait!

    Yes, be organised but as well stay flexible throughout this year. Looking at the big picture (the year’s total workload) is fine but don’t let it overwhelm you. Tackle things in bite-size manageable chunks, day to day, not getting distracted by spreading yourself too thin, but by seeing started projects to final completion. I daresay that you might not fully complete all your planned projects but that’s ok. Give yourself “permission” to accomplish what you can. Don’t stress yourself by letting your little internal voice be your own worse critic. By all means work hard but have fun and enjoy the challenges, learning from what life throws at you. That’s how I try to operate – not always successfully – but we try to do our best, right buddy!

    Looking forward to reading about your thoughts and adventures this year, my friend.

  • We’re on the same wavelength lady! I know what you mean about all those ads and instgram “motivational” slogans. Most, and understandably so, are to have you sign up for something. Marketing kind of preys on those who aren’t feeling good about themselves in one way, or multiple ways. It’s hard to just be OK being…just ya know, being. Work is work. You have to make a living unless you are independently wealthy. But there must be something in there, which is making a living AND finding daily peace and balance.

    • Yes yes yes – to everything you said! And you’re right about work. It has to be done, and I truly do want to work on all my upcoming projects! I think I’ve just let myself stress out about how many more hours I’ll be putting in this year compared to last. But I’m determined to take breaks, get outside and find my peace. :)

  • I watched a silly “mom” video recently on Youtube which included this quote: “If you can exercise and read books regularly, congratulations on being independently wealthy!” That is exactly how I feel. I can’t seem to do all the things that all the “improvement” posts are telling me to do regularly. Although I will keep trying to both read and exercise, I really have to pick one or two things to focus on at a time right now. And certainly not all the things from one of those self-improvement listicles! I could definitely benefit from slowing down, too.

    • Wow, that’s a great quote! And I don’t know what this says about me, but it kind of made me chuckle. I’m all about focusing on one goal/project/task at a time. That’s definitely how I’ll be approaching my work this year. Finishing writing the book in January, doing the podcast in February, editing the book in March and so on. I want to stay focused and do DEEP WORK. And in between… I want to slow down and take breaks. :)

  • Thank you! I completely agree with your points. I wrote down yesterday how overwhelmed I was already feeling and it was only the 1st of the new year! I’m trying to slow it down and not tell myself that I have to do it ALL, right NOW. I’m seeking balance.

    • You definitely don’t have to do it all right now, Cari. Most of the rest of the internet will tell you otherwise, but not me. A new year doesn’t have to equal an entire restart. It’s just a new day, after all. :)

  • Happy New Year, Cait!
    It’s so wonderful and amazing how little we need when we slow down. We don’t have to make more if we need less.
    The right motivation can change plans, though. We’ve decided to take each family kid on an international trip when they graduate from high school, (shh! they don’t know yet) so while work isn’t very fulfilling in itself, it will help us create this dream and that makes each shift a little better.

    • Oh, I love that, Julie! It reminds me of something Garrett said to me earlier tonight: when sitting down to do the work, ask yourself what the opportunity is here. For you, work = the opportunity to take your family on some amazing vacations. :)

  • I really do think living intentionally and slowing down are the keys to living a happier, simpler life. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed with day-to-day to-dos, especially if you’re ambitious and want to be productive. But that’s a recipe for burnout–and potentially negative financial consequences, like impulse buys.

    • Amen to that last part! I definitely remember being more impulsive about all things when I was in burnout mode. Anything to feel better, right? Let’s not go back to that. :)

  • Happy New Year Cait!

    I adopted a “slow” routine for my evenings this past Fall and it has been so helpful. I do not check email after 7pm. I also told my contacts that I won’t be texting after that time so they don’t expect me to read theirs until the next day after breakfast and dressing. My husband and I no longer leave the TV on. We each have one or two shows we do watch per week, (The Flash, Masterpiece Theater…), but we turn the TV back off when it’s over. Now we chat or relax with a good book and I can ease into my night and fall asleep on time.

    I hope you enjoy your new slow lifestyle and have peaceful nights as a result.

    • Your routine sounds lovely, Annie! I had a good one going for a few months. No social media after 6pm, lots of Epsom salt baths, etc. But recently, I’ve found myself still looking at the phone before bed and not reading as much as before… and it definitely messes with my sleep. I’m totally aware of what I’m doing, and change my behaviour whenever I catch myself. But I’m looking forward to the monthly experiment where I challenge my bad habits and hopefully create some new ones.

  • Happy New Year Cait. Love the idea of #yearofslow and will be following along over in Instagram. I think there is such this added pressure put on people at New Years – things to do, things to achieve…. and then we can feel flat if we aren’t reaching those goals. Don’t get me wrong goals aren’t a bad thing, I have some myself but I try and focus more on the foggy vision of where I want the future to go and let room for the inevitable plot twists that life throws at us – both good and bad. Whats always whispering in the back of my mind is Don Miguel Ruiz’s fourth agreement of “Always Do Your Best” – “your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstances, simply do your best and you will avoid self-judgement, self-abuse and regret.” Well I’m trying to do my best to follow that intention but you know how perfection and achievement comes in the way of that at times :P I think with the world we are in, it’s a reminder that is continuously needed – to live and enjoy the moments of life.

    • I love that so much, Sharon – and you’re right that your best will be different every day, under individual circumstances. But if we get to the end of every day and believe we did our best, then we should be able to go to bed satisfied. :)

  • Cait, the year of slow sounds awesome! There will certainly be some slowness in 2017 for me…I’m spending 28 nights in Albuquerque, New Mexico. And I know there’s plenty to see in a new place, I don’t know if there’s 28 days worth of keeping me busy. haha. I have a hunch that there will also be feelings of being rushed in 2017 because there is so much to see and do in a finite amount of time to see and do it in.

    Those 70 hour work weeks you talked about???? Shoot me now. That’s absolutely my biggest fear with self-employed entrepreneurship. Do I have the will power to turn off the entrepreneur mode outside of what I deem to be defined working hours? I bet it’s incredibly hard for most people.

    That’s why the idea of going into some office from 9-5 five days a week starts to feel not so bad—at least I have my nights and weekends. If I can be entrepreneurial and NOT a workaholic though, that would be an intriguing combination. It’s certainly worth trying. :D

    • Ooo… I would challenge you to embrace slow travel while you’re in Albuquerque. Just LIVE there. Be there. Go to the same grocery store. Visit the same coffee shop a few times. That kind of thing. Really settle in. That’s what I’m doing in Squamish right now and it feels incredible. I have no friends here, which is helping me focus on my work. But it’s also just refreshing to walk outside and realize WHOA I’m somewhere new! What can I walk around and see!? I’m guessing those 28 days will fly by, and you’ll be a little sad to leave. :) Oh, and I definitely think it’s possible to be entrepreneurial and NOT a workaholic… but it’s all about being intentional about the work you do.

  • Oooo I love this idea! For me personally, I’m finally recovering some of the mental energy I lost last year and feeling ready to tackle some big goals. But I also know that if I don’t balance that out with slowness and relaxation I risk burnout. I love that work hard/rest hard idea!

    I like setting the occasional New Years goal but I’ve long since started avoiding all those self improvement listicles on social media. It’s important that the goals I set have a good reason behind them: I’m resolving to read more because it adds value and enrichment to my life and I want to learn more about other world views; I’m resolving to improve my diet because I’m tired of feeling sluggish and gross. I don’t have these goals just for the sake of having them.

    So excited to see what you come up with for Slow Year!

    • Yes, I love the work hard/rest hard idea so much. When I lived in Toronto, I always felt like it was work hard/play even harder… and it was a disaster for my body/mind/soul. I’m happy to work hard this year, so long as there’s a lot of slow/intentional actions around it. And your goals sound great, Hanna, because you have good intentions behind them. :)

  • I was nodding along in agreement when you wrote about websites that promote working more, getting more, doing more, achieving more, make more money, lose more weight, do more with less, etc. My criteria on ignoring websites that push how to do (fill-in-the-blank) better is that the majority of these websites have a pop-over banner encouraging me to join their newsletter or email list so I won’t miss a single post.
    These pop-over banners usually darken the background and sometimes have a little animated swing or movement to truly “grab my attention”. Once I realize I am on one of those websites or blogs, I back out, then go to either my terminal block and block them to keep me from making that mistake again, or I set me ad block to completely block the entire website, so again, I won’t make that mistake again.

    The pop-over newsletter / email list solicitation banner is obtrusive and the whole “in-your-face” thing doesn’t encourage me to stick around, but instead is a obvious clue bug that the content on that blog, website, etc is more than likely going to drag me down despite their plea that their insight is so much more insightful. Yeah no.
    So for me, just avoiding these type blogs and websites with pop-over alerts has made a world of difference in that I am not subjecting myself to someone else’s interpretation or suggestions of who I should be, I should just be me.

    • I wish all bloggers would read this comment, Jane. This is the exact reason I refuse to add those kinds of pop-ups here. Not just because I don’t want to bug readers, but because *I* hate those pop-ups on blogs… so why would I include them!? I wouldn’t and won’t. Maybe 2017 will be the year more bloggers jump OFF that train…

  • Yes! Yes, to everything you said here. At work I’m expected to Lean In. I go to women in tech conferences and I am surrounded by women with triplets in high management positions who write books while doing yoga and found charities in their sleep. And my twitter feed is full of Goals for 2017, neatly divided into professional, personal, side hustles categories, some even with helpful infographics detailing just how goal-ey they are going to be. It is exhausting and I want none of it.

    • Oh my gosh, I was exhausted just reading your comment! Unfollow any account that makes you feel like you’re not doing enough. If you’re happy, you’re doing enough. And you ARE enough.

  • Happy New Year, Cait! Fantastic article to start off the year! I look forward to following your lead.

    “The only thing I won’t do is make a list of what I’m going to work on each month.” I LOVE this. My to-do list is a constant source of stress for me. I always have more on the list than is humanly possible to accomplish, which leaves me feeling like an unproductive failure. I’m giving this a try! Thank you.

    • I’m glad that part was helpful, Amanda! I had thought about creating a list and saying. “I’ll do this in January, that in March, this in July,” etc. but I just couldn’t. It felt too restrictive. I don’t need more restrictions, this year… I need more flexibility!

  • Hey Cait! I’m so with you already. It’s the 2nd day of 2017 and YES, let’s so do slow. :) Can’t wait to see what you come up with each month and I’ll be joining you in our own way. Wonderful post!

    • The fact that you said “in our own way” made me SO happy that I smiled. Yes yes yes. Nobody has to do what I’m doing – just do what YOU need/want to do. :)

  • Fantastic idea Cait. My theme for this year is “Slow not lazy”. I needed to add the “not lazy” qualify as a bit of an affirmation against the negative connotations of slow and glorification of busy. I intend to be as productive as every in 2017 and the way I intend to achieve that is through bringing a slow mindset to everything I do. I look forward to following what you are doing and joining in where our whims align. I’ll certainly be following the #Yearofslow hashtag for some inspiration.
    In other news, I’m very excited as A Simple Year has just gone live and logged in for the first time to check it out. I signed up what feels like an age ago and I’m really looking forward to working through the first module.

    • Ooo I love the “not lazy” part you’ve added, Amy. I certainly know people who think slowing down is a waste of time. But if it’s what your body needs, it’s not lazy at all – it is ESSENTIAL. I’ll see you in A Simple Year! :)

  • One of my friends posted a program for improving your life that I love! He said, “Make a list of things you enjoy. Make a list of what you do. Compare and adjust.” In other words, it’s OK to work hard as long as it’s something you enjoy working at. So, those of us who enjoy helping others figure it out can joyfully give ourselves permission to go right on doing that. Yay!

    • Yes yes yes! Garrett said something similar tonight, as well: that we should look at all the work like an opportunity. If my work gives me the opportunity to help others, it’s worth doing – and I will happily do it. :)

  • Thank you, thank you for using your voice to advocate against all of this onslaught of “more, better, faster, bigger” all the time! How much happier would we all be if we quit comparing ourselves to everyone around us, trying to be all things to all people at all times, and instead just focused on our own spheres on influence? #YearOfSlow. I’m in :)

    • The comparison trap is a STRONG force, isn’t it? Sometimes I think I’ve gotten out of that rat race, so to speak. But then I’ll see another blogger who seems to be doing ALL THE THINGS and so much better than I do them, and I go down a rabbit hole of figuring out how to be bigger and better… and then I just shut down. Because it’s not how I roll. Stick to your MO and do what’s best for you.

  • Happy New Year!

    I’m not sure if what I’ve planned for the year would be considered slow but my goal is definitely to get my finances under control, simplify my life and to live life with more thought.

    • I would say simple living + intentional living + slow living are three terms that could almost be used interchangeably. So yes, you’re doing it. :)

  • My post on Monday kind of resonates well with this one. The reality is it’s possible to spend to much time hustling, saving money, etc. Time is really the more valuable commodity hen money. As such remember to focus on only those things hat buy you more time.

  • Slowing down – it is such a worthy goal. My mind is racing in circles all the time. I try so hard to stop the incessant chatter that is constantly urging me to “get things done.” I try so hard to quiet it. Sometimes I do. Other times, well you know…

  • What a great goal for 2017. I was raised to work as hard as possible (even to exhaustion). As an adult, I realized (with a life coach) that in order to be happy in life you must create a balance. It has taken me many years (bad habits are hard to break) to create a happy and health life; and of course since life is not static I am constantly re-evaluating my goals.

    Good luck.

  • So much yes. Stop reading articles that make me feel behind and read more that make me feel fulfilled. I’ve been crazily running the rat race while paying off school loans, and I’m straight up ragged. 2017 is my year to step back and reassess while doing things for myself. Will be following you on instagram to see more of this!

  • Found you via RowdyKittens and just signed up so I can get all your posts rather than just popping over and hoping to find things. You are an inspiration on my trying to pay off my debt by age 50 (3 yrs away!). Love this post about exploring slow living across all aspects of life. I certainly need to be ‘doing’ more, rather than procrastinating and mucking about online. Look forward to reading what comes next in this space.

  • Happy new years, Cait! I love the idea of work hard, rest hard. I have major plans for my business this year as well as a whole whack of things I want to accomplish in my personal life, so striking a good balance is going to be key. Can’t wait to see how your year progresses and how you’re able to juggle so much over the next few months. Enjoy Squamish, you’ll love being back there!

  • A very Happy New Year to you. It is inspiring to know that you are going to revel in the joy of the moment by taking things slow in 2017. Instead of running towards happiness and never achieving it, we must sometimes stop and look around. That is when we will find happiness in the little things instead of designing tough goals for us, that will make us dissatisfied in life.

  • My three key words for 2017 are “simplify, balance, contentment”. As of today I’m swapping “slow” for “contentment”. After all I think “simplify + balance + slow” will equal contentment!

  • I love this idea! I’m also leaning into the idea that I no longer need to be a “go getter.” I’m not feeling anxiety about 2017, but I am wondering how I will bring my very charged creative impulses together with a slower paced, mindful life.

    I know what you mean about the surge of how to be better articles. But I know they are helping some people and I feel grateful for that.

  • Hi, Cait! I’m looking forward to following along with this. I wondered if you’d ever checked out the Slow Your Home Podcast? It’s a couple out of Sidney, Australia, and they’ve done a bunch of slow living experiments that I’ve enjoyed listening to. You might find some ideas, or at least some kindred spirits!

    As always, thanks for the inspiration!

  • Here are a couple of quotes that might give you some good inspiration from some very successful people:

    “Not everything that can be counted, counts; and not everything that counts, can be counted.” – Einstein

    “Don’t count the things you do, do the things that count.” – Zig Ziglar

    “You don’t have to think outside the box, if you refuse to let anyone put you in a box.” – Sir Richard Branson

    I think we too often put ourselves in a box by living our lives for ‘societal shoulds’ (i.e. bigger, better, faster), rather than living satisfy our ‘inner musts’.

  • Just recently found your blog… referred by becomingminimalist! Gotta say Im excited to read more. My family has started our own minimalist lifestyle and I look forward to learning more tips and tricks along the way! Thanks for the inspiration! ;) <3

  • Somewhere in the middle of last year I felt burnt out because of these motivational life goals to do more, to be the best in all ares of life and so on. Even though all these articles and posts on social media are supposed to give inspiration or encourage us to do more with our life, the effect was quite opposite for me. For a while I was readin these articles daily, and I started stressing out that I am not enough. However, at the end of the summer I unfollowed and unliked lots of blogs, instagram accounts, facebook pages, and focused on offline life. Fortunately, I found out that I am enough; however, I can do more. I want to do more, but not that people from the Internet tell me that. Just because I feel like becoming a better version of myself and I found what prevents me from achieving those clishe goals “eating healthier, excercising more, traveling more, and following my dreams”. However, upgrading myself does not include working 24/7. Nope nope nope. Well, there were times when I thought that working all the time is a great idea. There are many great things in life apart work :)

    Indeed, it’s imporant to slow down. I believe this trend of super busy and productive life will fade away eventualy. I believe that’s all we truly need. I really loved your idea of slowing down. Trust me, slow mornings are AMAZING! I will definitely once in a while use #yearofslow hashtag. Love this idea!

    Good luck,
    Monika

  • The thing I struggled with the most was comparing myself to everyone else – where should I be with my finances this year? What should I be doing with my life by now? This year I’ve been trying to focus on the moment and appreciate where I’ve come rather than stressing about where I “should” be.