The Rise of Slowness for Success 🧘🏽‍♀️

Updated: Jan 20, 2019

In today’s tech-obsessed world, there is a growing number of practitioners who are all about the slow mornings where they spend time with their family, read a book, do exercise or do nothing at all. And all of this is conducive to success.

I don’t know about you but I cringe every time I see the word “hustle”, “slay” and “grind” on social, and lately there’s been a lot of cringing. In 2018 these were some of the major buzzwords on social media, but the concept is nothing new. In 1980, Dolly Parton set out a morning routine in her hit song 9-to-5 that was followed by millions. “Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen / Pour myself a cup of ambition / Yawn and stretch and try to come to life.”

To add to this, many products since this era have been marketed in such a way - around fastness. Like 3-in-1 cleansers that are body wash, shampoo and conditioner all in one bottle, ready-made frozen meals and meal delivery services to cut cooking time, and the worst one, the quick-fix slimming pill, which if we haven’t learnt by now, there’s no such thing. Save your money or put it towards good food and a gym membership.

The pace of life among the population has no doubt quickened, but in a counter to people’s over scheduled lives, burdened by 24/7 technology, there’s a new movement rising - it’s called the slow morning. I’ve been doing it for just under a year now and it’s pretty mind blowing, life changing and it’s the simplest thing with the greatest benefit - increased focus, productivity, creativity and well… greater enjoyment of life full stop.

Last month I read a blog post by Bill Gates about how he has always thought mediation was a bit of hogwash but then he actually started doing it and now in 2019 that’s his thing. For him, it gives him greater focus, which leads to greater productivity. If only he discovered it way back when - who knows what global domination he could have achieved? I remember reading in the New York Times years ago that Bill Gates was an advocate of multitasking (opposite of mediation), running on a treadmill every morning while watching DVDs. Oh how times have changed Bill.

This slow down trend is quite at odds with another growing trend - the consumer’s need for speed.

As an antidote to multi tasking and juggling life, a growing number of people people are now waking up earlier so they can slow down and embrace the first hours of the day more. Most successful business leaders have been doing this for yonks already, but it’s slowly seeping into society. This slow down trend, however, is quite at odds with another growing trend - the consumer’s need for convenience, speed and around-the-clock service. The thing is, most people share both these needs - as people who live fast-paced lives are usually the ones who need to slow down the most.

Geir Berthelsen, founder of Norway think tank, World Institute of Slowness, says that intentionally starting your day at a slow pace can invigorate creativity and that business leaders should mindfully take time to forget time. In an interview with CNN he spoke of the focus on consumer culture and the negative effects of this on society as a whole, including people having a corporate mind-set in life.

“The Industrial Revolution gave us many good things, among them the ability to create large, great cities and feeding enough people to populate them. But in its aftermath our culture has developed a core focus based on the consumer and not the person as the individual. As a consequence we have adopted a corporate mind-set which is long on quantity, short on quality, and even shorter on slowness,” he explains.

Evidently, consumers’ needs today are quite standard - faster, and the corporate world, retail in particular, is running along to cater to it. There is always a trade off to everything; speed is often traded off with quality - quality of products, quality of service and quality of the work environment. As a result, our postmodern society is often compared to a rat race, but as US actress Lily Tomlin put it: “The trouble with the rat rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat.”

Berthelsen advises us to spend at least 20 minutes each work morning doing nothing. He spends at least 25 minutes with his family every morning sitting to breakfast and he also zones out from technology during the morning. While I’ve never been big on new year’s resolutions, I’ve set myself one for 2019 - sticking to my morning routine and enjoying it as opposed to rushing it. I started a great one in 2015, mastered it 80% in 2018, but it’s time to take it up a big notch. Which leads onto my next point.

I think we can all agree that technology isn’t a bad thing. It’s fantastic, but like anything, too much of a good thing can be bad and technology, smart phones in particular, is one of those things. While smartphones and such gadgets were built for productivity, the constant interruption from smart phone checking is probably one of the biggest cause for loss of productivity and a focused mind-set today.

According to a Deloitte's Mobile Consumer Survey 2018 released in November, over 60% of consumers say they look at their smartphone within 15 minutes of waking up and check their phones throughout the day around 52 times. Most of those surveyed (63%) also indicated they would like to limit their smartphone use, yet only half of them have succeeded. Tech giant Apple have done a great thing in this area by launching its new iPhone XR and XS with digital wellbeing tools in 2018 to help reduce users’ screen time. Its Screen Time tool highlights how much time people spend glued to their phone screen and also allows them to set daily limits for individual apps.

We have adopted a corporate mind-set which is long on quantity and short on quality.

But, it’s not all about the slow morning. A good morning after all starts with a good night’s sleep. Three hundred people, including leading industry figures like Pixar president Ed Catmull, Arianna Huffington and Twitter founder Biz Stone, were interviewed for the book My Morning Routine: How Successful People Start Every Day Inspired. Unsurprisingly, the most common habit shared by almost all of those interviewed is getting a good night’s sleep. For some reason, good sleep, and importantly enough sleep, is often seen as a sign of extravagance in today’s world. I often see the amusement or shock on people’s faces whenever I say I sleep at least eight hours every night. A good night’s sleep is fundamental to getting your morning routine right.

On an ending note, most people today seem to think that working hard is all about working fast, being super busy and being the quickest to give a response at meetings and slowness is often aligned with laziness or taking it easy as opposed to being more productive.

Everyone remembers the story of the tortoise and the hare, but no one seems to have learned the important lesson it teaches: the slow one wins.

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