We live hurried lives. We sometimes feel restless and unsettled. Imagine someone telling you:

“You are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is to sit still long enough that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” (from Ruth Barton’s Invitation to Solitude and Silence) 

jar try again

How does this image make you feel? Do you feel resonance, resistance, or maybe both? Pay attention to that.

We know slower is better, that we miss things when we hurry: the smile of a stranger, the touch of a loved one, the beauty of a sunset. We know when we’re unhurried, we’re kinder, better. We know we can’t love in a hurry. We know, already. But how can we slow down?

Here are five simple strategies for slowing down:

1. Stop multi-tasking. In my book Breathe, I wrote about the strategy of time-chunking. Doing one thing, full-on, for a set amount of time, even 20 minutes, will allow you to get much more done than if you try to do two (or twenty) things at once.

2. Pay attention. Rather than telling yourself to slow down, just gently remind yourself to pay attention, to live with mindful awareness and gratitude as you go through your day. Listen to the chatter of your child, watch the sunset through the bare branches of winter,  look–really look– into the eyes of each person you speak with today. When something beautiful or profound stops you in your tracks, actually stop in your tracks for a moment. Paying attention forces us (without feeling forced) to slow down, and to experience just how deeply we are loved.


3. Delegate. Stop believing that you can do it all, or that you should. Accept help, and if none is offered, ask for it. Delegate chores around the house to your children. Teach any child who can reach the buttons on the washing machine to do his own laundry. Be willing to ask co-workers to team up with you. Let your spouse cook or clean even if they don’t do it perfectly.

4. Say no.  Every time you say “yes” to anything, be it a request to serve on a committee or a mindless “yes” to surfing Facebook for an hour, you are handing over some of your time and energy. Is the time you’re giving to this committee, this project, this hour of looking at cat videos feel worth it? If not, say no. There are certain things we cannot say no to–perhaps our job or caring for children or aging parents. But spend some time getting clear on which of your “yeses” are optional–and choose wisely.

5. Stay connected. Community with others who can pray for us and support us in our desire to seek God can provide comfort, but also accountability. Get close enough to one or two friends that they can tell you that you’re looking like that jar of river water, and who will encourage you to be still enough to let things settle.

What are your strategies for slowing down? Share one in the comments.