Learning the Value of Slowing Down

From interviewing designers for my podcast during COVID-19, one lesson really resonated with me—the value of slowing down. In the absence of the busy office setting, the lockdown has taught them and myself to slow down and reflect on what truly makes a difference in our lives. Whether this is spending time with family and partners, starting or rediscovering passion projects, or just going outside and enjoying nature more, all of the podcast guests have enjoyed getting their time back. They also talked about a realization that there may be alternative career paths such as starting your own business or doing pro-bono work for a non-profit.

All that said, I don’t always find it easy to slow down with the onslaught of emails, slack messages, and todos filling up the screen in front of me. And what I heard in the podcast interviews is that WFH has allowed work to literally take over people’s lives. The folks on the podcast had lots of great ideas for how to deal with this and slow down so I wanted to share them with you:

Unplugging your phone from your life
Radek Taraszka said he unplugs from work by removing email and slack apps from his mobile phone so when he is with his wife and daughter he isn’t getting constant work notifications.

Learning something new that has nothing to do with work
Ovetta Sampson ended her interview by saying she had taken up studying Chinese remotely with a teacher on Zoom.

Taking time to take care of your team
Uta Knablein (EVP Design, iHeartRadio) said she is taking the time to check in with her design team to hear how they are doing. She described this as “servant leadership” and recommended the book Servant Leadership by Robert Greenleaf.

Going outside and taking a walk
Mauro Porcini (CDO, PepsiCo) mentioned that he spent a lot more time outside in the Hamptons walking and enjoying nature as a way to recharge and relax. Helen Kokk (UX and Service Design Lead, Nortal) said walking her two french bulldogs gave her a reason to get outside in Talinn, Estonia to enjoy her beautiful, historic city.

Enjoying the ones you love
Several people on the podcast mentioned that WFH had brought them closer to their families and partners they were now were spending so much time with. Of course, it’s also easy to feel cooped up with the same people (especially noisy kids) but slowing down to spend time together can be a true silver-living.

Taking a day off
This is one is a tip from my own experience. Sometimes work can just take over and there’s a need to give yourself or your team a much-needed break. Workaholics may frown on this idea but taking care of yourself in hard times (pandemic, BLM, etc.) like these should be taken seriously. There’s always another day to pick up that project, answer all those emails, or design the next amazing app. For me, it’s going surfing (while maintaining social distance.)

The pandemic has helped a lot us realize what is truly important to us. Designers love their jobs but we shouldn’t let those jobs become our whole lives. Try slowing down a bit, you might just like it. And you’re bound to do a lot better design when you’re fresh and rested.

What about you? How do you slow down?