I found myself reading a book the other day. Speed reading it actually. And then I suddenly realised the absurdity of what I was doing. No, delete ‘absurdity’ and insert ‘stupidity’—it fits, as you’ll see.
Did you know that the idea of tracking time is a fairly recent concept? Prior to 1374, when the first mechanical clock appeared in Cologne’s town square dictating exact times for eating, sleeping and working, we simply went about our business with a vague eye on the sun. For the more exacting of us, the shadow it cast as it meandered across the sky gave slightly more accuracy. If the sun was hidden by clouds we were even more relaxed about time, relying on the cows to give us a nudge when they needed milking, or a banshee-like wail from the kitchen when dinner was being spoiled.
Then time was broken down to hours, minutes, and seconds, and the ethos of being a good timekeeper and always punctual rapidly became the norm. And then, as industrialisation swept across the world, it became an absolute requirement.
Multi-tasking was, until recently, a practise to be proud of. We’ve since learned that multi-tasking usually results in doing too many things at once at the expense of enjoyment or of doing any one thing properly. Demands of schedules, both personal and work-related, have us on the hop from the time we wake up and check our emails to burning the midnight oil catching up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Linkedin, and more.
To stay on top—more like constantly run behind—we have to do everything as quickly as possible—or do we?
Studies have increasingly shown that doing things at a more leisurely pace actually increases productivity and goes a long way to preventing stress, high blood pressure, diabetes related illnesses, cardiovascular problems, and substance abuse.
Yes, we do have to do some things quickly. But do we have to stress about running for that train when another will be along in two minutes? Or have a holiday that is so action-packed that we need a break when we get home? Can we enjoy preparing, cooking, and eating a meal instead of always slamming processed fast foods mindlessly down our throats? Or even read a book properly? Maybe write one?
Oh, the book? ‘In Praise of SLOW: How a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed’ by Carl Honoré. It’s worth a slow, relaxing read. Really.
Could your new totem for the year be the tortoise rather than the hare?