Is the Slow Work movement really for someone like me? Isn’t Slow Work only for lazy people?
So you’ve learned a bit about Slow Living, and you think you might want to give Slow Work a try. There’s just one question nagging in the back of your mind – If I want to embrace Slow Work, does it mean I’m lazy? Laziness isn’t exactly a quality we value, right?
Chances are, if you’re a creative or a solopreneur striving to build your own business, you’re anything but.
So how does Slow Work jive with all us Type A overachievers?
We the hustlers, the burners of midnight oil, both ends of the candle and even the odd bridge?
Slow Work isn’t about laziness – it’s about being SMART.
Choosing to embrace Slow Work only looks like laziness in the context of our toxic cultural relationship with work.
If we took a moment to step back and assess our mindsets and attitudes surrounding work with clear eyes, it would be obvious that things are pretty screwed up.
Let’s look at some of our beliefs about work
- Burnout is a normal part of our work lives. We hold it up as a badge of honour and a necessary evil if we want a ‘successful’ career.
- Rest is unnecessary and a sign of weakness.
- We don’t value our most important asset, our own health, never mind prioritize it’s protection.
- Our work comes before our obligations to our family, our community and the parts of ourselves that don’t directly serve our career ambitions.
- We must be always on – but never fall below optimal performance.
When we step back we can see our cultural attitudes towards work and laziness as what they are – absolutely insane.
We can keep doing the same things and expect a different result – or we can be brave and try something new – even if it means the people around us might think we’re ‘lazy’.
(But I’m willing to bet once they see the change in you and the results you will achieve in your business, they won’t be judging you – they’ll want to know your secret!)
How do we shift our mindset around Slowing Down at work and laziness?
Let’s be real here, ladies. It’s one thing to KNOW a thing – it’s a whole other can o’beans to BELIEVE it.
We’ve all got gremlins playing nasty tapes in our head, tugging at our self-doubt, sense of worthiness and all the rest.
If we want to truly embrace Slow Work we need to address our own belief system. We need to break down the myths. Smash our misconceptions. Build a new framework with confidence and grace.
Easier said than done, amiright??
1) Recognize and accept that our traditional attitudes towards work are harmful
Slowing down at work isn’t about laziness. It’s about self-preservation.
I learned this the hard way – In 2010 I had a complete, absolutely spectacular breakdown due to stress at work.
Happily, you don’t have to find yourself sobbing in the middle of a downtown street on your lunch break like I did to see that not only do our cultural attitudes towards work NOT work, they are hurting us, our communities, our families and the planet.
Our efforts at work are often not about doing our best, serving society as a whole or making a quality product that people actually need.
More often than not, our efforts at work revolve around
- Looking busy
- Promoting ourselves (regardless of whether or not we have anything of value to offer in return)
- Making sure everyone around us knows how important we are (lest we be deemed redundant) and most harmful of all
- Indulging in the undisciplined pursuit of MORE.
More status. More money. More power. More consumption. More influence. More profits. More followers. More work hours. More ambition. More ‘stuff’ we don’t need.
None of this helps us live a better life, be of service, leave a legacy or heal the planet.
2) Use Slow Work to shift our focus and align our work with our values
We’ve all seen those memes that proclaim ‘You weren’t born to just pay bills and die.’
But what if they’re right? What if we actually took that flippant shit seriously? What if, just for a second, we consider the possibility that our work life and our values could be aligned?
We’ve been taught to leave our values at the door for too long.
My generation – the Xennials – were born on the digital divide, one foot in and one foot out of the analog age. We grew up with second-wave feminist Moms in power suits but before #MeToo.
We’ve been taught from birth we could have it all, but also quietly told to sit down and shut up and – for god sakes woman, don’t rock the boat ...
We enjoy the benefits of women before us having fought for their rights and values within the workplace. We’ve also been told, implicitly or explicitly – don’t get any ideas about doing the same, that’s plenty far enough…
We’ve watched our younger cohort, the proper Millennials, lambasted by our elders for being lazy and unmotivated and too quick to put their personal life above their careers.
In that context, well, the idea of bringing values into the world place feels pretty revolutionary. And kinda scary.
Which is probably why so many of us have chosen to go out on our own.
Leaving the context of the old paradigm in favour of self-employment or entrepreneurship provides us with a new space to start fresh, and build a new idea of work from the ground up.
We have the power as we build our own businesses to seed the ground with new beliefs, new habits, new expectations and plenty of grace.
We can choose to value our health and our families over the relentless pursuit of more. Become living proof that business can behave differently, in a way that respects ecological boundaries and limits – both ours and the planet’s.
We can create positive feedback loops, cultivate a work-life integration that nourishes the well-being of our business, our communities, ourselves and our planet.
It’s scary to swim upstream, especially if our efforts to Slow Down are dismissed as mere laziness. But, if we are brave, we can create an all new paradigm for the women who come after us.
3) Reframe our idea of what work and laziness look like
As an art student in university, most days you’d find me tucked away in my private studio in a corner of the printmaking department.
It had a big window looking out onto the lush campus, soaring ceilings and bright white walls covered with sketches, source material, test prints and quotes.
75% of the time you’d find me at my desk, sipping coffee, listening to Miles Davis and staring out the window or at my inspiration wall, occasionally jotting a note or quick drawing in my sketchbook.
It would look, for all intents and purposes, like I was doing sweet f*ck all.
Nope. Just quiet, brooding, INVISIBLE work.
What ‘looked’ like work happened in bursts of two or three intense days in studio as all those thoughts and sketches came to life on metal plates in acid baths and under the intense pressure of the press.
For some of the best writers in history, walking was an essential part of their writing process.
Hemingway, Thoreau, Woolf, Dickens, Emerson and Kierkegaard were all walkers. In Paris, there was an entire culture of elite artists who idly wandered the city streets known as Flaneurs. (Included among them no less than Baudelaire and Oscar Wilde.)
“It’s worth the time to take an hour’s walk before writing. You may write a bit less for the time spent, but you may find that you write better.Orson Scott Card
Take away these hours of ‘laziness’ and would we these artists have left the legacy they did?
I don’t think so.
The slowness, the rest, the reflection was as integral to the work as the time at the writing desk or easel.
Rest, ‘sharpening the saw’, reflection and quiet, invisible work such as observation of the world around us in search of inspiration and insight – all of these tasks contribute to a robust Slow Work practice and a healthier, more contented life.
Sounds like the opposite of laziness to me.