Slow down and simplify: Make more time for what really matters
Expats lead such busy lives that they can often feel disconnected, lonely or lost. Life Coach and Psychotherapist Katarina Stolz shares her tips on slowing down and simplifying, to create a life with more time for what really matters.
When I moved to Germany 12 years ago, I didn’t think I could afford to slow down. I needed to learn a new language, build up a network, and learn how to deal with bureaucracy.
I was constantly doing something.
I grew up with the belief that being productive and doing things fast was something that should be rewarded, and being lazy and doing “nothing” was not acceptable.
I always felt I needed to learn more, meet more people, be more available, and do more activities. I was left feeling exhausted, but worst of all - I was lonely and disconnected. What was I doing wrong? I was doing so much, and yet I still didn’t feel at home. I asked myself what the reason behind it all was.
Nowadays, I work as a Life Coach and Psychotherapist for expats going through similar emotions; they feel disconnected, lonely, and lost. Some of them blame the city, the people, or new technology for their problems.
"New technologies make it easy to get sucked into things we don’t need." – Nir Eyal
Through modern technology, we are more connected than ever to people living far away, but less and less connected with people physically close to us. More and more conversations take place online, while in-person meet-ups have become a luxury.
Last week I called to set up a meeting with someone at a bank. The woman on the other line said: “You are very welcome to meet with us, but you will be the first person to personally come in; usually we do everything online.”
When we blame technology for our lack of connection, we don’t move forward. What we need to do is mindfully choose how we use technology, and identify what connection really means to us.
The Achilles Heel of Distraction
Observing my own - and my clients’ - habits over the past years, I have learned that we are chronically distracted, which makes it a challenge to live with personal integrity.
Many of us have become incapable of following through on our intentions. There is constantly somebody trying to get our attention through emails or messages, and our to-do lists are leaving us feeling overwhelmed.
"My goal is no longer to get more done, but rather to have less to do." - Francine Jay
Many of my clients talk about feeling distracted and how hard it can be to carry out their plans. They find it difficult to break bad habits, and when they do try to do something in a healthier way, they often give up after a couple of weeks because they don’t get the “quick fix” they are after.
I heard recently that it takes approximately 66 days to break a bad habit. Do you have the patience and willpower to wait so long, or do you tend to give up after a few days?
I wanted to understand more about the Achilles Heel of Distraction and why we have such a hard time slowing down.
In his book, Indistractable, Nir Eyal writes about how we often prioritise “the urgent” at the expense of “the important”. When we constantly respond to the urgent (phone calls, emails, and social media), we miss out on the important stuff - taking time for ourselves and being with our partners, children, or good friends.
Simplifying your life
In the last couple of months, I decided that I wanted my calendar to reflect my priorities and I started to look at how I could simplify my life and leave time for spontaneous activities with my family and friends - or for simply doing nothing.
My friend David called the other day and said: “I miss our conversations and I would like to invite you for dinner.” Because I hadn’t packed my calendar with appointments, I had time to meet him.
Simplifying your life means doing more of what you love. Less heavy, more light. Less drama, more tranquillity. Less “should”, more letting go. I believe that the key to feeling more connected is to stop doing things that add more mess to your already busy schedule.
Steps to feeling more connected
According to Nir Eyal, the first step to feeling more connected is to answer the question: “How do I turn my values into time?” He explains that we need to focus on three life domains, in this order:
Make sure you get proper rest. When you are nourished you don’t burn out. Make sure to take care of yourself first.
2. Your relationships
Make sure you schedule time for the important people in your life. Your relationships are important for your psychological well-being.
Decide how much time you want to spend on reactive tasks versus reflective tasks. A reactive task is responding to emails and phone calls. A reflective task gives us time to think. We need time for both.
The more you focus on turning your values into time, the more you will experience control over your life!
I believe that when you slow down and stop distracting yourself with too many activities, and instead, be more mindful about who you want to spend your time with, you are able to go deeper with those activities as well as with the people you meet.
Going deeper with others and with ourselves is what we need to do if we want more connection in our lives. This will eventually lead us to a life with more time for what really matters.
Would you like to get support during a difficult life situation? Visit Katarina on her website to arrange an online coaching consultation, or email her with any questions you have regarding psychotherapy.