The 2024 Slowdown
What it means to slow down, the hurdles I've faced, and a new set of practices you can do with me in the new year.
Welcome to Making Time. Each week, I explore the impact of time on creativity, ways to slow down, and scenes from my own life in rural Oregon. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe for free.
Everything is quiet and still in the house. Silence is only interrupted by the smallest sounds: the clacking on my typing, the rustling of a blanket, a candle spitting, Lucy sighing in her bed.
I suppose this is why they call the week between Christmas and New Year “dead week”. I’m sure the name has something to do with how unproductive it is, conveying the supposed uselessness of a week without any real work being done. But it’s always felt necessary to me, in the way that winter itself is necessary. It’s a time to lie fallow, when things happen under the surface.
As Katherine May writes, “Winter is a time of withdrawing from the world, maximising scant resources, carrying out acts of brutal efficiency and vanishing from sight; but that’s where the transformation occurs.”
I’ve taken the last two weeks off to recuperate, work slowly on a quilt, take some long walks, reflect on the last year, and plan for the next.
Last year, I came up with a long list of goals for 2023. Looking back now, I completed about half of them. That’s ok with me, because if I hadn’t set them I probably wouldn’t have done any of it at all.
But this year, I’m going to take a slightly different approach. In 2024, I’m going to have a single focus, and give myself small, enjoyable changes to practice throughout the entire year. And I’d like to invite you to join me. Let’s dive deeper.
My Focus: The Constant Need for “More”
For many years, I’ve struggled with doing too much.
It isn’t just that I overcommit or have too many important obligations. It’s also that I feel there’s so much I want to do.
My list of books to read seems to only get longer and longer. There are so many skills and crafts I’d like to try. There are projects around the house. There are new recipes to make. There are sports I’d like to get into. There are gardens to plan. And then there are all the physical and spiritual and mental practices that keep me sane and healthy, and that I genuinely enjoy and want to do more of.
This is on top of all the actual necessities and responsibilities of life and running a small business. I feel rushed and frenzied most of the time. It always feels like I’m leaving something out or letting someone down. I’m constantly watching the clock, wondering how to fit everything into a 24 hour day.
The result is that I spend more of my life than I’d like to admit not being fully present. I’m anxious about how little time I have, as I make long to-do lists that never get completed, multitask through everything, and allow my days to blend into one another.
And my desire for more extends beyond daily activities. I subscribe to 100+ article feeds and newsletters, read 50 books last year, watch videos while I exercise, listen to podcasts while I cook, find new and unnecessary products to buy. All of it is enjoyable, but my head is so crammed full of information and entertainment at all times that I often don’t see what’s directly in front of me.
Aspoints out in his new book, Scarcity Brain, humans have a natural bias to add rather than subtract, because having more makes us feel safer. We add more stuff, more information, and more activities all leading to a perception of “time scarcity.”
He writes, “The truth is that we have more time than ever, thanks to advances in human longevity and the changing nature of work. Still, we cram our lives with so much compulsive activity, things “to do,” that we feel pressed.”
The 2024 Slowdown
I’ve decided that 2024 is the year I take steps to slow down, to invite more calm and peace into my life, and to make the whole process enjoyable along the way.
Rather than making drastic changes on January first, or attempting to overhaul my psyche, I’m going to slowly add in new practices, rituals, and experiments. Each month, I’ll try one new idea to help me slow down and just see how it goes.
My only requirements for each new practice are:
No extreme measures. The practices should be small, sustainable, and feel somewhat easy. If I find something too difficult, I’ll scale it back and do an easier version.
Leads to more enjoyment. I want these to feel good and add more joy to my life overall.
Does not add stress. If it’s just another “should”, it’s probably not right for me.
My goals for these practices are to create more mental space by reducing over-stimulation, tempering the need for more, reducing my sense of rushing, and to cease quantifying, grading, and measuring so many aspects of my life.
If you’d like to join me, you’re more than welcome! I’ll share a new practice at the beginning of each month, and then recap how it went (and whether I plan to continue it) at the end of the month. I’ll share my first mini-experiment this week.
Have a magical and safe new year, and thank you for being here and reading along with me. I appreciate each and every one of you for reading and sharing your thoughts with me each week.
I’d love to hear your own goals, intentions, or resolutions in the comments if you’re up for sharing!