My typical morning: alarm goes off at 6.45 and I struggle not to have my first coffee until around 9 (you know, because of the whole caffeine-hinders-vegetable-iron-intake thing. Wouldn’t want anything to mess with my iron-rich breakfast). I spend my caffeine-less hours braving the horrors of the London transport system while updating my social media, before plonking down safely at my desk, where I type frantically away until lunch, when I scoff down a meal that my husband was kind enough to prepare for me the night before, and then go for a walk.
Every day, come rain or shine (or both within a five-minute distance, as it sometimes happens in this city) I go for my walk. Be it thirty minutes or three, I am dependant on it. It’s that moment when I switch everything off and just do nothing, think of nothing, hurry towards nothing. I just walk, breathing in and out, feeling the wind on my face. No destination. Just a break.
I’d love to encourage more people to take that break. Mine is a walk – maybe yours is a nap, ten minutes of listening to music, a coffee at a tiny cafè or just sitting on a bench in the park. Whatever it is, don’t lose it in the frantic rhythms of everyday life. Stop eating your lunch from a takeaway container at your desk. Nothing is so urgent that you can’t take the time to eat and relax for a measly hour (or half-hour). Don’t let your daily musts dictate the true needs of your body and soul.
When Stylist Magazine launched their Reclaim Your Lunch Break campaign, I felt both delighted and depressed. Delighted because a leading magazine openly stood up to defend their employees’ right to a work-life balance (because it IS a right). And depressed because this is what we’ve come to – that it takes a campaign to make people feel like it’s okay to actually stand up and leave your desk during your break.
Considering that slowing down is beneficial to your health and productivity, I’m not sure why we’re still whizzing through our day. Multi-tasking is the buzzword that has been around for ages and still refuses to let go – but for the sake of focus, dedication and ultimately higher-quality work, isn’t it preferable that we re-learn to uni-task?
Relaxing and slowing down might also nurture creativity – sometimes during my walk I see something that I want to take a picture of, stroll past a newsstand where I see a magazine that I want to buy and read or simply think of an amazing new idea that I hadn’t thought of before, when my mind was too cluttered. Sometimes when you take the time to just breathe, you find amazing things that you didn’t even know were tucked away at the back of your brain.
In a company where I used to work, the cult of extra hours reigned supreme – the more hours you clocked, the ‘better’ you were. People stayed chained to their desks until 9 pm, sent work emails at 11 pm on a Saturday and claimed to have thought of a new campaign idea in the shower on Sunday.
Me? I left when I had finished my work. As I see it, if you can’t manage your workload in your allocated time, there is a problem.
Now that I am at the helm of the amazingly creative and supremely fun project that is Vilda, I have to remind myself to slow down. To shut down my emails. To stop tweeting. To stop checking comments on Instagram. To stop thinking about the month ahead only in terms of the editorial calendar.
Because when I stop, slow down and just breathe, that’s when the magic happens.
So relax. Read that book. Drink that coffee. Listen to that song. Chat to that friend. Pet that dog. Smell that flower.
Stop running and start living.
Photo by David Camilli