Past Event

The Power of Slow: Putting Time on Your Side

“Modern man thinks he loses something—time—when he does not do things, quickly, yet he does not know what to do with the time he gains except to kill it.” – Erich Fromm                

As the holiday season approaches, along with it comes the frantic rush to knock so many items off our to-do-lists, buy so many gifts, attend so many parties, and send so many cards. Americans find themselves in a rush against time.

But what if you slow down—a lot? Christine Louise Hohlbaum’s new book, The Power of Slow: 101 Ways to Save Time in Our 24/7 World, addresses our relationship with time and how we might gain more of it by de-accelerating. She writes: “Time defines who we are. It is a reference point upon which everything else is based. Unfortunately, our relationship with time is a one-way street. We need time; it does not need us. Time’s measurement is a construct we created to help us make sense of our world.” Time management, she writes, is contradictory. “How can you manage something as uncontrollable as time?”

Hohlbaum goes on to talk about the various “slow movements” that have taken hold around the world in recent years, such as slow food, slow work, slow clothes, slow exercise, and slow travel. Slow travel, according to the Independent Traveler website began as “an offshoot of the slow food movement, which began in Italy in the 1980’s as a protest against the opening of a McDonald’s in Rome. The slow food movement aims to preserve regional cuisine, local farming, communal meals and traditional food preparation methods. This cultural initiative has since burgeoned into a whole way of life known as the Slow Movement, which emphasizes connection—connection to food, connection to families and, in the case of travel, connection to local peoples and cultures.”

Those who embrace these slow movements say their purpose is to address the issue of “time poverty.” Take Back Your Time, a Seattle-based group, has put together a public policy agenda that addresses “time poverty relief.” Some of its proposals include:

  • Guaranteeing paid leave for all parents for the birth or adoption of a child.
  • Guaranteeing at least one week of paid sick leave for all workers.
  • Guaranteeing at least three weeks of paid annual vacation leave for all workers.
  • Making Election Day a holiday, with the understanding that Americans need time for civic and political participation. 

In a recent Huffington Post column, Carl Honore, author of In Praise of Slowness, wrote about Google requiring its employees to devote 20 of their time to personal projects. “That does not mean brushing up on World of Warcraft or updating Facebook pages or flirting with that hot new manager in Accounts. It means getting the creative juices flowing by stopping the usual barrage of targets, deadlines, and distractions. By allowing staff to slow down, in other words.”

Some might argue, though, that during a time of high national unemployment, we shouldn’t be slowing down but stepping it up, which Honore himself admits. “This Slow revolution can be a tough sell in an economic downturn. When recession bites, our reflex is to work harder and longer.” 

Do you move too fast? How could you go slower? Would you benefit from slowing things down in your life, if so why? Since millions have lost their jobs, for some time may be moving too slowly. Are there productive ways to harness this collective time? How often do you seriously think about how you spend your time? What does “time well spent” mean to you? What tasks or actions are best done slowly? Has the global economic downturn pushed too many people off the treadmill and how has that impacted society as a whole?

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