Today’s ‘hustle culture’ is very good at making us forget that we are mere mortals – it is about constantly being on the go, always over-performing and pushing our boundaries. From the second we wake up in the morning, we have a manual of instructions ready, a to-do list that is supposed to make us more efficient and outline our day. But more often than not, the efficacy is lost when we set ourselves up for disappointment each day with unattainable, humanly impossible goals, and we end up losing the very thing we are trying to catch – time. Every month or year is concluded with the same wonder of not knowing where it went.
A solution to this vexing catch-22 might lie in a revolution, or rather, an anti-revolution – a not-to-do list, which is based on the principle of subtraction. By eliminating tasks, it serves as the antithesis of a to-do list, questioning and classifying what is really important. It takes away the restrictions imposed by our rut every day and gives us the freedom to savour, and even, save time.
A not-to-do list may comprise of all the barriers to living a more fulfilling life – not checking your social media or work emails first thing in the morning. Not giving so much time to screens. Not being absent in conversations, or even while carrying out the most mundane tasks. Not consuming so much processed food or alcohol. Not producing environmental waste. Not leaving our dirty dishes for later. Not buying anything for the day. Not worrying so much. Not staying up late or losing sleep. Not forcing feelings or motivation.
The list could also complement our to-do list – analyzing the things that did not work in the past can be put under the not-to-do list. This could be an important exercise in learning how to say ‘no’. The list could be endless and could consist of anything that enriches and adds value to our life. It is the act of letting go and acknowledging our existence as a human, and of finding beauty in small and all things, by slowing down and being more heedful. We need to allow ourselves to be more conscious and feel more. Even the most mundane tasks of everyday life carry immense beauty – to let ourselves feel all the flavours and textures in the wafts of our food, to feel the sun on our face or to observe the earth we walk on. Living slowly is also an act of reconnecting – with our surroundings, peers and most importantly, ourselves. By listening closely to what our bodies demand, be it more rest or more food, we are able to nourish and thank the body that carries us through it all. Gratitude has a certain grace about it – it establishes a mutually respectful relationship. A restoration of this relationship might be an urgent call, given the nature of our currently exhausting lifestyles.
Why is it that we allow ourselves a vacation to put our hair down only once or twice a year, when our current fast-paced lifestyle desperately demands rejuvenation a lot more? Paying more attention makes the second last longer and transform into mending minutes. It is also important to understand that slowing down doesn’t necessarily mean stopping; it solely implies stepping back, reassessing things and finding our own pace. By harmonizing ourselves with the rhythm of the earth and the flow of time, we might just be able to discover a new way of healing and feeling, and a more satisfying lifestyle.