This post almost didn’t happen. For several weeks, I’ve been running uncharacteristically late for things, a new trait I attribute to any or all of the following on a given day: slow computer/MTA/doctor’s-office receptionists/generalized anxiety/acute high-functioning depression/wet nail polish/wind/too many unreasonable work deadlines/mid-life-crisis brain/muscle strains/early-March winds. Today, I add to the list the start of Daylight Savings, which made it impossible for me to stick to my goal of 8+ hours of sleep (okay, a slight divergence onto Facebook and Goop last night might have been involved, too…) as a step toward more punctuality and, you know, feeling less exhausted. My brain said, “Yes, you will stay up late/wake up early so you’re not rushing to write this week’s post.” When my phone alarm rang after what was really 6 hours of sleep, my body said, “No way.”
And yet, 2 snoozes later, I was up and writing and doing my best to stay on top of the page-long entry of things for this weekend I did manage to take the time to log in my Bullet Journal. That said, I have some help thanks to the curated list of (self-) hacks I turn to whenever the inner slacker in me starts to show her face.
Slacking off isn’t exactly a habit one typically boasts of, especially in America. But in our age of increasing awareness of the value of mindfulness, hygge-inspired social media posts, enforced time away from technology, and good old-fashioned rest (there’s even a whole book about it!), doing less is the new doing more. Whether it’s deliberate or not is a more nuanced distinction, but either way everyone encounters a need to take some shortcuts once in a while. As I currently teeter on the edge of being motivated or crushed by having so much to do and think about, these 5 areas of life are benefitting from some serious less-ness. What unites them all, or rather what unites their solutions, is giving myself fewer choices so that I do exactly what feels right in the moment, to help get through the moment itself.
1. Breakfast (& Lunch & Dinner)It’s easy to let good nutrition and meal-planning fall by the wayside when I’m busy. Here in New York, it’s impossible to walk anywhere without having food options available to you, so there can be little incentive to have healthy snacks and filling meals on my person or in my fridge when cuisines from all over are within reach. On top of that, vacillating energy levels can laugh at even my best-prepared meals; running on decreased sleep or more stress can cause sudden carb and sugar cravings that result in unwise choices at any point in the day. To try and anticipate these situations, I keep on-hand batches of meals and snacks that are easy and inexpensive to make in bulk: – Overnight oats (a plain batch can be turned sweet or savory, depending on when I’m eating)- Popable fruits and veggies like baby carrots, celery sticks, and grapes- Lentils (again, surprisingly good for breakfast or dinner)- Coconut yogurt- Raw nuts Any combination of the above can get me out of a case of the hangrys quickly without sacrificing nutrition or satiety.
2. Self-CareMy weekends lately are as over-scheduled as my weekdays, which leaves fewer opportunities for the me-time usually associated with hygge Saturday nights and lazy Sunday mornings. When I have to be places from 8:00 AM through 5:30 PM, it’s hard to justify taking time for a luxurious face or hair mask or self-manicure. But like most things that we claim to “not have the time for,” these small rituals have benefits that far outweigh their duration. They’re also inherently passive: think about what you can’t do while your face is slathered in coffee-infused agave (e.g., the Cup of Coffee mask from LUSH I’m currently obsessed with) or your toe nails are tacky with a coat of the springiest color there is, making every yoga practice one more reason to smile? Virtually nothing. And while you’re going around doing all your stuff, these things are working their magic so that you feel better deep down. So just do what feels good and let it feel good for the 10-30 minutes you can actually multitask successfully, and let the self-care soak in.
3. WardrobeLiving in New York for over 5 years has made me a minimalist by necessity, as well as partly by choice, which means my wardrobe has been streamlined to utmost efficiency. I have a basic uniform that transitions among all seasons consisting of shift dresses, legging-like skinny pants, and oversized sweaters. These outfits make me feel like me, and take off some of the pressure from my decision-fatigued brain. Even still, some mornings find me staring at my closet thinking This is impossible. Being paralyzed by the simple task of dressing oneself (or feeding oneself for that matter) can be upsetting and add to the self-criticism inherent in slacking, but the premise of my uniform has a built-in defense. All my clothes make me feel good, and feeling comfortable in my body throughout the day leaves one less thing for me to complain about. So grabbing whatever speaks to me in the pre-dawn hours when I get dressed might feel like letting myself go, but it’s actually honoring my authentic self, deliberately chosen and curated at a time when I had the time to think about how I present myself to the world. The worst-case scenario would be someone coming up to me saying, “Are those the same pants you wore 3 days ago?” Should this ever actually happen—which it hasn’t—I’d just say, “Yes,” and get on with it.
4. CalendarKeeping appointments, social and business, is one of the first things to go in slacker mode. I’m not one to judge people when they cancel plans, except when it’s 5 minutes before, but some people are—so I let that be their problem and not mine if I need to alter my schedule in busy times. Here’s my system for deciding which ones to keep and which to cancel: if it’s an experience with people I like and will generally give my positive energy, say yes; if it’s toxic in any way, say no. There are plenty of situations in my life where even with being around people I love, people who support me, might turn into a hate-fest, and if I suspect that the circumstances would further decrease my energy, and exacerbate slackerdom, I put as nicely as possible that something’s come up—which it has!—and another time would be better. These are all truths that help me honor my inner truth, which leads to the last hack of
5. HonestyFor a non-slacker like myself, it’s hard to admit that I’m in a state that requires me to take these shortcuts. I try to hide my fatigue with false positivity (aka lying) or rely heavily on caffeine, both of which really only makes it all worse. One way of fast-tracking my own acceptance is by telling the truth to others. For every time I’m asked “How are you?” and answer honestly with “Overwhelmed/stressed/tired”—which is more or less appropriate depending on the situation or person—I’m able to be more mindful about the things causing these feelings. What’s even better is when that honesty engenders exactly what all slackers need: help. If a friend knows I’m struggling, she’s likely to help me clear some unnecessaries off my plate, even if it’s just bringing me a snack from the vending machine or taking 5 minutes for a tea break. We often think of compassion as an outward action first and foremost, but often what spurns others to act compassionately is knowing the true needs of the people they’re helping. So make your needs known, to yourself and others, and the cycle of giving and receiving can flow as it should.