Slowing Things Down.


Time’s moved in a strange way during the pandemic. In the early days, the weeks seemed to draw out for ages. But an odd thing’s been happening lately: Time’s seemed to be moving much more quickly. It’s like I’ve accidentally sped up a podcast — from 1x speed to 1.2x speed, a change small enough that I didn’t really notice it at first. Over the past few weeks, though, it became pretty clear that something had changed. On Tuesdays or Wednesdays, I’d start thinking, “The week’s almost over, and I haven’t accomplished enough!” The time between certain monthly tasks seemed to shrink. Everything just seemed to be moving a little faster.

I’ve got a thought as to why this might be happening. I’m reading Tom Vanderbilt’s “Beginners,” in which he talks about why it’s so important to keep learning, especially as we get older. In one chapter, he learns how to juggle, and writes:

The more things you have to pay attention to, the faster time seems to move. But as you get better, you learn what to pay attention to. You have a better sense of what to expect. Suddenly, you’re not thinking about the balls at all. You’re just tracking a pattern in the air. You have all sorts of spare attention. You can carry on a conversation while you juggle. Time seems more unoccupied, and thus slower.

As I started to think back on the past few weeks, it hit me: Something actually has changed this spring. I’m working on a few big projects unlike any I’ve tackled before. I’m — apologies, but it’s the right phrase here — juggling also sorts of new work and tasks, and with so many new things to keep track of, I’m much more aware of everything that needs to get done.

I know that over time, as I get better at these tasks, things will slow down. But I’m also trying to do what I can to slow time down on my own. I’m building breaks into my day to do more reading. I’m trying to find excuses during the week to step away from the work — after I finish this post, I’ll take a long walk down to the farmer’s market in my neighborhood. These moments are an opportunity to pause, to reset, and to prepare to jump back into the work.


That photo of a turtle comes via Unsplash and photographer Patti Black.