It’s a no-nonsense guide that focuses on ways to reduce busyness with habits like single-tasking, unplugging from social media and practising gratitude.
There are practical tips on how to slow down and set up calming morning and evening rhythms to anchor your day. The chapters are readable with checklists, step by step guides and bullet points that show how to implement the ideas in real life. Even if you have children.
McAlary, host of the Slow Home Podcast, says the book is about being intentional with your daily actions and creating the life you want. But she’s also realistic. Creating change in your life takes effort, time and energy, though the payoff is huge.
The book offers insights on how single-tasking brings you into the present moment and leads to more focused work. There are also insights on how disconnecting from social media leads to more creativity and better conversations.
McAlary also suggests making an achievable list of your 3 most pressing daily tasks. And doing those first instead of struggling through a winding to-do lists.
Recommended for: the busy beginner who’s looking for an accessible, easy-to-read guide on slow living.
“We forget how to simply be. How to immerse ourselves in whatever is in front of us. How to truly engage in face-to-face conversation, personal connections and true down-time. And we are burning out. We are addicted to this digital connection. We are afraid that if we unplug we will miss out on something.”
“Achieving and then maintaining a state of balanced perfection would be incredibly stressful and unfulfilling. Instead you need to understand that your time is limited and valuable. And you can choose where to place your energies, depending upon where they need to be.”
2. Essentialism, by Greg McKeown
Essentialism makes a case for doing less, but doing it better with more focus. It’s not about getting more done faster, but about doing the right things to make the highest impact.
The book was inspired by the author’s personal experiences. Author Greg McKeown had rushed off to a client meeting the day after his daughter’s birth – as his wife lay in the hospital. Afterwards, even the client lost respect for him and McKeown began to reflect on his misplaced priorities. He realized that if you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.
It makes a compelling case for cutting out the busywork and eschewing social pressure to focus on really impactful work. When you invest your time and energy in fewer things, you’ll make more significant progress.
The book argues that you can’t really have it all. There are also pointers on how to discern the trivial from the vital and be more discerning with your time. McKeown argues that saying “no” is a skill that requires being courageous and making some tough decisions.
There are also chapters about looking at the bigger picture so you don’t indiscriminately throw yourself at every opportunity. Other sections cover the importance of play to widen your perspective and sleep to recharge.
Recommended for: the worker who’s feeling stretched too thin, overworked and unfulfilled. Anyone who’s ever said “yes” to commitments and then regretted it.
“If you believe being overly busy and overextended is evidence of productivity, then you probably believe that creating space to explore, think, and reflect should be kept to a minimum. Yet these very activities are the antidote to the nonessential busyness that infects so many of us. Rather than trivial diversions, they are critical to distinguishing what is actually a trivial diversion from what is truly essential.”
“The way of the Nonessentialist is to go big on everything: to try to do it all, have it all, fit it all in. The Nonessentialist operates under the false logic that the more he strives, the more he will achieve, but the reality is, the more we reach for the stars, the harder it is to get ourselves off the ground.”
3. In Praise of Slowness, by Carl Honore
In Praise of Slowness is a fascinating look at how speed permeates every facet of our lives – from orgasm-oriented sex to the increased tempo of classical music concerts.
Carl Honore looks at the cult of speed from a historic and cultural perspective. And his journalistic style packs in plenty of interviews, anectodes and statistics.
Honore chronicles the slow movement from Maryland’s suburbs (where a new style of architecture places priority on communities over cars) to Rome and the origins of the Slow Food movement as a reaction against McDonald’s opening at the Spanish Steps.
The book traces the origins of the modern world’s preoccupation with speed from the first public clocks in Medieval town squares to the punch clocks of the Industrial Revolution.
The following chapters cover other facets of our lives. There’s Slow Food as a reaction against industrial farming, obesity and junk food, in favor of seasonal produce and artisanal production. There are Slow Cities in Italy and beyond that have cut noise and traffic, and increased green spaces.
And there are rising trends like tantric sex and meditation with its power to increase insight and creativity. There’s also the rise of hobbies like knitting and gardening that were once seen as old-fashioned but now offer an antidote to the cult of efficiency.
Honore chronicles how the slow movement has seeped into medicine. Doctors are pushing for more time with patients as more people turn to alternative medicine with its slower, more holistic approach.
Recommended for: anyone interested in how society began to speed up, why that’s not always a good thing and what’s being done about it.
“Fast and Slow do more than just describe a rate of change. They are shorthand for ways of being, or philosophies of life. Fast is busy, controlling, aggressive, hurried, analytical, stressed, superficial, impatient, active, quantity-over-quality. Slow is the opposite: calm, careful, receptive, still, intuitive, unhurried, patient, reflective, quality-over-quantity.”
“What the world needs, and what the Slow movement offers, is a middle path, a recipe for marrying la dolce vita with the dynamism of the information age. The secret is balance: instead of doing everything faster, do everything at the right speed. Sometimes fast. Sometimes slow, and sometimes somewhere in between. Being Slow means never rushing, never striving to save time just for the sake of it.”