How #SlowGirlSummer Changed My Life
I used to start working the minute I woke up. Literally. Some days I wouldn’t even get dressed; I would just stay in my PJ’s/sweatpants and sit shackled at my desk for hours on end. Email, client work, Zoom university, schoolwork, more design work, content, admin, personal design work, repeat. During the school year, I would juggle 4-5 classes per semester with about 4-6 work projects per month.
I was always under someone or something else’s control. My time was dictated by class schedules, client deadlines, social media recommended times to post, and extracurricular commitments. Ask my roommate, I would literally run around all day like a chicken with its head cut off while she would sit and play on her Nintendo switch echoing cries of boredom. I envied her. Mid-semester I couldn’t even remember what free time felt like.
I remember skipping meals every day because I’d have a client meeting for an hour then class for 3 hours then classwork then client work then an activity. I’d come back and have to do it all over again the next day before I could even catch up. I was frantic, half-dressed, and burning out.
Meanwhile, I’d somehow convinced myself it was normal, necessary, and a sign of success.
It all began to change when I started reading Garden City. The book, authored by John Mark Comer, is a deep dive into the theology of work, rest, and “the art of being human.” Through it, I learned to reconcile my relationship with work – it wasn’t my whole identity, but it wasn’t totally futile either. Rest was something I hadn’t been acquainted with in years really, not since I started Designed by Shyne. And the art of being human, well, that one was a lot different than what I expected. Needless to say, it was the most impactful book I’ve ever read, and it started my journey with slow, intentional living as I’d begun to realize how I wanted to reshape my lifestyle and the role work played in it.
The other two books listed in this reflection (The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry and Keep Going!) perfectly coincided with this whole idea – spiritual or not, all of the resources that had been falling into my lap at the start of summer shared the same general message: slow down. Do less. Focus on what really matters.
So, naturally…I took their advice.
I started gradually, mainly because I wanted to build new habits with time without overwhelming myself and sabotaging the whole process. First, it was Sabbath. Then, less time on my phone. Then, the morning routine was born (see “habit stacking” for tips on this.)
*An important note: I am an ESFP. I was a 7 on the enneagram in high school. I do not like routines. Or at least, I thought I didn’t. They seemed boring and rigid, so I rejected them for spontaneity – except that just led to reactivity, and instead of doing whatever I want like a true free spirited gal, I didn’t get to do anything I wanted because I had no time. I’ve since realized that routines are (1) built around what you care about and believe is nonnegotiable in your life and (2) designed to help you have more time freedom.
By sticking to these new “slow girl” practices, I’ve become a slowness junkie within the past 2 months. Now, my days typically look like this.
Half the time, I actually only work for, like, 4-5 hours a day (as opposed to the 8+ I was “working” constantly before.) And while I didn’t do this for more money or efficiency, the wildest part is that I’ve literally made more money this summer than ever before and I’ve become more productive than ever before, ALL WHILE WORKING LESS AND SLOWING DOWN. It seems counterintuitive, but when you slow down, you’re proactively guiding the flow of your time and energy according to your goals, instead of constantly reacting to notifications, dumpster fires at work, and constant battles for your attention.
While I’d love to give you an easy 3 step formula to recreating the same effect for yourself, I can’t. This isn’t my area of expertise, merely my lived experience. And obviously, this whole #slowgirlsummer movement started as a way to share what I’ve learned with you, but you also have to liberate yourself in a way that suits your current circumstances, so your slow living practice might look different from mine.
What I can do, though, is break down the actions and the beliefs that fueled those actions that have played the biggest role in changing my lifestyle to what you’re so enamored with today.
Mindset shifts I had to make (& beliefs I had to rewire) to get here:
- Success (and good creative work) does not require stress
- Burnout isn’t normal
- The most impressive thing about me isn’t how hard I work
- It’s okay to embrace the easy yoke/easy way of life. As you slow down, you’ll find that more things are easy, or you’re done with your day faster – that’s a good thing. Resist the urge to fill your new space and free time with more work, and resist the urge to overcomplicate (aka self-sabotage) because you’re used to struggling.
- I can make more money by doing less work, and that’s okay
- Just because I can do something doesn’t mean I should or have to
- Saying no to good opportunities leaves room for great opportunities
- My main job is myself; my career is just a side hustle
- Prioritizing my personal wellbeing and growth leads to business success
- There aren’t many real emergencies in my industry. I can log off in peace.
My new life rules:
*I say “rules” lightly. These don’t restrict me; they allow me to enjoy my real life to the fullest
- No phone until after my morning routine
- Move my body at least 4x/week (in the morning)
- Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day no matter how busy my schedule is
- Leave my phone on Do Not Disturb all day
- Delete all work related apps from my phone (bye bye Slack, ClickUp, Mail, etc.)
- No more work after 5/6pm. No work on weekends.
- Leave my phone in another room as often as possible
- Do errands without my phone - go to a cafe, shop for groceries, cook without it present
- No phone while I eat (most meals)
- Meditate daily for at least 6 minutes
- Sit around and do nothing for at least 15-30 minutes per day. No phone, no TV, no music.
- No multitasking
- Set my phone down (not just look away) when someone speaks to me
- More silence. Rarely play background music while I work, do chores, or shower.
- Shop less.
- Drive the speed limit…or slower than 80 at least.
- Embrace the analog. Read paper books, sketch and write on paper even when it’s easier to use digital (as I write this on my laptop. Hypocrite.)
- Say no to more projects and opportunities.
- Go to sleep by 10ish.
- Sabbath every Sunday – turn my phone off, buy nothing unless it’s food, enjoy a full day of rest, delight and worship. Only create if it doesn’t feel like work. No thinking about work. No housework.
Now, I’m not perfect. 20 years of habits (and 13 years of being chronically online) don’t just go away. I still get caught up on my phone or multitasking or checking my email too many times out of habit, but the point is progress. It’s practice. It’s a lifestyle, and one rough day doesn’t negate an entire transformation. Ultimately, WHY I’ve chosen to slow down is infinitely more important and beneficial than the pull/allure of social media clout, dopamine releases when I see that little red notification badge, and careerism.
But that’s the thing: it has to come from a deep rooted belief and place of wanting this. You can’t just kind of maybe want to change your life, and I can’t want it for you. At the end of the day – anyone in therapy or counseling knows this – if you say you want something, but your actions don’t align, then you don’t really want it (or else you would). So if you seriously want your life and behaviors to change for the slower, you have to actually want it.
So, why want it?
Again, actions are a demonstration of belief. But belief is not easily built. So, let’s set the stage so you can see for yourself why #slowgirlsummer is actually such a radical, powerful concept. Slowing down is not an original idea by Shyne, believe it or not. It’s a [thankfully growing] movement against two major societal diseases: materialism and hustle.
Let’s first look at hustle, because my thoughts on materialism might evoke some eye rolls and page bounces.
Hustle culture as we know it today actually has quite old roots. Stemming from the Industrial Revolution, actually. Ford’s assembly line totally disrupted work as a concept. Work became less about our crafts and more about efficiency, or productivity, as some might say. Produce more. Faster. This sped up the clock of the Western world. Our collective soul became hurried.
Since then, we’ve maintained Ford’s speedy trajectory, hacking and building and developing our way to higher outputs – productivity tools, AI, automation. Produce more. Faster.
The most obvious evidence of this is startup culture. Build it quick ‘n’ dirty. Work nights. Work weekends. If you’re not burnt out, you’re not gonna make it as a founder, right? Right??? Produce more. Faster. Or we won’t invest.
But hustle isn’t alone. It’s not just vain speed. That would be silly. And the machine may be many things, but it is not silly.
When we hustle to produce, we should probs ask ourselves, “To what end?” Why do we produce more? Why did Ford create the assembly line?
To sell more, of course. To have more for consumers.
By producing more, they always keep us wanting more. If a 1960 Porsche 911 never existed, would I want one? Obviously not, I’d be perfectly content with a little Corolla or Accord. You see, human desire is a flame, and the heightened production of material goods [in conjunction with modern advertising] fans that flame alllllll day long.
The funny thing is that we keep ourselves trapped in this cycle. Hustle and materialism go hand in hand. Let me explain.
We want a new car (for the weekends, a project car.) So, we work [oftentimes more hours] to get that new car. We believe that new car will bring us a measure of happiness, maybe even leisure and relaxation. Maybe that new car will take us up and down the Pacific Coast Highway. But then…that new car breaks down. The tires go flat, the oil runs out, the paint fades. It costs us money, for sure, but it also costs us time, the main thing we thought we were getting back for our own enjoyment.
You see, we hustle to gain material goods that end up making us hustle more. We think we’re buying time back, but we’re often just selling it to another thing.
And you might be rolling your eyes (called it) thinking you’re totally autonomous and you made that decision on purpose because you’d rather sell it to something “restful” or “leisurely,” but if you realllllllly think about it, you’re a cog in the machine.
We “overwork to buy rest.” -Sela Serafin
We’ve been conditioned to believe that our happiness and rest come from buying more things. Again, you might think those things really do bring you joy…but examine who that belief serves most.
Does it serve you? Does it truly serve you to make you work more to afford that thing, to give someone else that money, and then end up with a thing that winds up costing you rest/time and money? Or does it serve the few people (big corps) gaming the system?
Studies show that the impact of money on your true emotional state caps off around $75k, maybe even $100k in our economy today. After that, no amount of money you bring in will actually make you enjoy your life more. Not the yacht, or the Hamptons house, or the Paris trip, or the Balenciaga shoes. And that’s coming from someone who loves crafted goods and adventurous experiences.
The more things we desire, the more we hustle and hurry to afford them, and the more someone else has to hurry to produce them.
And get this, we don’t even genuinely want half of the things we think we do. (Noticing a pattern? You’re less in control than you think you are.)
Those wants have been placed in us. Not only by the ones producing the goods, but the ones advertising them as well.
If you didn’t know, the field of public relations was fathered by Freud’s nephew, literally as a tool to manipulate people based on their desires and motivations. In marketing, we literally teach that you have to “build the need in people’s minds.” I feel icky saying that, and am actively exploring how to move away from that, BUT needless to say, everything is a business in the capitalist USA, which means every player in the game is trying to make you need something new.
As a designer, I shape culture. I shape what you think and feel. I shape what the masses pay attention to. As a strategist, I double down on this – I wordsmith language that will make you feel some type of way, that move you through a customer journey, that make you aware of your “needs” and make you believe your life will be much better with my client’s product.
I’m aware that sounds mad unethical. Like I said, working on a way to change this field. Anyhow, it can be done ethically in a way that’s transparent, consensual, and non-manipulative. But I can assure you the big corporations that designed this economic system do not care about the ethical way. So, moving on…
What we “want” is propaganda someone else placed into our minds. Our emotions and desires are constantly being exploited for someone else’s monetary gain. We overwork to compensate. We desire again. We work again. Rinse and repeat.
This bleak system is why #slowgirlsummer exists. At the surface, it seems like a cutesy campaign and social media trend; but really, it’s an act of rebellion against oppressive systems. When I think about this, I can’t help but believe in the need for change. I can’t help but want to take the reins of my life back from the Zucks of the world.
Hence why I’ve been consistent with these lifestyle changes.
So, hopefully that lights a slow girl fire under your butt. At the very least, I hope it made you think.
And if you are ready to join the movement, start implementing your own #slowgirlsummer practices and share them with the community on socials!
Graphic to spread the message:
Books & resources:
- Garden City
- The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
- Keep Going!
- Work Less, Earn More
- "The cure for burnout (hint: it isn't self-care)"