Some things are better slow
I started gardening when I was seven. My step dad had just finished building raised beds in our backyard, and my mother and I were inspired to both save money and experience growing our own food. I think the average seven year old is excited about almost everything. I was excited to see seeds turn into dinner. Mom was excited to save money. What we learned was, even if the process was more laborious, it was much more enticing than simply heading to the local grocery store to buy processed food.Gardening followed me from a childhood curiosity to a grown-up passion. I grow a variety of produce but tomatoes are still my favorite. Turning them into food is a fascinating process. If you’ve ever made tomato sauce, you’ll know what I’m talking about—it is both laborious and incredible.
Begin with a pot of boiling water. Lower tomatoes in for just the right amount of time (timing varies depending on which grandmother you ask), allow to cool then peel off the skins. I was always a little impatient with the first few and would pull the skins off before they’d cooled, burning my fingertips. The sauce froze conveniently and we could eat it throughout the year. It’s okay if you’re skeptical, but you should try it for yourself here.
It certainly wasn’t easier, but it was more cost effective, more authentic. More real. I felt connected to my food. Each step in the process revealed itself in the meal. Plus, it tasted better. I don’t care if that’s placebo, the impact is the same.
Getting back to basics as adults can take some doing.
Gardening isn’t the only thing some of us purposefully “do slow” for enjoyment. My soon to be wife bought a vintage airstream and started renovating it a few years ago, spending hours gutting and refinishing it. My best friend built his fixed gear bike from scratch and commutes from Brooklyn to Manhattan 5 days a week, regardless of the weather. He also grinds his coffee by hand before making it in a Chemex. It’s more work, he admits, but that doesn’t seem to matter since he’s engaged in the process as well as the product. We all want to take a second to breathe, get back to basics, and enjoy the journey as much as the final destination but disconnecting is increasingly difficult with our gadget-filled lives. I used to have an app that reminded me to drink water, I have an Instant Pot, and at Lowes this weekend I saw a WiFi enabled grill. Ha!
Recently, I cracked. I was tired of spending the entire weekend refreshing Twitter for whatever fresh horror was waiting for me in the news. My fiancé and I did a weekend experiment, stowing our phones in a basket out and away, by the door. When we needed them, we used them only as phones. Okay…phones and texting, because emojis (We’re millennials -- sue me). We didn’t check social media until Monday morning. It was, hands down, the most relaxing weekend I’ve had in at least a year. Since then, the apps have slowly crept back onto our phones. The struggle is real: we've grown accustomed to a lot of bad habits. it's going to take some doing adjusting to new, uncomfortable priorities. But if the clarity to be gained is anything like our dream weekend, the payoff will be worth it.
Is work all about the destination?
Maybe it is counterintuitive I would connect with my workspace the same way I connect with my tomato sauce. When my body tells me it’s time to change positions, operating the desk (I have to physically crank the desk up and down) is a welcome interruption I’d otherwise not consider to include in my day. Some would consider this a costly distraction. Even though it is brief, there’s a meditation to churning the handle, a peaceful moment to regroup before returning to work with a refreshed perspective.
Maybe this isn't a wildly popular idea. I recently read an article claiming the solar eclipse would cause a $700 million dollar loss in productivity. And I get that, profits are important. But the unspoken message here—that we should skip an astronomical phenomena for fear of a dip in profits—is bonkers. Perhaps it’s true, we lose a fraction of time speaking to a team member in person when you can just Slack them. But are we not gaining or refreshing a personal connection? How many times have you heard someone say “I survived a meeting that could have been an email!” Sometimes that’s true (we could all use less meetings) but sometimes, when you need to really communicate, there’s no substitute for the real thing.
Making your workstation optimal for you.
When I got the Jarvis Crank-Powered Standing Desk, I got the same craftsmanship without the electricity. It’s back to basics, without being basic. The cost is lower, the features are the same, and I’m not tethered to an outlet. Simply crank to the desired height and get to work. Finding the right workstation for you is an essential part of making work work for you, and while for some that may mean the press of a button, for others it can be the process of manually adjusting your standing desk to the right height for what feels right in that moment. The freedom allowed by the Jarvis Crank is one that is reminiscent of the typewriter, record player, and single speed bike. For some it may seem like a step back, but for me, it’s all about the features I love without the bells and whistles that disconnect from the experience.
I want to stop, slow down and do good work I care about. Maybe I went a little extreme -- moved across the country, switched industries, and, you guessed it, started growing tomatoes again. My relationship with work has changed. I'm not just inhabiting an office, I'm engaged with my workspace. It's not just semantics, it's a big difference and you can see the results in my work. Sometimes that means getting to manually adjust my standing desk, sometimes it means sitting in my couch or digging around the backyard. No matter where you’re at in life, getting back to basics can help you mentally reset and rediscover what’s really important for you.
Just—don’t go overboard.