It's true. Life moves pretty fast and that applies especially to anyone working in the web design space where new interesting frameworks and techniques pop up every hour or so. I love creating applications and websites. But I also love teaching about what I've learned to aspiring web designers and developers in school.
There's so much to do and so little time in a day. That's why it's important for me to slow down from time to time. Here are five things I do that help me balance my days. These activities purposely slow me down nd if you ask me, that's a good thing, not a bad thing.
1 - Use a Straight Razor
This one is only for the manly males among us. Instead of using one of those silly safety razors, I decided a few years ago to order a classic or straight razor on ebay. Actually my dad bought it for me after I told him about my plans to take on shaving with a so called cut-throat razor. You know what a straight razor looks like if you've watched a maffia flick or two.
When somebody in a maffia movie gets wacked in a barbershop, 9 out of 10 it happens with a straight razor. Just like they did in Eastern Promises (the video scene is right here but it's not for the faint-hearted). Shaving like our great grandpa's used to do it is a skill that forces you to slow down. Seriously, you don't want that blade sticking through your chin because you were in a rush.
Shaving like a bad ass will put you in a Zen state of mind. On top of that, it will save you money on plastic safety razors in the long run and if you take care of you blade, one day you might be able to pass it on to your grandson. Still tempted to start using a straight razor after watching that kill scene in Eastern Promises? Here is a good getting started guide on artofmanliness.com. See you on the Zen-side of life (just keep in mind that I'm not promoting anything here, try at your own risk).
2 - Run
Running might seem an illogical choice to slow down at first, but for me it's an easy way to put all my troubles aside for an hour or so. When you go out for sports there's nothing to worry about except for getting back home alive and well. When running, your mind stops spinning and you'll feel more energetic to get back to work afterwards.
Running proves especially effective for me on days where there is just too much work that needs to be done. Instead of trying to work non-stop to get all of it done in one go (you know that's not going to happen anyway), break your workday in two and go for a run.
If you're not really the kind of person that can go for a run without a clear goal (like training for a marathon for example), fear not! Download the Zombies, Run! app for iPhone or Android and make sure you don't get caught by a nasty zombie in the park! How's that for having a goal?
3 - Cook
Forget about microwave meals. Slow cooking is what you need to relax. Sure, cooking a healthy meal takes up a certain amount of time but that would be a wrong way of looking at it. I don't want to sound like some sort of religious guru here, but seriously, most of what we do in a day doesn't matter.
For me, spending time on trying to cook a great meal is time well spent. Cooking relaxes me and even if I'm having an off-day at work, there's always going home and sharing a great meal with people I care about. That's a day well spent, no matter what happened during working hours.
4 - Read a book
Reading, who gets that done these days? I certainly don't read as much as I'd like to. For some it's a sin to read a book, but how much time is wasted on Facebook alone in a day? If you add that time up, you'll easily find that you have a few hours a week to read a book.
I tend to stay away from tech or professional reading material when I'm unplugging. Reading books broadens your mind and forces you to take some time away from your computer. And hey, even web designer need some time away from keyboard now and then don't we? Not that it really matters, but here's what I'm reading right now:
5 - Travel
I saved the best for last: traveling. There's no better way to (literally) get away from your daily routine than to head off to a foreign city or country. I somehow became addicted to traveling. It's something to look forward to and it never gets old. After being in Belgium for a couple of months in a row, I start getting the feeling that it's time to take off and be in a totally different place for a little while. You don't have to go far either. As far as I'm concerned, traveling is also grabbing your bike and going for a 20 kilometer ride in order to visit a place you haven't been before. Instead of going to your favourite city by car, go by bike.
Talk to people you meet on the road and stop for a drink on a sunny terrace. Socialize. Relax. And whatever you do, don't turn on your mobile phone. Better yet, leave it at home. As web developers, we're often busy learning about the latest new frameworks or other tech stuff that comes out. When I get an overdose of tech, it feels liberating to learn about small things people do in their daily life abroad.
For example, when I went to Japan, I found out why Japanese people wear surgical masks in the streets, by asking a middle aged Japanese businessman in Tokio. I had a great talk with him, a simple talk that I'll probably remember for years to come. Would I remember who answered that same question years later, if I had asked it on Twitter?
It doesn't have to be Japan. Saving up some cash to visit an interesting tech conference near you combines the best of two world: slowing down while meeting like-minded people. On top of that, you'll definitely learn a thing or two.
Seriously? Cooking? Reading a book?
This article is not about using a straight razor. It's not about cooking food or reading books while traveling. It's about consciously taking time to do what you enjoy. It's about time before money. Everybody is different and unique. I'm curious to know what you all do to find balance in your life. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Now that I realize it. This post actually took me nearly two months to publish from start to finish. Sometimes, life gets in the way and that's just fine.