From the Ground Up: Finding Time to Slow Down

Gillian Warner is bringing us along for the ride as she strikes out on her own to launch her business as a professional. You can catch up on the preceding columns from this series here.

Setting realistic expectations for what can be accomplished and organizing my day to fight against my “energizer bunny” mode has provided me with the opportunity to be present.

As anyone with horse experience knows, there’s always more to be done.

Whether that’s progression in your training, fields that need to be mowed, tack that needs to be cleaned, or office work to complete, life on a farm never stops moving.

Despite fully recognizing that I’ll never completely “finish” the work, I still have a hard time accepting that. I have what has been nicknamed my “energizer bunny” mode – when I start to feel overwhelmed by tasks, I go into overdrive. The plus side of this is that I get a lot done. But it’s neither realistic nor sustainable.

“At my age, it takes a little longer than it used to for me to get back up the hill. But when you aren’t in a hurry about things, you’re liable to notice more, so I don’t mind.” ~ Bill Dorrance

Learning a lesson from the wise words of Bill Dorrance in the quote above, I’ve been challenging myself to maintain my efficiency while relaxing into the work as well.

I want to be fully present, instead of flitting about from one task to the next. I love spending time with horses (otherwise I wouldn’t have my job), but in the daily routine, and under the ever-growing list of tasks, I sometimes feel that focus gets lost. When I’m in overdrive, I miss out on the subtle interactions between horse and rider, observations that could be made, and the feeling of joy that’s so commonly associated with being around horses.

Managing and caring for a farm and so many animals means the work never stops. But giving yourself time to notice the little details and enjoy the work is critical to sustainability.

I still have so much growing left to do in this area. But I’ve already identified steps to make progress.

To begin with, for me, it’s all about setting and maintaining realistic expectations for my day. Yes, I try to fit a lot in – I want to fill any free time with another lesson, another ride, or tackle another project. However, fighting the urge to overwhelm myself with tasks by setting boundaries and expectations gives me the time to be present in the task in front of me. Also surrounding myself with a team I trust and enjoy working with has allowed me to delegate some projects and responsibility to spread the wealth of work!

Additionally, lists are critical to my attention and focus. While I’m going about my day, random new tasks pop up needing attention. If it’s time sensitive, of course I prioritize getting it done. Otherwise, I have multiple white boards for different tasks (to do today, this week, and miscellaneous projects to work on when I get “bored”). Writing new tasks on my lists takes it off of my mental to-do list while ensuring it will be remembered for later. Once it’s on the board, I can mentally move beyond it and dive into the task at present.

I enjoy being busy. I enjoy diving into projects. And I enjoy having time to spend with my horses. Finding opportunities to prevent my “energizer bunny” mode from creating a whirlwind of movement and mental overdrive has allowed me to be present in the moment, notice more details, and find joy in the endless work.