Slow Down to Do More: “Our mind absolutely needs leisure time, and to be able to step away from a project or problem.” with Julia Kravets and Ashley Graber
Spending time with yourself each day. Whether it’s meditating, or riding a bike, or closing your eyes and listening to your favorite podcast on your morning commute, that time spent doing what you love can really give the illusion of leisure time, even if you’re doing it while doing something else, like commuting. Your mind absolutely needs leisure time, and to be able to step away from a project or problem. When you get back to it, your mind can refocus on the problem with a fresh outlook, and more creatively.
As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Julia Kravets, Founder of Little Choc Apothecary. NYC’s first ever fully vegan and gluten-free creperie.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?
During my career as a model, I had to figure out ways to make dessert as healthy as possible in order to maintain my figure. I was studying nutrition at the time, and wished there was a place I could go to where I can get anything on the menu and have it be good for me — a place where food was medicine. Not being able to find such a place, I decided to open my own!
According to a 2006 Pew Research Report report, 26% of women and 21% of men feel that they are “always rushed”. Has it always been this way? Can you give a few reasons regarding what you think causes this prevalent feeling of being rushed?
Based on my personal experience, it has to do with the type of career you have. During my days as a model, the only rush I felt was getting to castings and jobs on time. Otherwise, things were out of my control, and I could relax and zone out while the makeup artists and stylists buzzed around me. It was only when I opened a restaurant that I realized how much value is put on getting things done quickly. Running a busy kitchen requires constant hustle from everyone involved; if one person is slow, they slow down the whole team. We are responsible for others’ experience at a restaurant, and we also owe it to our team to work fast and multitask, so our guests are happy and the shift goes smoothly. As the owner, oftentimes I have to work a kitchen shift, and then do administrative work after that. I usually need a rest after a kitchen shift, so when my rest is replaced with more work, that’s when mistakes start to happen.
Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?
When I’m being rushed, I’m not fully present in the task at hand; I’m thinking about finishing the task, and the next thing I have to do. That kind of pressure allows me to oversee certain small things, which leads to mistakes.
During the first two years of launching my business, I didn’t have the luxury of slowing down. I had to wear every hat in the business, and my to-do list was being ticked off from the time I woke up, up to when I went to bed. I found myself making stupid mistakes, like miscounting things, or sending out emails with errors.
On the flip side, can you give examples of how we can do more, and how our lives would improve if we could slow down?
It came to a point where I had to delegate my responsibilities for my own wellbeing. I started taking more time for myself to do yoga, or read a book, or do a craft project, even though it felt like I was being unproductive and lazy (and still sometimes does). I noticed that I have the time for reviewing and re-reading everything I put out, and my mistakes declined to almost non-existent. I am now able to have creative ideas about ways to better and grow my business. What a luxury! You need to be able to step away from things to really be creative, engaged and productive when you are actually doing them.
We all live in a world with many deadlines and incessant demands for our time and attention. That inevitably makes us feel rushed. Can you share with our readers 6 strategies that you use to “slow down to do more”? Can you please give a story or example for each?
1. Write down your tasks. I forget so many things if they are not written down
2. Spend the time in the morning prioritizing your tasks for the day based on nearest deadlines. Bonus points if you can do it the evening before! Whenever I organize my tasks this way, I have no option of spending time wondering which task is more imperative, I just enter execution mode, and run through all of them one after another.
3. Try to keep to doing one or two categories of tasks per day, and do them in sets. For example, if you are scheduling meetings, schedule them all for one day, one after another, with 20 minutes between each meeting for reflection, or in case any of the meetings run late. Give yourself an hour break after the meetings, and do another set of similar tasks, like everything related to scheduling for the week, for example. Don’t jump from scheduling, to meeting, to emails, to meeting, etc, because that could get quite overwhelming.
4. Step away from work to do what you love. I love squeezing in an hour of yoga a day. It allows me to zone out and for my mind to reset. I always feel more relaxed and ready to get shit done after yoga.
5. Learn something new. Take an online course in something you have no experience in — there are plenty of free courses online (Coursera)! Learning something new takes your mind from your current project and could spark some creative insight that you can apply to the project, or other aspects of your life.
6. Insist on a work-life balance. If you work certain hours, like a 9–5, make sure all work stops after 5 pm. If you’re an entrepreneur whose life and hours are unpredictable, set a time that you’ll end work, and make sure you abide by that rule. The rest of the time is leisure — watch a show, read a book, hang with friends! I’ve found that setting boundaries for myself makes me feel less bad when I’m not doing work.
How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?
Mindfulness is being present in whatever you are doing. For me, that means focusing on one task at a time, and being able to put distractions on hold. We don’t have an office at Little Choc, so I often find myself sitting down in the dining room with my computer to get some work done. My biggest challenge with remaining mindful when I’m working is staff coming to talk to me, or having regular guests stopping by to chat. I’m always happy to talk, but it’s hard to get back into the flow when I’m interrupted. I remedy this by getting as much administrative things done at home, or at a coffee shop where no one knows me; this leaves me open and available whenever I’m at Little Choc!
Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?
Spending time with yourself each day. Whether it’s meditating, or riding a bike, or closing your eyes and listening to your favorite podcast on your morning commute, that time spent doing what you love can really give the illusion of leisure time, even if you’re doing it while doing something else, like commuting. Your mind absolutely needs leisure time, and to be able to step away from a project or problem. So when you get back to it, your mind can refocus on the problem with a fresh outlook, and more creatively.
Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?
When I absolutely have to work at Little Choc, I wear headphones without any sound, which gives people the signal that I can’t hear them, even if they tried to talk to me. Another little trick to keep distractions at bay is flipping your phone so the screen is facing down, and using a timer for 30 minutes to make sure you’re just doing work for the 30 minutes, and checking any other messages, snacking, or talking only after the timer is up. I use WabiTime, which is an app that shows a countdown at the top menu bar on my Mac, and is super simple to use.
What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices
I really enjoy the Tim Ferriss podcast for tips and tools for living your best life. Otherwise, I love entertaining educational podcasts, like Science Vs, The Pitch, Today Explained, and comedy podcasts, like The Baltimore Voice.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters — 204 if you’re in Japan.”
― Claire Cook
Plan A isn’t always the best plan, anyway. You need to constantly be tweaking and evolving your plans to achieve your goals. The first time I learned this was when I tried to raise funds through Kickstarter without success. Plan B was to secure funding through investors. I’m constantly scrapping projects I thought were a good idea, and moving on to better ones.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would be so happy if everyone in the world would practice voting with their dollars, and be slightly more conscious consumers. Everyone can agree that human exploitation and animal cruelty are bad. If only we could correlate those concerns with the clothing we buy, and the type of food we choose, we can significantly reduce those kinds of injustices. Buy fair trade whenever you can, and avoid factory farmed animal products — read all labels!
Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!