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“How To Slow Down To Do More”, with Heather Teysko

Stop each hour and ask yourself if you are happy with how you spent the past hour. Think how you can spend the next hour in a way that is more aligned to your goals. Think about what you are working on, and turn off all the other notifications so you are really just present […]

Stop each hour and ask yourself if you are happy with how you spent the past hour. Think how you can spend the next hour in a way that is more aligned to your goals. Think about what you are working on, and turn off all the other notifications so you are really just present with that project that is in front of you. The other stuff can wait. There is nothing that is so urgent, and if there actually is an emergency, someone will call you, and you’ll find out about it. You really can switch off, and do the project you need to complete. The feeling of satisfaction will propel you forward to completing other things. I struggled my entire life to complete things, but now I’m a completion master, and I know that when I start something, I will indeed complete it. It’s a great feeling.


As a part of my series about “How to Slow Down To Do More” I had the pleasure to interview Heather Teysko. Heather is a podcaster, writer, and online entrepreneur whose podcast on Tudor history turns ten years old this year. After building a successful career in the world of libraries as the Assistant Director of California’s largest library consortium, Heather changed gears, and in 2015, with her young family, she moved to Spain in order to take the time to pursue her passion for building an online business out of her podcast, and love of Tudor history. Since that time she has published several books including the Tudor Planner, which is a planner/diary that combines Tudor history into a gorgeous planner. Her IndieGoGo campaign to fund the printing costs was funded at over 140%. She also created the Tudor Radio Network, an online radio station that features Tudor music and talk shows, has hosted four virtual conferences (the Tudor Summit) and is now busy preparing for the world’s first Tudocon, bringing together leading authors and bloggers this October in a real life event. She also started TudorFair.com, a Tudor themed ecommerce shop with mostly drop-shipped items, which reached six figures in revenue in its second year.
She now also coaches other creatives on how to monetize their passion, and this past year she spoke at the Tribe Conference with Jeff Goins, and the Sound Education podcasting conference at Harvard University.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this specific career path?

I fell into the world of libraries in early 2003 when I worked for an online classical music service — think Spotify for classical music, before Spotify existed. The company decided to go into the library space, pitching itself as an online database where professors could create playlists, and students wouldn’t have to go to the library to check out CD’s. I then headed to the Naxos classical music label to launch their online library, and then in 2005 I went into the world of library consortia, moving to California to work for the Califa Group, California’s largest library consortium. While I was there I handled contract negotiations with library vendors on behalf of our 220+ member libraries, and I also created new technologies like an eBook platform for libraries to share a statewide collection of content purchased directly from publishers.

I loved my work, but it wasn’t fulfilling to my soul. And even though I worked from home mostly, I was traveling quite a bit, not just in California, but to conferences around the country, and after I had my daughter, I wanted to spend more time at home. We had been throwing around the idea of taking off and having a grand adventure before Hannah was old enough to start school, but then in early 2015, when she was 17 months old, I had an accident at a conference in Chicago. I slipped on a marble step at my hotel in a snowstorm, and badly broke my shoulder. I spent the night in the Northwestern University hospital, and flew home the next day on painkillers, and had surgery two days later back in California. The surgery had some complications and my born wound up breaking even worse. While I was doing my PT exercises all during the spring of 2015 I kept wondering whether maybe this was a sign from the Universe that I was doing too much. Too much travel. Too much work. Too much trying to have everything be perfect. And the Universe said, “hey, slow down. It’s been ten years at your job. It’s time to go do something for you.”

So in June of that year, with my arm still not completely healed, we packed up our house and rented it out, and moved to Andalucia, where life is slow, and no one is ever stressed out. It was important for me to go somewhere where life was slower, and most importantly, I wanted to model for my daughter what it looked like when someone took a risk and went after their passions.

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?

There always seems to be more. More new stuff you need to buy. Or check out. Or TV shows you need to watch. There’s this constant flow of information. Target puts out Valentine’s Day decorations on December 26. There’s never a time to just rest. To just be. We’re always moving on to the next thing. Now, living in Spain where that doesn’t happen (they actually celebrate all 12 days of Christmas here, so decorations are up until at least 6 January!) I wonder how much of it is just due to the American spirit of never being satisfied. As someone who is passionate about history, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we got to the places we find ourselves in, and there seems to be a restlessness in America. The very first European settlers were people who weren’t satisfied with what was going on at home, who wanted to pull up roots and seek out a better life. And that’s still what it is. People come to America to build a new life, that’s better than the one they had before.

And that is a beautiful thing — it leads to innovation on a scale you don’t see other places. There’s an energy in America that you don’t have in Spain (or even the UK where I lived after university). But it also leads to a dissatisfaction — the idea that there is always something better just around the corner. If you head west you can find gold. If you just keep moving, keep traveling, keep going, something new and better is going to happen. Here in Spain people are pretty satisfied to just sit and eat their tapas, and walk in the parks.

Like I said, on one hand it’s beautiful — Spain doesn’t have the innovation or productivity of America. But I wonder at what cost that innovation comes?

Based on your experience or research can you explain why being rushed can harm our productivity, health, and happiness?

Well, in my case it literally led to a shoulder injury that has left me with a permanent disability in my right arm. There’s also the idea that life is passing you by, and you’re missing it. I used to be so busy trying to get the next bit of work done, or the next project completed — just one more thing, and then I’ll rest. And before I knew it, the entire evening had gone by, and I hadn’t done anything with my family, or for myself. We’re so busy rushing around, we miss out on the life that is happening around us.

Also, on the productivity side, multitasking is a myth. We can only concentrate for so long. Daniel H Pink in his book When, which talks about the science behind when to do certain tasks, advocates for an afternoon nap to get yourself revved up for the evening. Well, that’s what they’ve been doing with siesta in Spain forever — and siesta is a sacred time. Shops are closed. Offices close. Nothing happens. The streets are empty. People are at home having lunch and resting. Then they all come back out in the evening, refreshed. It’s amazing, how much more you can get done if you take a break to nap for half an hour in the afternoon!

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?

Well, we could actually have deep and meaningful discussions with people, and be more connected to our family and friends, beyond the quick Facebook messages we send. Actually sitting down to a dinner with family each evening to reconnect and share the day has become a ritual in our family that we wouldn’t miss for the world. I think slowing down also means limiting what you pay attention to, and not multitasking. Turning off distractions so you can dive deep into your work, and really accomplish something, rather than the half-finished projects so many of us have had. Before I came to Spain I had about 20 different business and book ideas, and I never completed any of them, despite constantly starting new blogs, and outlining new ideas. Now I have learned to slow down, dive deep, concentrate, and finish projects.

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?

Do your creative work first:
Don’t check email immediately when you start your day. It’s going to lead to you feeling overwhelmed, and your creative work you need to do is going to suffer. Start the day with the work that requires creativity, or deep thinking. Knock that out, and then you can get into the email, which is largely busy work.

Turn off your notifications:
Check your email twice a day — in the morning, and in the afternoon. Process the email, and then get out of the inbox so you can focus on the work that matters. Turn off FB notifications — even better, don’t even have it on your phone so you don’t get notifications. Use an app like Self Control so that when you want to concentrate on deep meditative work, you aren’t tempted to go into social media.

Only have three things on your to-do list at a time:

I used to list 25 things on my to do list each day. I’d never get them all done, and then I’d feel behind, and stressed out. Now I only list three things at a time. When I complete them, I feel like I’ve accomplished something big. Then I add another three things depending on how much time I have left in my day. More gets done, and I’m not spending time moving things over from week to week because I’m much more realistic with what I can accomplish.

Take a walk every hour:
My fitbit beeps if I haven’t walked 250 steps in an hour. It’s a great reminder to get up and move every hour. Just walking out to get a glass of water is a huge boost. You get the hydration of the water, the steps to go out and get it, and then I will often walk around outside for a few minutes just to get some fresh air. The break away generally leads me to pick up where I was with new ideas, and sometimes even new inspiration.

Practice a connection to something bigger than you:
Whether you want to call it a Higher Power, the Universe, Source, or God — having a connection to being part of something that is bigger than you can help you stay grounded, and remind you that there is more to life than the to-do list. I get up half an hour early each morning to do morning pages (three pages of stream of conscious writing/meditation) and write out some affirmations, as well as set my goals and intentions for the day. It’s the best half hour of the day, and sets me up for success.

An important part of this is also being grateful, and practicing gratitude daily. In addition to writing out a daily gratitude list, we also go around at the dinner table and say what we are grateful for. It really makes you stop and realize just how fortunate we all are.

Exercise:
We often think we’re too busy to exercise, but honestly, if you’re busy, then you’re too busy to NOT exercise. If you want to get more done, being able to have the energy to do it makes a huge difference. That means that taking a half an hour a day to move your body is an investment in your productivity. I listen to an audiobook while I exercise, so it’s my educational time as well as my exercise time.

How do you define “mindfulness”? Can you give an example or story?

Being present in the moment. Being aware of what you are doing. Do you ever have the experience where you go into the kitchen to grab a snack, and somehow you ate through the fridge, and you don’t even remember it? Or maybe you get to work, and you don’t even remember the drive? I think it’s a pretty common phenomenon, and it comes from not being mindful and aware of what we are doing. People do this in their work when they spend two hours going through email and facebook notifications, and then it’s like, “hang on, where did those two hours go?” Well, they went to Facebook and email. Is that where you want to spend them?

I practice regular check-ins. When I get up for my walk each hour, I ask myself, “are you happy with how I just spent the past hour? If not, how can I spend the next hour in a way that is more aligned with my goals?

I think just pausing and becoming aware of what we are doing — like, “right now I am eating this grape,” while sounding trite and silly, can lead to a heightened connection with our bodies and minds, and really understanding where we are spending our time, and how to get more of it back.

Can you give examples of how people can integrate mindfulness into their everyday lives?

Stop each hour and ask yourself if you are happy with how you spent the past hour. Think how you can spend the next hour in a way that is more aligned to your goals. Think about what you are working on, and turn off all the other notifications so you are really just present with that project that is in front of you. The other stuff can wait. There is nothing that is so urgent, and if there actually is an emergency, someone will call you, and you’ll find out about it. You really can switch off, and do the project you need to complete. The feeling of satisfaction will propel you forward to completing other things. I struggled my entire life to complete things, but now I’m a completion master, and I know that when I start something, I will indeed complete it. It’s a great feeling.

Do you have any mindfulness tools that you find most helpful at work?

Without a doubt, the Self Control app. You put in the pages you don’t want to go to, and set it for, say, half an hour. During that half an hour, it will block access to those sites — like Twitter or Facebook. You can really just work and concentrate.

What are your favorite books, podcasts, or resources that inspire you to use mindfulness tools or practices

The Marie Forleo podcast is great — any similar show by women entrepreneurs inspire me. And any book by John Kabat-Zinn. Also a book called The Mindful Day by Laurie Cameron teaches you how to incorporate mindfulness into your workday.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Never Compromise on a Dream. Always compromise on how it will come true.

If you had told me four years ago that I would be running an online ecommerce shop, I would have laughed in your face. I thought that the way to monetizing my passion was through writing books. Books are certainly part of what I do, but most of it comes now through events and my shop. I never would have guessed that I would be doing something like this. The idea is that you have the dream — for me it was to live a location independent life that was filled with history and music. And you don’t worry about the details — instead, you experiment, see what works, rinse, and repeat.

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 like to see a movement where people would stop watching the news, and instead would spend that time connecting with their friends and family. I’d like to see a social network sabbath as a common thing where people spend their time that day connecting in real time, on the phone, or in person. Basically, I’d like to see people get off their screens more, and spend more time with the people they love.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!

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